My Weekend: Ian Rosenblatt

Times Online, May 18, 2007

Many years ago, when I was an in-house lawyer, I sat down for lunch in a swish eaterie with Ian Rosenblatt, the senior partner of the eponymous City firm. Rosenblatt seemed to combine geniality with a streak of steel, and I was glad that he was on my side. He would clearly be a very tough cookie in any of litigation, commerce or corporate transactional work. But there was something else, too. Here was a man of whom there was more than meets the eye, someone whose identity did not seem exclusively defined by the law. But I couldn’t figure out what it was, and our paths did not cross again.

Recently, though, a concert pianist friend mentioned that he was planning on attending a recital by the renowned tenor Francesco Meli at St John’s in Smith Square, London. My friend often tries to entice me to such events, usually in vain, not because I am averse to classical music but because I cannot sit still for very long. This time, though, he succeeded in piquing my interest with two simple sentences.

“He’s appearing in the recital series put on by Ian Rosenblatt. They’re very good, you know.”

Rosenblatt, the City lawyer? “Yes,” said my friend, adding: “He’s carved out quite a niche. The recitals that he hosts are world-renowned.”

It transpires that Rosenblatt has been putting on his recitals since 1999. “I’ve always loved classical music and especially voices,” he says “But I realised that it was very difficult to hear singers in concert scenarios, owing to the lack of public funding. Usually they would only appear thanks to private sponsorship. I was also fascinated, as a regular concert-goer, by the mechanics of how the artists ended up on stage.”

A meeting with Helga Schmidt, then the artistic director of the Covent Garden Opera House, provided illumination, and with Rosenblatt’s firm approaching its tenth anniversary the idea for the Rosenblatt Recital Series was born.

“I asked Helga how to put on a concert, and rationalised the expense both because of the firm’s anniversary and because I was then 40. We booked the Royal Festival Hall for Jose Curo, the prot�g� of Placido Domingo. It was a wonderful evening, and I realised what was possible – that I could involve myself in this world, communicate with these great artists and put on shows. So off we went.”

The Rosenblatt Recital Series is now an established part of the London classical music scene. There have been 67 concerts to date and Rosenblatt has not missed a single one. Indeed, so successful has the series become that it is now run by a dedicated staff, with singers booked some five years in advance.

It is also an integral part of the fabric of Rosenblatt, the firm: “We’ve got 100 employees now and a great many of them will come along on the evening of a show. It’s very much a part of my life, too. I’m the promoter and the sponsor, and I do it because I love it. Financially, it’s totally loss-making.”

Rosenblatt’s passion for music began at an early age. “I grew up in Liverpool and my father would go to work early each morning. He loved opera and would put it on at 5.00 a.m. My brother and sister didn’t like it at all but something resonated with me. I was into the likes of Santana and T-Rex as a teenager but then, while studying law at the LSE, I grew to love classical music.”

It is a passion that has also seen him amass an archive of over 6,000 opera films. “I’m always watching these, or tuning in Radio 3 live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York,” he says. Indeed, his love of music animates the drive that has seen him build up his firm so successfully: “I’m highly motivated as the senior partner to achieve things for the firm, but I also want to achieve because doing so means that I can keep going with the recitals. I’ve been given access to a world that I never thought I’d see so intimately.”

I cast my mind back to that City lunch, and call my friend. “Francesco Meli on 6 June? Count me in.”

For more information see The next Recital is by Francesco Meli, accompanied by Matteo Pais, on 6 June