At 19 years old, Saul Goodman became timpanist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini. Forty-six years later, he retired as one of the most celebrated orchestral musicians of all time. During his illustrious career as composer, inventor, and timpanist, he performed on over 1,000 recordings, placed his students in the world’s major symphony orchestras, and set standards in percussion performance and pedagogy that remain in place to this day. His memoirs, and those of his students, trace his musical development and take the reader on a voyage of his unique experiences during the greatest era of the American symphony orchestras.
His incredible legacy as a performer and a teacher is unrivaled in the history of percussion, and perhaps any other instrument as well. The list of his students reads like a ‘who’s who’ of our world.
—Daniel Druckman, New York Philharmonic
He was one of the greatest artists of all times. He was an inspiration to me, not only as a student, but throughout my professional career.
—Vic Firth, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Saul often said that his teachers were Toscanini, Monteux, Reiner, Stokowski, and Bruno Walter. He was the greatest player in the era of stars throughout the symphonic world. The sheer numbers of concerts, recordings, and TV that he played is staggering.
—Morris Lang, New York Philharmonic
Saul Goodman was a brilliant orchestral musician who just happened to play the timpani. His style, musicianship and strong personality were a tremendous influence on those with whom he worked.
—James Rago, Louisville Orchestra
Review from Percussive Notes Magazine
This treasure of a book tells the story from the man himself: Saul Goodman, one of the most celebrated orchestral musicians, timpanists, and percussion teachers to ever live. Through a combination of Goodman’s own writing, as well as contributions from a variety of others who knew, studied, and worked with him, this 106-page book is informative for students and enjoyable for general music enthusiasts.
The book is constructed in two parts — the first being a previously unpublished memoir written by Goodman during his lifetime (he died in 1996) and edited by Anthony Cirone, and the second consisting of reflections from students and colleagues, an interview with Goodman conducted by Rick Mattingly in 1981, a Percussive Notes article published shortly after this death, and an overview of his recording history. The book also contains several pages of pictures from throughout his career.
The first part, written by Goodman, contains five chapters: Beginnings, Carnegie Hall, The Business of Modern Orchestra, Toscanini, and On Recording. While he discusses many percussion-specific things, such as lessons with Alfred Friese, Goodman spends just as much, if not more, time talking about the general orchestral culture of the time and how it evolved during his 46 years in the New York Philharmonic. This includes reflections on conductors, management, recording, and the audition process.
The second part proves just as valuable, with first-hand stories from those who knew him. These range from acknowledgments of Goodman’s excellence in performing and instruments making to heartfelt and sometimes humorous anecdotes relating to his teaching.
This book will undoubtedly be appreciated by all orchestral percussion and classical music performers, students, conductors, and teachers, as well as the general concert-going public. It is a rare first-hand look into the life and career of a world-class artist and teacher.
— Jason Baker
Percussive Notes, February 2022