A Farewell to Musicians Who Died in 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

The past 12 months have seen the deaths of opera legends, composers and a heavyweight impresario. In this slideshow - at the end of another year - we pay tribute to some of the faces no longer with us.


The Australian soprano Joan Sutherland died at her home near Montreux, Switzerland on Oct. 10 after suffering a long illness. Over a career that spanned more than 40 years, with fully 75 opera roles in her well-traveled repertoire, "La Stupenda" was remembered as one of the last singers who truly earned the title prima donna. In this photo taken on July 7, 1994 in Coquelles, France, she christens a locomotive.

American pianist Earl Wild died Jan. 23 in Palm Springs, California, after a long bout with congestive heart disease. Wild reveled in bravura works — from Liszt to Rachmaninoff — but all of his animated performances combined a deeply considered interpretive approach and an ironclad technique.

The iconoclastic American composer Benjamin Lees died May 25 at the age of 86 in Glen Cove, NY. Known for embracing a tonal, lyrical style at a time when serialism was dominant among contemporary composers, Lees wrote works for orchestra, chamber ensemble and soloists. Among his best-known compositions was his Symphony No. 4, written in 1985 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust.


Henryk Górecki, a once obscure Polish composer who went on to become one of the best-selling classical artists of all time, died in Katowice, Poland on Nov. 11. He was 76. Górecki was best known for his Symphony No. 3, which was composed in 1976 and sold more than a million copies. This picture was taken in 1994 near Zakopane, Poland in the Tatra mountains.

Giulietta Simionato, a leading Italian mezzo-soprano who specialized in the Bel Canto repertory, died May 5 at age 99. She sang at La Scala in Milan from 1936 until her retirement in 1966, while in the United States, Simionato appeared frequently at the Met and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In this undated publicity photo she appears as Princess Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlos.

LA Philharmonic

Ernest Fleischmann, who died on June 13 aged 85, was an impresario who ran the Los Angeles Philharmonic for three decades, transforming it into one of the country's pre-eminent orchestras. He honed his famously outspoken and fearless style of management as the general manager of the London Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s. A noted talent scout, Fleishman recruited the young Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen to become L.A.'s music director in 1992, and later helped court Gustavo Dudamel, the current music director.

Part of the remarkable generation of great African-American singers who rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett died Nov. 5 at age 79. Verrett was known for her powerful, dark voice, exceptional range and riveting characterizations, especially as Bizet's Carmen. Her Met career stretched over 20 years. After retiring from the opera stage she taught singing at the University of Michigan.

Jacob Lateiner, a Cuban-American concert pianist who taught several generations of students at Juilliard and the Mannes College of Music, died Dec. 12 at age 82. Lateiner was noted for his Beethoven interpretations but also premiered major works by Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions. Among his many recordings was a Grammy-winning account of Beethoven’s Piano Trio Opus 1, No. 1, with Heifetz and Piatigorsky.

Conductor and musicologist Sir Charles Mackerras died on July 14 at age 84 . Mackerras was born in Schenectady, New York and grew up and studied music in Australia. Known for his rigor and intellectual curiosity, Mackerras was a particular advocate for the Czech composer Leos Janacek, making such operas as Kátya Kabanová, Jenufa and The Makropulos Affair staples of the repertory. Here Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) presents the inaugural Queen's Medal For Music to Mackerras (R) at Buckingham Palace in London. (Matthew Fearn/AFP/Getty Images)

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Comments [16]


RIP Sergiu Luca, Karen Tuttle, Raphael Hillyer
Three of the most important figures in American string playing in the second half of the twentieth century. I'm startled by the omissions.

Jan. 11 2011 12:29 PM

Even though they are no longer with us, I would like to thank:

for recording GLIERE'S: Coloratura Soprano Concerto. No other recording even comes close to this performance. JOAN was "La Stupenda". If I tried singing, I would be called "La Stupida!"

for recording BOITO'S: Mefistofele with Del Monaco and Tebaldi. If you turned the bass up on your stereo system, he could really rattle a woofer or two. And boy could he whistle!

for helping out in the reconstruction of SULLIVAN'S: Cello Concerto. If he hadn't had a fantastic memory, this work would have been lost forever.

Jan. 02 2011 11:12 AM
william pagenkopf from New York City

We have lost many instrumentalists as well.
As for opera, in which I also worked as accompanist, Lieder too, I hope Gelb will stop the nonsense of updating periods.
I heard a woman at the Met say she would never attend another Traviata because of same, I see they have taken her out of her red flapper dress with a new prodcution.
People that can afford the Met are the ones one can't put a tank in Macbeth or cell phone in Sonambula. Stop with the Broadway know nothing directors.
"To be or maybe not." be next?

Jan. 02 2011 08:48 AM
william pagenkopf from New York City

I bought Sutherlands first recording.
She does the usual with a few excetions,
Her voice at that time was clear, words discernable and pure.
Only when she headed for the stratosphere did we start complaining of what any of the words were!

Jan. 02 2011 08:37 AM

I saw nothing mentioned of MITCH MILLER.
He was a superb oboe player and I believe that Mitch gave the premier of Richard Strauss': Oboe Concerto with The Philadelphia Orchestra. Even though John DeLancie inspired Strauss to create the piece, John couldn't give the premier because he wasn't first chair in the oboe section. I hope you didn't leave him out because he went into his SING-A-LONG venue. And some us baby boomers may remember the little GOLDEN RECORDS for children. Small yellow 78rpm records. It was MITCHELL MILLER and friends who recorded most of them. I don't know about most folks out there, but I will miss MITCH a lot.

Jan. 01 2011 09:39 AM
Kid Student of John Barrows from Long Island

Please do not fail to remember the great Violist, Karen Tuttle, who passed away December 16th. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/arts/music/26tuttle.html?ref=music

Jan. 01 2011 09:33 AM
James Aucone from White Plains, NY

I also regret your omission of Cesare Siepi. He was the greatest Don Giovanni, Philip II, Figaro, Mefistofele of his time, a true basso cantante of great elegance and power.

Dec. 31 2010 07:43 PM
Karen from Brooklyn

George Shangrow, the amazing founder and conductor of the Orchestra Seattle and Seattle Chamber Singers, was killed in a car accident in July. He was a classical music celebrity in the Northwest, known for his wit on his radio show, and for his accomplished ensembles. He was a Baroque specialist and wowed audiences yearly conducting Messiah from the harpsichord, and with his programs of Bach cantatas, the Passions, and the Bminor mass. He is sorely missed.

Dec. 30 2010 09:19 AM
Steve from NYC

If Joan Sutherland was a mezzo, I am Marie of Romania.

Dec. 29 2010 10:52 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane

JOAN SUTHERLAND, whose original interest was in performing Brunnhildes was convinced by her future husband Maestro Richard Bonynge, that she could contribute far more to the music scene as a dramatic coloratura, rescueing baroque and bel canto operas as had Maria Callas, to present masterworks where the VOICE was the prime interest, not the mise en scene total theater, represented by the Romantic Age and Verismo.

Dec. 28 2010 10:18 PM
marilyn rey from Cambria Heights, NY

Did you accidently forget a former awsome Italian basso named Cesare Siepi?

Dec. 28 2010 08:22 PM
Constantine from New York

Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod died at the age of 108 on either December 3rd or December 6th (reports differ). He made his Metropolitan Opera debut on March 12, 1987 in the role of Emperor Altoum in Puccini's Turandot at the age of 84, a record then and now.

Dec. 28 2010 08:22 PM
stan and susan bloomfield from Merrick, New York USA

We were touring the sydney, australia opera house on october 10 when we learned of dame sutherland's death. That night we attended a performance of Verdi's "Rigoletto' that was dedicated to her. . The general manager came out on stage before the performance to express the grief of all singers, musicians and opera personnel. Above the proscenium where the surtitles appeared were the words" The performance is dedicated to Dame Joan Sutherland". In the entrance to the opera house people had placed bouquets of flowers at the bottom of large portrait of Dame Joan (even on the frame). As devoted Sutherland fans since our teenage years we attended her New York City debut at Town Hall (concert version of" Beatrice de Tenda" and her Met Opera debut in "Lucia" and even attended a recital of arias at a gym in Englewood New Jersey in which she swept in on a basketball court to sing as her husband played the piano-a concert months before the Met years. It was fortunate that we should be at the Sydney Opera House on the very day of her demise. Dame Joan was indeed "stupenda" and will always be remembered as a treasure to the world of opera. Stan and Susan Bloomfield (Merrick, Long Island)

Dec. 28 2010 04:12 PM

Farewell also to Charles Mackerras.

Dec. 28 2010 01:39 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane

JOAN SUTHERLAND was, without a doubt, the most sensational dramatic coloratura in history. Her Italian enunciation was not idiomatic, but her pitch preciseness, her vocal agility and her stamina were amazing for that vocal fach, category. Physically and vocally, Hempel was no match for Sutherland, but both had vocal techniques that could fearlessly equip them to undertake roles beyond the usual precincts of the coloratura voice. Hempel sang the Berlin and American premieres as the Marshallin in "Der Rosenkavalier' and Eva in "De Meistersinger" and Sutherland started out as a Wagnerian dramatic soprano. Maestro Richard Bonynge convinced Sutherland that the bel canto roles in the coloratura fach would give her greater prestige and rescue that music after Callas' leaving the scene. We are lucky to have had the opportunity in our lifetimes to have among us La Stupenda !!!

Dec. 28 2010 08:19 AM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

The arts are probably one of the very few genres where performers and composers can truly live forever. They live through their works on paper, canvas, stone, bronze, vinyl and plastic.

Thanks to hi-tech methods of archiving, restoration, research and retrieval we will have these geniuse (and the not so genius) artists forever.

What scares me the most is will we still have the venues, media, teachers and performers to keep them alive?

Dec. 28 2010 07:51 AM

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