Randolph Rothschild, 93, lawyer, patron of American composers

March 02, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Randolph S. Rothschild, a patron of contemporary American music and a retired attorney, died Thursday of complications from Parkinson's disease and pneumonia at Sinai Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 93.

A champion of modern composers for the past five decades, Mr. Rothschild was also a major benefactor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Peabody Conservatory and the old Chamber Music Society of Baltimore.

Until her death in 2001, he was married to Baltimore artist Amalie Rosenfeld Rothschild for 65 years. The couple was well known in Baltimore's cultural and philanthropic circles. She created geometric abstract sculptures and paintings, and he played jazz piano and collected rare minerals.

"He was a special and unique person with an immense curiosity," said Baltimore Symphony Orchestra President John Gidwitz. "He was one of the most musically knowledgeable people on the symphony board."

"Randy Rothschild was unusual in that he was so dedicated to the canon of contemporary works. He has been one of the most important patrons of contemporary composers in the United States for the past 30 years," said Robert Sirota, director of the Peabody Institute. "He consistently supported commissions of mainstream composers - some of whom were not that well known when he commissioned them.

"He had a great enthusiasm for contemporary music as well as for fine art. Both he and his wife dedicated their lives to the arts, their friends and to the community. He was very unpretentious. He lived simply with integrity. He was giving in every aspect of his relationship with other people," Mr. Sirota said.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Linden Avenue, he was a 1927 graduate of the Park School. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Finance and Commerce and received a degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1936, the year he was admitted to the Maryland Bar. As a high school student, he also studied at the Peabody Institute's preparatory department, where he earned a diploma in 1927. He also studied at the University of Clermont in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

In 1936 he joined the Sun Life Insurance Co. of America, a company founded by his father, Solomon Rothschild, with his brothers. Mr. Rothschild rose within its ranks until his 1972 retirement as its vice president and general counsel.

"If he hadn't had rigid, German parents, he would have been a jazz pianist," said his daughter, Amalie Randolph Rothschild, who lives in New York and Rome. "He wrote a number of popular songs that were published in the 1930s. He wooed my mother with a delightful song he wrote for her. It was called `Amalie.'"

The couple married in 1936.

"He was essentially a quiet person," said Robert O. Pierce, a former Peabody director. "He was truly a modest man, but from the standpoint of contemporary music, I'd put Randy up there with the greatest benefactors in this country."

In a 1997 Sun interview, he recalled many of the composers whose works he commissioned or presented - Milton Babbitt, Henry Cowell, Lukas Foss, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Ernst Krenek, Robert Hall Lewis, Christopher Rouse, Gunther Schuller, Richard Wernick, Hugo Weisgall and Charles Wuorinen.

During the past 45 years, many of the pre-eminent American composers, including Aaron Copland, who visited Baltimore stayed at his Pikesville home. They often came in conjunction with concerts of the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore, of which Mr. Rothschild was president and a guiding force from 1954 to 1993.

For more than 20 years he annually funded compositions by American composers that were premiered by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, on whose board he served for nearly 40 years.

"He was a great champion for new music," said Vivian Adelberg Rudow, a composer who lives in Baltimore. "He gave a great deal of money to the cause, music that people will know in the next 50 years. He did things that other people thought were not important."

Mr. Rothschild also collected rare and tiny minerals, so small they needed to be viewed under a microscope. For many years he edited an international directory of fellow mineral collectors. He also helped underwrite publication of the Mineralogical Record.

For a decade, he was chairman of the Park School board. He sat on the Governor's Commission to Revise the General Insurance Laws of Maryland from 1959 to 1962. He served on the boards of the Jewish Community Center of Baltimore and the Maryland State Arts Council. He was a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Mr. Rothschild was awarded the George Peabody Medal for "outstanding contributions to music in America" in 1992 by the Peabody Conservatory, where he was also a board member. In 1993, he was presented the Maryland Medici Lifetime Achievement Award, jointly with his wife, given by Maryland Citizens for the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council.

Services will be held at 9 a.m. tomorrow at Sol Levinson & Brothers, 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

Also surviving is another daughter, Adrien Rothschild of Aspers, Pa.

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