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News & Information

Sir Charles Mackerras Obituary

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Charles Mackerras

Conductor Charles Mackerras dies

Australian conductor known as an authority
on Czech music and Mozart dies in London, aged 84

By Matthew Weaver
Guardian

The Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, who led the opening concert at the Sydney Opera House and was the first non-Briton to lead the Last night of the Proms, has died in London at the age of 84.

He had cancer but was as due to conduct two concerts at the Albert Hall at the end of this month as part of the BBC proms which start tomorrow.

In a long career he conducted some of the world's leading orchestras and was the former director of music at English National Opera. He grew up in Australia but spent much of his working life in Britain after emigrating here in 1947.

Read more about this at the Guardian website:

   www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/jul/15/conductor-charles-mackerras-dies

Maureen Forrester Obituary

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Maureen Forrester, Grande Dame of Song, CBC Records, Millennium Series, PSCD2017

Maureen Forrester, opera icon, dies at 79

Revered contralto was the ultimate diva who toured
the world and sang as many as 120 concerts a year

By Ken Winters
Globe and Mail Update

Celebrated Canadian opera star Maureen Forrester has died.

With family at her bedside, the 79-year-old quietly slipped away, said her daughter Gina Dineen on Wednesday night.

Forrester was 20th-century Canada’s incarnation of the prototypical 19th-century diva. She sang incomparably, gave generously of her rare musical gifts and her worldly goods, and lived life "in the large."

Read more about this at the Globe and Mail Update website:

   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/music/maureen-forrester-opera-icon-dies-at-79/article1607041/

Benjamin Lees Obituary

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Benjamin Lees

Benjamin Lees, Versatile Composer, Dies at 86

By Margalit Fox
New York Times

Benjamin Lees, an iconoclastic American composer who spurned modern musical trends in favor of work that was lyrical, tonal and widely described as approachable, died on May 31 in Glen Cove, on Long Island. He was 86 and had recently returned to the New York area after living in Palm Springs, Calif., for many years.

The cause was heart failure, his daughter, Jan Rexon, said. Mr. Lees was previously a longtime resident of Great Neck, N.Y.

Known for his versatility, Mr. Lees wrote for symphony orchestra, solo instruments, voice and chamber ensembles. After coming to prominence in the 1950s, he received commissions from major American orchestras; his solo and chamber works were given premieres by distinguished artists like the pianist Gary Graffman, the violinist Ruggiero Ricci and the Budapest and Tokyo String Quartets.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

   http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/04/arts/music/04lees.html

Alicia de Larrocha Obituary

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Alicia de Larrocha

Alicia de Larrocha, Shy Virtuoso

By Stuart Isacoff
Wall Street Journal

When Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha passed away on Sept. 25 at the age of 86, it signaled the closing of an era. Ms. de Larrocha can be counted among the last representatives of a golden age of pianism, when poetry reigned and force of personality meant something other than showy display. She was incontestably one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century – with a glowing, intense tone, an infallible sense of rhythm, and an ability to bring out the individual character of any work with utter naturalness – and also one of the least demonstrative.

This was partly a matter of shyness. She dreaded public attention. "Her talent was discovered early on – her first recital was at the age of 5 – and she never went to school with other children," explains her close friend Mònica Pagès in a phone call from Barcelona, "so she had difficulty making social contact. Her late husband, pianist Juan Torra, was the only person who could help her deal with the outside world." He died in 1982, after which Ms. de Larrocha, in the traditional Spanish manner, spent a very long period in mourning.

Read more about this at the Wall Street Journal website:

   online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703298004574455162221069536.html

Leon Kirchner Obituary

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Albany TROY906

Leon Kirchner, Composer and Teacher, Dies at 90

By Anthony Tommasini
New York Times

September 17, 2009

Leon Kirchner, the eminent American composer who was also a pianist, a conductor and an influential teacher, died on Thursday at his home on Central Park West in Manhattan. He was 90. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Lisa Kirchner.

Mr. Kirchner’s early music was strongly influenced by Bartók and Stravinsky. But a formative experience studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, with Arnold Schoenberg, the towering Austrian composer and pioneer of the 12-tone technique, set Mr. Kirchner on a lifelong creative path. Although he came to identify completely with the aesthetic of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern, he was an instinctive composer who never adopted the rigorous procedures of 12-tone composition.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

   artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/17/leon-kirchner-composer-dies-at-90/

Passing of a Cinncinati Icon

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Erich Kunzel - Courtesy of Wolf Trap

Erich Kunzel Dies at 74

By Janelle Gelfand
Cinncinati.com

An era has ended. Erich Kunzel, 74, Cincinnati's music man for more than 44 years, has died.

Orchestra members learned today that Kunzel died this morning at a hospital in Bar Harbor, Maine, near his home on Swan's Island. Information about memorial services was not immediately available. The Pops maestro is survived by his wife of 44 years, Brunhilde. The couple's homes are in Newport, Ky.; Naples, Fla.; and Swan's Island.

"The world has lost a musical giant and we have lost a dear friend," said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra President Trey Devey in a statement released today by the orchestra. "Erich Kunzel built the Cincinnati Pops into one of the best known orchestras in the world and is not only beloved in Cincinnati, but around the globe. Today we honor his tremendous legacy and offer our deepest sympathies to Brunhilde and their entire family."

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and colleague Erich Kunzel," said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Music Director Paavo Järvi in the same statement. "He was a remarkable spirit and a tremendous musician. His many years of music making with the Cincinnati Pops brought joy to literally millions, and I join with our community in Cincinnati as well as his fans around the world in mourning the loss of this great musical icon."

Read more about this at the Cinncinati Enquirer website:

   news.cincinnati.com/article/20090901/ENT03/308120005/

Pianist Geoffrey Tozer Dies

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Farewell to musical prodigy Geoffrey Tozer

Obituary: Geoffrey Tozer. Pianist. Born Mussoorie, India, November 5, 1954. Died Melbourne, August 20, age 54.

By Anna Goldsworthy
The Australian

Pianist Geoffrey Tozer was one of the most gifted musicians this country has known. Born in the Indian Himalayas, he began piano lessons with his mother before moving to Australia at the age of four. A child prodigy, he gave his first public performance at age five at the St Kilda Town Hall; at eight he appeared on ABC television with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, playing Bach's Concerto in F minor. By 12 he had performed all five of Beethoven's piano concertos across Australia; two years later he was the youngest semi-finalist in history at the Leeds International Piano Competition.

In 1970, Tozer made his BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall, performing Mozart with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Colin Davis. During the following years he performed widely across Europe and the US, receiving a host of awards, including a gold medal in the Arthur Rubinstein competition in Israel in 1980 and Hungary's Liszt Centenary medallion in 1986.

Read more about this at the The Australian website:

   www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25985836-16947,00.html

Fictional Composers

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Music

Imaginary Concerts

By Alex Ross
New Yorker

The most potent sensual jolt in the first book of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time is felt when Charles Swann falls under the spell of "a little phrase" in a violin sonata by a provincial composer named Vinteuil. In creating Vinteuil, Proust ventures into an esoteric subcategory of fiction-stories about composers who exist only in the pages of books.

To read the literature of fictive music in sequence is to see the rise and apparent decline of classical music as a medium of cultural power. Writer describes the work of E.T.A. Hoffman and his fictional composer Johannes Kreisler, who affected the real music of the nineteenth century, inspiring Robert Schumann. Tells about Balzac's 1837 novella Gambara about Paolo Gambara, an Italian composer living in Paris. In the second half of the nineteenth century, composers achieved almost godlike status in Europe and America. The cult of musical genius turned feverish in Romain Rolland's Jean Christophe, published in installments between 1904 and 1912, which tells the story of the German composer Jean-Christophe Krafft. Krafft fashions a synthesis of French and German musical values, but Rolland fails to give us a clear idea of what this sounds like. "In Search of Lost Time" traverses much of the same territory with far greater authority. Writer describes the inspiration behind and the music of Proust's fictional composer Venteuil.

Thomas Mann, driven into exile by the Wagner-loving Hitler, decided to dismantle the myth of the Tragic Artist in Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend, published in 1947. Writer describes Mann's use of sketches by Theodor W. Adorno in constructing Leverkühn, and Leverkühn's influence on real composers. Discusses Randall Jarrell's 1954 academic satire Picture from an Institution, which signaled a change in how novelists depicted composers and classical music. Contemporary novelists tend to see this world in tragicomic terms. If the present state of imaginary music seems bleak, science fiction suggests a brighter future. Kim Stanley Robinson's novel The Memory of Whiteness looks ahead to 3229 A.D., when a mechanical orchestra is the star act of the solar system.

Read more about this at the New Yorker website:

   www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2009/08/24/090824crat_atlarge_ross

Works include the Complete String Quartets of Beethoven and Bartók; Quartets by Debussy, Ravel and Dutilleux; and Collaborations with Legendary Musicians

The Juilliard String Quartet is internationally renowned and admired for performances characterized by clarity of structure, beauty of sound, purity of line and an extraordinary unanimity of purpose. Celebrated for its performances of works by composers as diverse as Beethoven, Schubert, Bartók and Elliott Carter, it has long been recognized as the quintessential American string quartet. Sony Classical has announced that its catalog of recordings by the Juilliard String Quartet is being made available for download. The Quartet has been associated with Sony since the ensemble's inception in 1946.

The releases are as follows:

  • Bartók: String Quartets Nos. 1-6
  • Beethoven: The Early String Quartets (Op. 18, Nos. 1-6)
  • Beethoven: The Middle String Quartets (Op. 59, Nos. 1-3; Opp. 74 & 95)
  • Beethoven: The Late String Quartets (Opp. 127, 130, 131, 132, 133 and 135)
  • Debussy/Ravel/Dutilleux: String Quartets
  • Great Collaborations

The Great Collaborations release includes Dvořák's Piano Quintet with Rudolf Firkušný, piano; Barber's Dover Beach with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht with Walter Trampler, viola, and Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Schumann's Piano Quintet with Leonard Bernstein, piano; Copland's Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and Strings with Aaron Copland, piano, and Harold Wright, clarinet; and Franck's Piano Quintet with Jorge Bolet, piano.

The members of the Juilliard String Quartet jointly stated, "We are thrilled that a substantial amount of our recorded legacy will now be available through the latest technology, for listeners of all ages. With Nick Eanet now joining the Quartet, we look forward to continuing our relationship with this great label."

Alex Miller, General Manager of Sony Masterworks, said, "The Quartet has a long and celebrated relationship with the label and we are delighted to begin making their remarkable and diverse catalogue available to the public digitally."

The first six recordings will include the complete string quartets of Beethoven and Bartók (the latter a Juilliard String Quartet specialty). On CDs, the Beethoven quartets comprised a total of nine discs (three three-disc sets); the Bartók quartets comprised two discs; the French collection one disc; and Great Collaborations two discs. All of the titles to be digitized have been released previously on CD; all titles also appeared on the LP format with the exception of the French disc, which was released on CD only.

Read more about this at the Sony Masterworks website:

   www.sonymasterworks.com/artist/juilliard-string-quartet

Distinguished Critic Dead At 80

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Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg 1928-2009

Michael Steinberg, among the pre-eminent music critics of our time, died on Sunday, 26 July 2009 at the age of 80. Despite the onset of cancer more than three years ago, he continued to live a full and vigorous life. He was revered by professional colleagues – the musicians, conductors, fellow writers, composers, educators, and orchestra executives with whom he collaborated over the course of a six-decade career – and loved by hundreds of thousands of audience members whose ideas and feelings about music were shaped by the unerringly lucid and insightful commentary he provided in program notes and pre-concert talks. A teacher of music history and criticism, a chamber music coach, a narrator, he was also the premier writer of program notes for audiences of orchestral, choral and chamber music, his works appearing not only in symphonic program books, but also on recordings, most notably those of John Adams' operas Nixon in China (1988) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1992).

Steinberg was born on October 4, 1928 in Breslau in the last years of Weimar Germany and spent his adolescence in England, his mother having campaigned successfully to get him to safety via the Kindertransport, a rescue mission that saved nearly 10,000 children in the months leading up to World War II. By the end of the war, Michael, his mother, and a brother 15 years his elder, Franz, had emigrated to St.Louis, Missouri. Steinberg studied at Princeton with Strunk, Babbitt, and Cone, graduating in 1949 with a degree in musicology. On a Fulbright scholarship, he spent two years in Italy, where he met his first wife Jane Bonacker (they divorced in 1977). Upon his return from Italy to the U.S., he was drafted and spent two years in the Army stationed in Germany in the 1950s. He served as head of the music history department at the Manhattan School of Music (1954-55; 1957-64), and taught at Smith College, Hunter College, Brandeis University, and the New England Conservatory. During these years, he was appointed music critic at the Boston Globe; his tenure in that position is the stuff of legend among serious writers about music.

Steinberg's first staff position at a major orchestra was Director of Publications for the Boston Symphony (1976-79). In 1979 he joined the San Francisco Symphony as Publications Director and Artistic Adviser (1979-1989), which combined the tasks of writing program notes and designing the season's repertoire, in close consultation with then music directors Edo de Waart, followed by Herbert Blomstedt. In 1983 he married Jorja Fleezanis, the Associate Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony; when she was named Concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra in 1989, they moved to Minneapolis. He became program annotator to the New York Philharmonic in 1995, while continuing to serve as pre-concert lecturer in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. He took the post of Artistic Adviser with the Minnesota Orchestra, while maintaining the positions of program annotator for both the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.

Even after announcing his formal retirement in 1999, Steinberg kept working. He wrote for the San Francisco Symphony. For the West Coast chamber music festival Music at Menlo, he introduced programs, coached ensembles, and led several evenings of their "Encounter Series." He also coached students at the International Festival-Institute at Round Top, Texas. Each summer, public poetry readings were highlights of both the Menlo and Round Top festivals, where Steinberg not only gave his own memorable readings but also selected poems and lovingly coached both students and faculty in their readings. He believed poetry to be a vital component of music-making, and that performing musicians could arrive at a better understanding of musical phrasing and impulses by reading poetry aloud. In Jorja Fleezanis' words, he believed that "rhythm, the gait, and the expression required to read poetry well are intimately linked to what is required to play music well."

A frequent narrator, he gave the first performance of Aaron Jay Kernis' La Quattro Stagioni dalla Cucina Futerismo (The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine) in 1991, and was often heard as the narrator in Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, Survivor from Warsaw, and Ode to Napoleon, as well as Aaron Copland's A Lincoln Portrait.

Larry Rothe, Publications Editor of the San Francisco Symphony and co-author of Steinberg's last book, For the Love of Music (Oxford University Press, 2006) noted:

0195370201
"In the last years Michael defined what it means to battle an illness. He continued to hang tough, determined not to let anything keep him from doing what he had always done, which was to put listeners in touch with the music. In his writing and in his talks, Michael knocked down walls with intelligence, wit, and a broad sense of culture. He was a great storyteller. He expected much from his readers and offered much. You get a taste of all this in his books: The Symphony, The Concerto, and Choral Masterworks, three compilations of his program notes. …
"In the way he lived, Michael mirrored music at its best. He was affirmative and honest and uncompromising, elegant and ornery. He spoke in beautifully-paced full sentences and paragraphs. He wrote with the eloquence and generosity and fierceness he believed the music demanded. He knew that what happens between music and listener is a kind of love, and that music, as he said, 'like any worthwhile partner in love, is demanding, sometimes exasperatingly, exhaustingly demanding… [but] that its capacity to give is as near to infinite as anything in this world, and that what it offers us is always and inescapably in exact proportion to what we ourselves give.'
"Writers have many reasons to write, but all writers share one goal: to remind readers what it means to be human. Not every writer gets there. Michael did."

Michael Steinberg is survived by his wife, Jorja Fleezanis; his sons Sebastian and Adam, both from his first marriage; his granddaughters Ayla and Rae; his grandson Julian; his first wife Jane Steinberg; his nephew Tom Steinberg; and his nephew Andy (and Val) Steinberg. Concerts to celebrate Michael Steinberg's life will be presented in San Francisco and Minneapolis at times to be announced.

The family will be receiving friends at home in Minneapolis on Tuesday, 28 July 2009 from 4pm-8pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to:

The Michael Steinberg & Jorja Fleezanis Fund to Spur Curiosity and Growth through the Performing Arts and the Written Word
attn. Shelli Chase
CHASE FINANCIAL
7900 Xerxes Avenue South
Suite 910
Minneapolis, MN 55431
PHOTO BY TERRENCE McCARTHY COURTESY OF KATHRYN KING MEDIA
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