Showing posts with label obituaries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label obituaries. Show all posts

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jerry Hadley, 1952 - 2007

Having learned of the tragic death by suicide of the American tenor Jerry Hadley, the best I can do is refer you to the post by La Cieca and the discussion that follows it. There is also an obituary in The New York Times. Everyone who heard Hadley will treasure the memory of a wonderful voice and superlative performer.

Is it true that artistic, creative souls are especially prone to depression? I reckon depression is common across the board - I've known accountants, management consultants and many others who've suffered it. But the depressed artist remains the most potent symbol, because he or she brings such joy and comfort to others while experiencing a living hell.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My old friend...

I was told yesterday that an old friend and musical partner of mine from university days, Phanos Dymiotis, died in March in a car crash.

Phanos, a Greek Cypriot, was one of the brightest guys in the Cambridge music department when I got to know him. I remember him as a witty, warm, unassuming, self-contained and slightly enigmantic character; he was both an excellent composer and a brilliant violinist - the sort that's so brilliant that he could play the socks off the Saint-Saens Havanaise in a concert, but again with knobs on at the end of the post-concert party. He got a 'double first' (anyone who's survived the Cambridge music tripos will know that that takes a lot of doing), then headed for postgraduate studies at Princeton; last time I heard of him, several years ago, he was freelancing as a violinist in New York. I haven't heard any of his music for many years, but he had won a number of prizes and it sounds as if he was finally gaining the recognition I am certain he deserved.

We played the Faure A major Violin Sonata together once (a lunchtime concert at Emmanuel College), and enjoyed many of those priceless student moments with our many mutual friends - the Guy Fawkes Day fireworks and fun-fair on Midsummer Common, the Darwin College May Ball where we danced together to a Glenn Miller band at dawn, and late-night winter wanders across town from concerts/celebrations along the frosty grass on the Backs. Sadly, we lost touch after university, as too often one does, and despite many good intentions of correcting that, I never got round to it...

Phanos, a fond farewell from London. We'll never forget you.

UPDATE: Drew McManus covered this, I now discover, back when it happened in March. There is also a very moving tribute to Phanos by another friend, here. Here is the site of the Mariner String Quartet, of which he was a member. And more information at this Baltimore news site.

Phanos was the victim of a drunk driver, whose car hit his in a head-on collision and who also died at the scene along with his 19-year-old passenger. I also found a clip of a news item on Youtube. Nothing I say about tragedy, drink, irresponsibility, government bans or anything else is going to make any difference, so I shall shut up and go and cry instead.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Slava forever

A friend has asked me to share my few personal memories of Rostropovich...

About three years ago, I interviewed him briefly backstage at the Barbican for The Strad's 'Double Acts' back page about his working relationship with Maxim Vengerov. The maestro turned on his very considerable charm and talked in rapturous terms about his much younger colleague.

Thing is, I'm a closet cellist-manquee. When I heard Han-Na Chang (incidentally, a Rostropovich protegee) play in Verbier 4-5 years back, it hit me between the eyes that the cello is the most beautiful and expressive instrument on the planet. And that if I could have my time over again, I would learn it and play it and never stop. It would have solved everything I disliked about playing the violin (high frequencies buzzing in one's left ear, plus desperately close, fiddly fingering), not to mention the piano (too many notes, my dear Horowitz) and the repertoire is 20-carat gold...

So at the end of the interview, I thank Maestro for the joy and wonder of his playing, which I heard on a few memorable occasions, and mention that I would love to have played the cello. "When you decide to start," said Maestro, "then let me know, and I will be your teacher."

I missed my chance. Well, he'd have been disappointed in me. I'd have got the strings the wrong way round and been severely blocked by the very notion of trying to go above third position.

The last time I saw Rostropovich perform was in Vilnius in 2004, where he conducted the Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony. It was glorious: like stepping into a Melodiya recording from the 1950s...The march in particular was far slower than most conductors take it these days. A friend asked Maestro about his choice of tempo later on. His response, apparently, was: "It's a march." You must be able to march to it. It made sense. And the final movement: devastation alive, raw, eternal, unforgettable.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Farewell, Slava

Mstislav Rostropovich has passed away.

The Guardian has a full obituary, tributes from James MacMillan, Steven Isserlis and others, and a selection of recommended recordings.

He was a pervasive musical figurehead, a by-word for inspiration and idealism, a last link with Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and an unforgettable presence with or without his cello.

UPDATE, 8.15 Saturday 28 April:
A press release from 98.7WFMT, Chicago's Classical Experience, informs us that the radio station is paying tribute to Rostropovich today by broadcasting recordings from its archives of his cello performances and conducting. In addition, the station is airing voicemails and reading emails from listeners recounting memories of the world-renowned musician, who visited Chicago many times during his lifetime. Rare interviews have also been posted on

There's a very touching tribute by Richard Morrison in The Times. He says, among other things: "...the music from Rostropovich’s cello wasn’t just beautiful. It was a transcendental message of hope, surging and irresistible, from one soul to another – his to yours. If I live to be 100, I don’t expect to hear another sound that touches me so deeply."

Clive Davis posts a video of Rostropovich playing Bach and some pertinent political moments from the New York Times's obituary.

UPDATE: Sunday morning: Opera Chic has a series of tribute posts and some very interesting links to news sites etc.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Corin Long

I'm so sorry to report that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's principal double bass, Corin Long, has died in a diving accident in Spain. Corin was a sought-after professor at the Royal Academy and Trinity College of Music in London, a beloved colleague to London's orchestral musicians, a busy and popular chamber music player, and much more besides. He will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Nina Milkina 1919-2006

The wonderful Russian pianist Nina Milkina died last week at the age of 87. I was lucky enough to meet her a few years ago for an interview about her long and fascinating career, and was much struck by her combination of qualities: humour with passion, intelligence with intuitiveness, delicacy with real gumption. She hadn't been at the forefront of musical life for a while, but her recordings are exquisite, displaying a rare sense of magic and nuance in such worlds as Mozart and Scarlatti as well as Chopin et al. This recording, live from the Wigmore Hall, is a treasure: contact details of how to get it are included on the musicwebinternational page. She was a much-loved figure among the younger generation of pianists here in London, where she lived; Leon McCawley (who introduced me to her) in particular cites her as an inspiration and mentor, not least in his impressive new set of the Mozart piano sonatas. She will be sorely missed. I wrote an obituary of her which was published yesterday and can be read in my archive, here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Emanuel Hurwitz

Sad today to hear of the death of Emanuel Hurwitz, the inspiring violinist and teacher, aged 87. A good obituary in The Guardian from former Strad editor Anne Inglis: here.

I met Manny a few times: my fiddler duo partner at university was a student of his. We went to his beautiful Finchley home for coaching on various pieces including the Mozart B flat Sonata K454 and the Brahms G major (at 18 one can be arrogant enough to imagine that one can bring off that raw, tender, agonising and unperformable work. I wouldn't dare touch it with a barge-pole now.) It's a long time ago and my memories are not as vivid as they ought to be. But they do leave me with a lingering sensation of discovery, new perspectives and an inspiration that sprang from sound quality, musical exchange - sonatas are chamber music - and seriously hard work. One served the music, not vice-versa. It was a link with a fast-vanishing golden era of musicianship. Whenever I've come into contact with so-called 'golden age' musicians, I've been deeply grateful for the experience and this was no exception.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, 1916-2006

The great soprano has died at the age of 90. An iconic figure without whom opera in the 20th century would not have been the same.

I never met her, but when I was a kid, she and her husband Walter Legge lived in the next street from us in Hampstead. The complex of back gardens adjoined. And sometimes, when the weather was fine and all the windows were open, one could hear the sound of singing across the leaves...

UPDATE: Saturday 5 August, 10.25am: read obituary from The Independent here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A farewell

The news has just reached me that the incandescent, inspirational mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson died yesterday, aged 52. If this seems a brief post, it's because words sometimes fail in the face of such a catastrophic loss. Instead of carrying on, I'd like to redirect you to the obituary from the New York Times.