Harold Lawrence


American classical A&R, record producer and music director.

Born 22 October 1923 in New York City, New York
Died 22 August 2011 in Oakland, California

After his first job at the Gramophone Shop annex across from the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, he soon became director of Recorded Music for radio station WQXR, the radio station of the New York Times. That is where he met the head of the classical division of Mercury Records, innovators of the Mercury Living Presence recording technology. Harold Lawrence was Music Director of Mercury Records from 1956 until 1967, during which time he participated in and produced over 350 Living Presence recordings, known as Mercury’s “golden age.” He is legendary among music afficionados and collectors for the unsurpassed technical and artistic excellence of this series.

In 1963 he married famous news photographer Mary Morris.

In 1967, Lawrence became the first American appointed as General Manager of The London Symphony Orchestra, the most recorded orchestra in the world (Sir Neville Marriner had suggested him for the job). He recruited André Previn for the Principal Conductor’s podium. He inspired prestigious performances in the Soviet Union accompanied by composer Sir William Walton, appearances at the Edinburgh Festival, an historic Royal Albert Hall performance by Mia Farrow as Joan of Arc in Honegger’s dramatic oratorio and several landmark concerts by Leonard Bernstein.

In 1973 he returned to his hometown to manage The New York Philharmonic Orchestra for four years. It was in New York where Edgar Kaiser persuaded Lawrence to come to Oakland as president and general manager of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. Again, Lawrence recruited a young, dynamic conductor and musical director, Calvin Simmons, the first African-American conductor of an American orchestra. Firmly settled in Oakland, Lawrence and Morris played an important role in the Bay Area’s cultural life for more than three decades. ,
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