Cariaga 'a critic's critic'

Friday's Times carries the obit on the paper's long-time and respected classical music reviewer, Daniel Cariaga, who died on Wednesday at age 71. His life path was not typical of newsroom denizens, to say the least. Cariaga retired from the staff in 2003 but continued reviewing for the paper.

"Danny Cariaga was the quiet, careful and profoundly knowledgeable chronicler of Los Angeles' musical life for more than 40 years," Times music critic Mark Swed said Thursday. "He was a critic's critic. His prose was concise, graceful, understated. And his instinct in finding and his love of sharing pleasure in all that he heard and witnessed was unique."...

He began his musical life as a pianist. As a protege of famed cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, he attended the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara on summer scholarships, studying the art of accompanying with Emanuel Bay, who had been violinist Jascha Heifetz's pianist for 25 years, and with Amparo Iturbi.

[fast forward]

In 1961, he married operatic mezzo-soprano Marvellee Dyvonne Moody, well known for her collaborations with Gian Carlo Menotti, Richard Bonynge and Eugene Ormandy. Together, the Cariagas gave more than 1,000 recitals in the continental United States as well as on cruise ships.

In 1965, Cariaga's life took a new direction when he began a seven-year stint as music and dance critic for the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

He joined The Times in 1972, becoming the Times' music writer and contributing more than 2,000 reviews and features, including colorful profiles of such major musical personalities as Earl Wild, Luciano Pavarotti, Claudio Arrau, Birgit Nilsson, Victoria de los Angeles, Heifetz, Eleanor Steber and Midori.

His mentoring of young writers and warm personality won him innumerable friends in and outside the newsroom, and in a profession that often draws blood and inflicts wounds that never heal, Cariaga was memorably devoid of enemies.

On Wednesday, former Times music critic Martin Bernheimer called him "the supremely reliable force that held the department together" for decades.

"In his calm and quiet way," Bernheimer said, "he maintained order, bolstered goodwill and sustained high standards of old-fashioned journalism. He was a discerning critic, a sympathetic editor, a suave writer and a musician with an unusually broad perspective. He somehow managed to be a realist and an idealist at the same time. Unlike many a colleague, he really understood technique, and he knew the repertory."

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