The late John Goldsmith: a fearless independent who dared to record Mahler 3 when the Mahler revival was still gaining ground

Tully Potter has just emailed a group of us to announce the sudden death yesterday of John Goldsmith, founder of Unicorn Records (in 1968), husband (to Diane), father, grandfather and great-grandfather. My first contact with John was when he opened the shop The Record Hunter in Waterloo, a tall, young record nut who stocked up with the best that was going at the time, including second hand. The first lp I bought from him was the newly released Victrola lp of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy with violist William Primrose and Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony. A little later I gave him my lp ‘bucket list’ which included the much-sought-after HMV lp set of Mussorgsky songs with Boris Christoff. John gave a sudden laugh, ‘ah what a shame – I had that here but Oliver Knussen bought it.’ And just to prove what sort of guy John was, the next time I visited the shop, the set was ready and waiting for me. ‘I told Oliver about your passion for it,’ he said, ‘and he concluded that your need was greater than his. So here it is’ [a paraphrase obviously!]. I was then recently married (48 years now) and Georgie and I attended a live quadraphonic demonstration of the LSO/Jascha Horenstein Mahler 3 at Hampstead High Fidelity with Bob Auger, David Foulger, John and others. It was mightily impressive and I felt fairly privileged. I also bought the various Furtwängler lp issues on Unicorn, all of them first-uk releases. I hadn’t spoken or written to John for many years though my friend John Tolansky used to meet up with him. He was what they call ‘a good egg’ and I was both happy to be reminded of him and saddened by his passing.

I learn that in later years John also founded Land of the Lakes tours escorting  visitors to the U.K. especially to his beloved Lake District and other beautiful regions in Europe. It was on one of those Lake District trips that he met Diane. Friends are invited to call on Tuesday, June 23 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Townley & Wheeler Funeral Home 21 Midline Road, Ballston Lake, NY. A limited number of guests may join the family in the funeral home (masks and distancing required). Unity Station will be open for guests who prefer to share condolences through a live video feed while staying in the safety of their vehicle. Sympathy cards are welcome but please do not send flowers. A book of memories for John is available to view at

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