David Oppenheim (clarinetist)

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David Oppenheim
David Oppenheim clarinetist.jpg
David Jerome Oppenheim

(1922-04-13)April 13, 1922
DiedNovember 14, 2007(2007-11-14) (aged 85)
Judy Holliday
(m. 1948; div. 1957)

Ellen Adler
(m. 1957–1976)

Patricia Jaffe
(m. 1987)

David Jerome Oppenheim (April 13, 1922 – November 14, 2007) was an American clarinetist, and classical music and television producer. Oppenheim directed the Masterworks division of Columbia Records from 1950 to 1959. During this time he worked with numerous major figures in the music world including Igor Stravinsky, with whom he formed a friendship, later producing for him. In the 1960s, he worked for the television production company Robert Saudek Associates and worked as a writer and producer for CBS from 1962 to 1967. His 1964 documentary about cellist Pablo Casals, Casals at 88, won the Prix Italia. Dean of the New York University School of the Arts (NYU) from 1969 to 1991, in 1985, he was the principal architect of the Tisch School of the Arts. One of his major achievements was developing the NYU arts programs into a major institution with courses offered in photography, cinema, musical theater, dramatic acting, and writing.

Early years[edit]

Oppenheim was born in Detroit in 1922 to Louis Oppenheim and Julia Nurko Oppenheim. His father owned a department store.[1] He had one sibling, a brother, Stanley.[1] At the age of 13, upon the death of his father,[2] he and his family relocated to New York City, where he spent most of his life. He began playing the clarinet after this move and by age 20 was considered to be an accomplished player.[3] He attended Juilliard and graduated from the Eastman School of Music in 1943.[1] During World War II he served as an anti-tank gunner.[2]


David Diamond's Quintet for clarinet, 2 violas and 2 cellos (1950) was written for Oppenheim and was first performed in 1952.[4] Throughout the 1950s, Oppenheim directed the Masterworks division of Columbia Records, a position he held until 1959.[1] He recorded Leonard Bernstein's Clarinet Sonata, which was dedicated to him.[5] Other recordings include the Brahms Clarinet Trio, Op. 114 with Casals and Eugene Istomin at the 1955 Prades Festival,[6] and both the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115,[7] and the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, K. 581,[8] with the Budapest String Quartet in 1959. Also in 1955, he worked with Stravinsky who conducted his "Story of a Soldier". The two became friends,[9] and Oppenheim later produced several of his works and documentaries.[10]

On January 11, 1955 David Oppenheim attended Canadian pianist Glenn Gould's New York debut. He was so impressed with the performance that he contacted his manager at Columbia Records, who then negotiated a contract with Gould.[11]

In the 1960s, he worked for the television production company under Robert Saudek, and helped produce Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. He produced the Omnibus TV series, and worked as a writer and producer for CBS from 1962 until 1967.[1] In 1964, Oppenheim wrote, produced and directed Casals at 88, a documentary about the cellist, which garnered the Prix Italia.[1]

Oppenheim became the second dean of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, serving from February 1969 to 1991.[12] Under his tenure, the school expanded from four departments to 16[12] and enrollment climbed from 600 to 3,000 students.[2] In 1985 he obtained a $7.5 million grant from the Tisch brothers, Laurence and Preston, which helped centralize the school in one location, a 12-story building at 721 Broadway. Oppenheim was the principal architect on the renovation project.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

Oppenheim was married three times. His first marriage was to actress Judy Holliday, from 1948 to 1957. They had a son, Jonathan, who became a film editor[13] whose work includes Paris Is Burning, Children Underground, and Arguing the World. Oppenheim's second marriage (1957–76) was to Ellen Adler, daughter of Stella Adler. They had a daughter, Sara, and a son, Thomas,[2] who became president and artistic director of Stella Adler Studio of Acting.[14] He married Patricia Jaffe in 1987.

Oppenheim died in New York City in 2007.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hevesi, Dennis (3 December 2007). "David Oppenheim, 85, Dean of N.Y.U. Arts". The New York Times. p. 7.
  2. ^ a b c d e Miller, Stephen (23 November 2007). "David Oppenheim, Dean of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, 85". The New York Sun. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  3. ^ Gollin, James (July 2010). Pianist. Xlibris Corporation. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-4535-2235-6. Retrieved 16 February 2013.[self-published source]
  4. ^ Kimberling, Victoria J. (1987). David Diamond: A Bio-Bibliography. Scarecrow Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-8108-2058-6. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  5. ^ Copland, Aaron; Crist, Elizabeth Bergman; Shirley, Wayne D. (1 December 2006). The Selected Correspondence of Aaron Copland. Yale University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-300-13347-9. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  6. ^ Music & Arts CD-689
  7. ^ CBS MPK-45553
  8. ^ Sony SM3K-46527
  9. ^ Craft, Robert (May 1992). Stravinsky: glimpses of a life. Lime Tree. ISBN 978-0-413-45461-4. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  10. ^ Walsh, Stephen (30 September 2011). Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934 - 1971. Random House. p. 501. ISBN 978-1-4070-6448-2. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  11. ^ "JS Bach: Goldberg Variations | Classical-Music.com". www.classical-music.com. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  12. ^ a b "Guide to the Records of the Tisch School of the Arts 1956-1981: Historical/Biographical Note". New York University. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  13. ^ Oldham, Gabriella (2 July 2012). First Cut 2: More Conversations with Film Editors. University of California Press. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-0-520-95399-4. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  14. ^ Bartow, Arthur (July 2010). Training of the American Actor. ReadHowYouWant.com. pp. 32–. ISBN 978-1-4587-8126-0. Retrieved 17 February 2013.