In Memoriam: Classical Musicians Who Died in 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011 - 12:00 AM

The year 2011 saw the deaths of major composers, singers, conductors and music presenters. We remember their contributions to classical music and the world with this slideshow.

Please share your memories of these or other late figures in the classical music field below.

Salvatore Licitra, tenor

Licitra’s debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 2002 was an overwhelming success; he replaced Luciano Pavarotti in Tosca on the last night of the season. He continued to please audiences with performances with the Metropolitan Opera for almost a decade thereafter, dying unexpectedly on Sept. 5 after being injured in a motorbike crash in Sicily.

Giorgio Tozzi, bass

American-born bass Giorgio Tozzi performed at the Metropolitan Opera, on Broadway and in movies; he was also a teacher at the Juilliard School and the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Tozzi received a Tony nomination for the role of Tony Esposito in a revival production of the operatic musical comedy “The Most Happy Fella” by Frank Loesser. He died of a heart attack at age 88 on May 30, 2011.

Vincenzo La Scola, tenor

One of the youngest to die on this list, Italian tenor Vincenzo La Scola died of a heart attack at age 53 on April 15. La Scola performed at the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as the San Francisco and Washington National Operas.

Vassar College Media Relations
Milton Babbitt, composer

The self-described “maximalist” composer, who furthered Arnold Schoenberg’s serialist method, died Jan. 29 at age 94. Babbitt's sense of humor became a well-known contrast to his challenging compositions, including some of the first works for the synthesizer. Among many awards, Babbitt received a Pulitzer citation and a MacArthur Fellowship, and was a professor at Princeton University.

Rinchen Lhamo
Peter Lieberson, Composer

A student of Babbitt's, American composer Peter Lieberson, husband to the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, lost his battle with lymphoma on April 22. Lieberson was heavily influenced by the cultural life of New York City, where he was raised; Tibetan Buddhism was also a significant influence in Lieberson's life. Music critic Alex Ross called him "a magician of harmony."

Bert Mulder
Greenhouse performing with The Beaux Arts Trio in the early 1980s

Bernard Greenhouse founded the Beaux Arts Trio, a piano trio including himself, violinist Daniel Guilet and pianist Menahem Pressler. Greenhouse played with the group for 32 years. The group emerged in the mid '50s, when the string quartet trumped the piano trio and the popularity of the cello had not yet been unlocked by Pablo Casals. Beaux Arts performed extensively and with unmatched respect for several generations.

Jonathan Torgovnik
Anthony Amato, Founder of Amato Opera

Anthony Amato and his wife founded Amato Opera over sixty years ago, championing productions in their small space next to the punk-rock club CBGB's. Amato chronicled his work as artistic director and conductor, alongside his wife (who handled myriad aspects from costuming to box office management) in his memoir, The Smallest Grand Opera in the World. He died on Dec. 13 at age 91.

Dino Anagnost, Conductor and Artistic Director, The Little Orchestra Society

Dino Anagnost dedicated himself to the post of conductor and artistic director of The Little Orchestra Society, a New York chamber orchestra, for over 30 years. He was known for his inventive programming, both for adults and children, and as the founder of numerous vocal groups throughout New York. He died on March 31 after a long illness.

Randy Duchaine
Olga Bloom, Founder of Bargemusic

Olga Bloom, a violinist and violist from Boston, is best known for founding New York's only floating performance space -- Bargemusic -- at Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn. The intimate atmosphere of the Barge, as well as it’s consistently high level performances, is familiar to anyone who visits this unique concert space. Bloom died on Nov. 24 at age 92.

A. Aymami
Montserrat Figueras, Soprano

Along with her husband, the viola de gamba player and conductor Jordi Savall, Montserrat Figueras was a founding member of the groups Hespèrion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations. Figueras specialized in early music and her ethereal voice graced over 70 vocal albums. She died on Nov. 23 at age 69.

Kurt Sanderling (R), with Erich Honecker (L), at a concert celebrating the 750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987

Kurt Sanderling, a conductor whose career path embodied the entwinement of politics and art in 20th-century Europe, died Sept. 17 in Berlin, just two days shy of his 99th birthday. Surviving dictatorships and cultural prejudice as a Polish- (then East Prussia-) born Jew, Sanderling became a renowned interpreter of Romantic composers like Brahms, Beethoven and Schumann, as well as Dmitri Shostakovich, his personal friend.

More in:

Comments [15]

Daniel Jacobson from New York

Here are some other musicians or people who played a significant role in classical music who died in 2011:

Minnesota-born baritone Cornell MacNeill, leading baritone at the Met in the 1960s and 70s.

Philanthropist Agnes Vardis, a managing director of the Met who underwrote several productions and popular initiatives (including rush tickets) at the Met and other institutions.

Tenor Paul Franke, featured comprimario at the Met from 1948 to 1987, a 39-year period during which he sang nearly 2,000 performances of more than 100 roles.

George Lascelles, Lord Harewood, founding editor of British Opera magazine and chairman of Sadlers Wells/English National Opera.

Pierette Alarie, French-Canadian soprano and wife of Canadian tenor Léopold Simoneau. Alarie performed widely in Europe and at the Met and other American houses.

British Filmmaker Ken Russell, who in the 1970’s made a number of inventive (some would say bonkers) bio-pix of classical composers, including Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

Jan. 02 2012 08:30 PM
Suzanne from New York

Thank you for this tribute, WQXR, even though, as others have mentioned, it is not comprehensive. . . I have a question about the "In Memoriam" that was included as part of the Metropolitan Opera's archival "Die Fledermaus" broadcast today (12/31/11). I didn't catch the name of the baritone who was heard in the excerpt from "Die Zauberflote." Could you tell me who that was?
Thank you.

Dec. 31 2011 05:59 PM
Michael Meltzer

Ruth Slenczynska is very much alive, and an active member of the Leschetizky Association. We had a piano pedagogy roundtable just a few months ago, Ms. Slenczynska attended and had very penetrating comments.

Dec. 30 2011 12:19 PM
Neil Schnall

Ruth Slenczynska will turn 87 in a couple of weeks!

Dec. 30 2011 10:52 AM
w.pagenkopf from flushing, ny

Oddly I remember Send Jurinac for a recording as I did not hear her in Performance.
The recording I have and bought for the then mgr. of nyc opera was a 33/3 of Schumann. Leiderkreis and Frauenliebe und leben. It is the best I ever heard.
For thos interested Cuny Channel 75 time Warner broadcast an hour 3 times a day of various classicals. From opera to movie excerpts. They have done a lot of Jurinec in opera excerpts, and the old telephone hour and firestone broadcasts. One hears excepts of many treasures. I listen, watch each day, at 5pm. Even saw my friend Ruth Slenczynska on there. A child prodigy who when last heard from was on a far east tout at the age of I guess 80 or more.

Dec. 30 2011 07:15 AM
Carol F. Yost from New York City

I would like to ask that comments be civil. If WQXR leaves out an important fact, we should be glad to supply it, and I'm sure the station will acknowledge it in some way. Insulting remarks, however, do not inform, and reflect on the commenter, not the station.

I'm glad WQXR is running this list of people who passed away; they deserve our thoughtful attention.

Dec. 29 2011 10:16 PM
Constantine from New York

Let's not forget Josef Suk, violinist, violist, chamber musician and conductor, who died on July 6. He was the grandson of the composer Josef Suk, great-grandson of Antonín Dvořák, and, last but not least, he was also himself.

Dec. 29 2011 05:34 PM
harrietb98 from Bayside, NY

I didn't know about the death of Tony Amato. I am very sorry to hear it.

Dec. 29 2011 02:53 PM
Neil Schnall

Sena Jurinac was an important and excellent European singer. I am saddened to learn here of her passing, as I had not otherwise heard. Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry:

Dec. 29 2011 10:42 AM

Dear Bernie- YOU need to get a life and over your ignorance.
There is a life outside of the Met. If your opera knowledge was based just on the Met and artists who appeared there- it is truly pitiful.

Dec. 29 2011 10:14 AM
Bernie from UWS

Mike - Get a life. I've never even heard of this singer you mention and I'm a regular operagoer and 20-year Met subscriber.

Dec. 28 2011 07:17 AM
Mike from NYC

And yet again you missed mentioning one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th century- Ms. Sena Jurinac. I just wonder which schmucks run this show on WQXR .......or you choose only those who have been commercialized or have been personal friends or acquaintances to some of you...... Shame.

Dec. 27 2011 08:09 PM
Tim Brown from washington dc

Nice tribute, thank you WQXR for putting it together.

Dec. 27 2011 08:19 AM
Gonzalo from NY- NJ

I am listening to your station via Internet- you just played "Recuerdos de la Alambra" by Tárrega- you translated it as "Souvenirs of the Alambra"- the right translation is: "Memories of the Alhambra" let me know if you ever need a volunteer translator from En to Sp- Thanks, Gonzalo

Dec. 26 2011 05:48 PM
steven r gerber from NYC

Composer George Edwards, a professor at Columbia University, died on Oct. 23. Here is a link to a moving article about him by Fred Lerdahl:

NewMusicBox » George Edwards In Memoriam
The composer George Edwards died on October 21, 2011, after a long illness. I should like to say a few words about his life and work. First, some plain facts. He was born on May 11, 1943, and grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts. From 1961 to 1965 he attended Oberlin College, where his principal comp...

Dec. 26 2011 10:25 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About WQXR Blog

Read WQXR's coverage of classical music news, trends, commentary and more here at the WQXR Blog.