Music > Classical
Collection: William Gedney Photographs and Writings
Box Number: 79
Negative Number: 5975-35
Photographer: Gedney, William Gale, 1932-1989
Subject: Cage, John
Item Number: CM0009
Harry Newstone, conductor
born June 21 1921; died April 16 2006
Newstone on the podium:
he used his
harmonica playing skills
to introduce new pieces to audiences
Photograph: Tully Potter Archive
Gifted conductor who balanced instruments
to produce a classical orchestral
Tully Potter The Guardian
p. 36 Thursday May 11, 2006
classical recording industry
classical fans UK
contemporary classical music
classical composer UK
English music > Meredith Davies
a piece of music
the BBC symphony orchestra
James Anderson DePreist
Even in the motorized wheelchair
he rode to
or seated on the low swivel chair
from which he conducted,
James DePreist cut an imposing figure,
one that usually got the best
orchestras he led
— whether major ensembles
like the New York Philharmonic
and the Oregon
or student groups at the Juilliard School,
where he was director
of conducting and orchestral studies
for seven years.
Stephen Anthony Simon
Mr. Simon (...) was known in particular
bringing long-neglected operas and oratorios
by George Frideric Handel
demonstrating that there was
far more to the composer
than the “Water Music” and
conductor > James Levine
conductor > John Eliot Gardiner
maestro / conductor > Simon Rattle
UK / USA
finely conducted by Jurowski and exquisitely
Keeping Score USA
at the Proms
London Symphony Orchestra LSO
Gustav Holst 1874-1934
Clement Attlee lays the foundation-stone of the
South Bank concert hall 13.10.1949
play the piano
(...), widely admired
his insightful, sensitive performances
of the solo and
of the Germanic masters,
and an influential
to generations of pianists (...)
Charles Rosen, pianist and writer
McNeil Robinson II
composer and teacher
clarinettst > Kalmen Opperman
The violinist David Nadien in the
Credit Bob Greene
David Nadien, Philharmonic Concertmaster,
Is Dead at 88
By VIVIEN SCHWEITZER NYT
JUNE 8, 2014
string quartet > Juilliard String Quartet
principal viola of the Philharmonia Orchestra
Antonio Stradivari's violins > Stradivarius
UK / USA
David Nadien 1926-2014
violinist whose appointment
as concertmaster of the New York
raised eyebrows because of his thriving career
as a studio
internationally renowned violinist
known for interpreting the work of contemporary composers
play the violin
who was the first African-American
to sing Aida with the Metropolitan Opera
one of the great postwar American baritones,
he was best known for his roles in Verdi operas
soprano > Margaret Berenice Price
who brought a voice of pure, floating richness
to lieder and the operas of Mozart and Verdi
soprano > Shirley Verrett
vocally lustrous and dramatically compelling American opera singer
who began as a mezzo-soprano
and went on to sing soprano roles to international acclaim
soprano > Dolores Mae Wilson
Calogero Antonio Carusoto
stalwart tenor who in 57 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera
appeared with the company more often than any other solo artist
Britten's Violin Concerto
Schoenberg's Variations for Orchestra
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
the opening movement
in the first movement
the Suite's second movement
the final Polonaise
in the penultimate variation
nocturnes > lullabies
to Sing Aida at the Met,
The New York Times
By MARGALIT FOX
Davy, a Brooklyn-born soprano who was the first African-American to sing Aida
with the Metropolitan Opera, died on Nov. 28 in Geneva. She was 81.
Her death, after a long illness, was confirmed by the soprano Martina Arroyo, a
A lirico-spinto (the term denotes a high voice that is darker and more forceful
than a lyric soprano’s), Ms. Davy performed mainly in Europe from the 1960s
onward. She was equally, if not better, known as a recitalist.
In particular, she was an interpreter of 20th-century music, including the work
of Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten and Paul Hindemith.
Though she was praised by critics for the beauty of her voice, the sensitivity
of her musicianship and the perfection of her pianissimos — the elusive art of
attaining maximum audibility at minimum volume — Ms. Davy sang with the Met just
15 times over four seasons, from her debut in the title role of Verdi’s “Aida,”
opposite Leonard Warren, in 1958 to her final performance, as Leonora in Verdi’s
“Trovatore,” opposite Giulio Gari, in 1961. She also sang Pamina in Mozart’s
“Magic Flute” and Nedda in Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” with the company. In
concert, she appeared with the New York Philharmonic and at Carnegie Hall and
Town Hall in New York.
The daughter of parents who had come to the United States from St. Vincent, in
the Windward Islands, Gloria Davy was born on March 29, 1931. Her father,
according to a 1959 article about her in Ebony magazine, worked as a token clerk
in the New York City subway system.
She graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan and in 1951 and
1952 received the Marian Anderson Award. The prize, for young singers, was
established in 1943 by Ms. Anderson, the first black singer to appear at the
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1953 from the Juilliard School, where she
studied with Belle Julie Soudent, Ms. Davy embarked on a career as a concert
In January 1954, as a prize for having won a vocal competition sponsored by the
Music Education League, Ms. Davy appeared at Town Hall with the Little Orchestra
Society, singing Britten’s song cycle “Les Illuminations,” a rigorous
undertaking for even a seasoned singer.
Reviewing the concert in The New York Times, Ross Parmenter wrote: “The ease
with which she negotiated it immediately stamped her as a singer of unusual
technical skill. And skillful accuracy was only the beginning of her story, for
she has a voice of wide range that is soft, fresh, clear and warm.”
That May, Ms. Davy replaced Leontyne Price as Bess in an international tour of
“Porgy and Bess,” providing her with her first significant stage experience.
When the tour reached Milan, the conductor Victor de Sabata suggested Ms. Davy
learn the role of Aida for a forthcoming production at La Scala. Though she was
unable to sing it there — political turbulence in Italy caused the performance
to be canceled — she made her debut in the role in Nice, France, in 1957 and
later sang it elsewhere in Europe.
When Ms. Davy first sang at the Met, she was only the fourth African-American to
appear there, after Ms. Anderson, a contralto, and Robert McFerrin, a baritone,
both of whom made their debuts in 1955, and the soprano Mattiwilda Dobbs, who
first sang there the next year. (The African-American soprano Camilla Williams,
who died this year, had made her debut with the New York City Opera in 1946.)
Before Ms. Davy was cast in the role, Aida, an Ethiopian princess, was
perennially sung by white singers in dark makeup.
Ms. Davy’s other opera work includes appearances with the American Opera
Society, a midcentury ensemble in New York, with which she sang the title role
in Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena.” In Europe, she appeared at the Vienna Staatsoper
and at Covent Garden in London.
For decades Ms. Davy had made her home in Geneva, returning to the United States
periodically to perform and teach: she was on the faculty of the Jacobs School
of Music at Indiana University from 1984 to 1997.
Ms. Davy was married several times. Survivors include a son, Jean-Marc
Among her recordings are albums of music by Paul Bowles and Karlheinz
Stockhausen, and an album of spirituals.
Though she had planned to be a concert singer, Ms. Davy took unhesitatingly to
the operatic life. “For sheer joy of singing,” she said in an interview with
Opera News in 1958, “there’s nothing like opera.”
Gloria Davy, First African-American to Sing Aida at the Met, Dies at 81,
Can Win an Appeal
The New York Times
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
the idea of pianos being dumped, crushed, burned and dismembered?
The emotions evoked by the deaths of used pianos are powerful, and they came
flooding in response to a recent article in The New York Times about their
frequent disposal and the reasons for it. But when it comes to keeping old
pianos alive, owners find that their feelings collide with the reality of
expensive repairs and inexpensive, easily available brand-new replacements.
Still, a few options exist.
One is a charity called Keys 4/4 Kids, based in St. Paul, but it helps only if
you live in parts of the Midwest, and even then there is no guarantee of
survival. The 88 Keys Foundation arranges for donations in the Sacramento area.
Pianoadoption.com is an online clearinghouse, but the pianos offered have not
been vetted. And the practitioners of a mini-genre of the visual arts —
sculptures and designs using piano parts — might be happy to take in
“If people want to get in touch to see if I’m interested in something,
absolutely,” said Louise Philbrick, an artist in Portland, Me., who often
creates works out of piano parts. “I try to honor the piano by giving it a new
Keys 4/4 Kids accepts all pianos and will pick them up free if they are nearby
and valued at more than $1,000. The owner is asked to make a donation to pay for
the move for an instrument valued at less than $1,000. Keys 4/4 Kids does the
appraisals by telephone and e-mail, said its executive director, Newell Hill. It
has satellite offices in Chicago and Kansas City, Mo.
Moving is handled at competitive rates by a for-profit piano-moving company
owned by Mr. Hill, he said. The pianos are refurbished and sold: about 850 last
year, he said. Most are priced under $1,000.
The proceeds pay for the foundation’s overhead and for piano refurbishing.
Pianos that are not worth keeping are used for an after-school program in which
schoolchildren are taught about piano mechanisms and then get to paint the
instruments. Some are used in a version of the street-piano project that has
popped up in two dozen cities, with passers-by encouraged to play on pianos
placed in public spaces.
Keys 4/4 Kids also donates refurbished pianos to needy families and
institutions. It gave away 18 last year. Starting this fall, financial grants
will also be made to art and music teachers, Mr. Hill said.
The pianist Lara Downes founded 88 Keys to support arts education in schools. It
acts as a clearinghouse for used pianos, matching schools with donors. The
schools pay for the move, Ms. Downes said, and technicians in her network of
piano acquaintances donate basic repairs. She said the foundation had placed
about 50 pianos in northern California in the last four years.
Along with the schoolchildren who benefit, the donors gain from the transaction,
Ms. Downes said. “There’s this real feeling of gratitude, knowing this
instrument is going on to do something else,” she said.
Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in the Manistee National Forest in western Michigan
said it would be happy to accept donations.
“We’re looking for pianos in playable condition,” said Lazaro Vega, the jazz
programmer for Blue Lake Public Radio, a station owned by the camp, based in
Twin Lake, Mich., about a four-hour drive from Detroit. “This is another
lifeline for the continuation of them,” Mr. Vega added. “They would be played.”
The station’s general manager, Dave Myers, said in an e-mail that a technician
would assess a potential donated piano in the area, and that the camp would pay
for the move if it decided to take it. As for pianos far from the area, Mr.
Myers said, “We’ll have to decide on a case-by-case basis.”
Where a Condemned Piano Can Win an Appeal, NYT, 6.8.2012,
Master Restorer of Rare Violins,
Dies at 79
The New York Times
By MARGALIT FOX
Morel, a world-renowned surgeon whose clients had names like Perlman, Zukerman
and Ma and whose patients had names like Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati, died on
Wednesday in Wayne, N.J. He was 79.
The cause was cancer, according to a spokesman for Tarisio Fine Instruments and
Bows, the New York auction house at which Mr. Morel maintained his shop.
For decades, Mr. Morel reigned as one of the world’s master luthiers. The word,
pronounced loo-TYEY, is from the Old French for “lute-maker.” It now denotes a
maker or restorer of stringed instruments in general and of bowed string
instruments in particular.
Mr. Morel, who specialized in restoration, was widely described as among the
finest violin restorers — perhaps the very finest — of his day, a calling that
requires the skills of a diagnostician, acoustician and microsurgeon in equal
At his death, he presided over René A. Morel Adjustments, on West 54th Street,
whose very name testifies to the precise, incremental nature of his art. There,
at his previous shops and in hotel rooms and concert halls around the world, he
was consulted, often in panic, by some of the brightest luminaries ever to hold
Among them were the violinists Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman
and the cellists Pablo Casals, Yo-Yo Ma and Bernard Greenhouse. (Mr. Morel’s
two-year restoration of Mr. Greenhouse’s 1707 Stradivarius is the subject of a
2001 book, “The Countess of Stanlein Restored,” by Nicholas Delbanco.)
“Basically, he was ‘my guy’ as far as adjusting the violin went,” Mr. Perlman,
who for decades entrusted his instruments, a Stradivarius and a Guarnerius, to
Mr. Morel’s ministrations, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Violins, and their siblings, violas and cellos, are temperamental creatures.
With tops of spruce and backs and sides of harder wood — often maple — they are
fundamentally trees, reconfigured in strange and glorious ways that nature never
For these instruments, every bump and jostle, every change in temperature or
humidity, is occasion for protest. Wood shrinks and swells and strains against
itself. Cracks can appear. Their sonorous voices can be reduced to growls and
Enter Mr. Morel.
“René was really committed to the instrument as a musician’s tool,” Sam
Zygmuntowicz, a prominent New York violinmaker who trained under Mr. Morel, said
on Friday. “He was not trying to stabilize something to sit in a museum: he was
trying to make something that could really be taken on the road and put through
its paces in the most demanding of settings.”
René Alfred Morel was born in Mattaincourt, in northeast France, on March 11,
1932. His father was a violinmaker, as was his maternal grandfather. At 12, René
began his training nearby in Mirecourt, a renowned French violinmaking center.
Dexterous, technically minded and a keen pilot, he also built an airplane as a
youth. It was by all accounts a luthier’s airplane, made principally of wood.
Whether it was actually flyable is unknown.
After serving in the French Air Force as a young man, Mr. Morel moved to the
United States. In 1955, he joined the Rembert Wurlitzer Company, a distinguished
New York violin dealer. He later spent 30 years as a partner in Jacques Français
Rare Violins in Manhattan.
To legions of musicians, Mr. Morel, attired unvaryingly for work in a blue
smock, was a comforting constant. For some, like Mr. Greenhouse, he did major
surgery, which could entail an instrument’s lying in pieces on the workbench for
months or more.
But his work also encompassed far less invasive, though no less crucial,
adjustments. These involved the ear as much as the hand and, as Mr. Perlman
described the process, typically went like this:
A player would enter the shop, instrument in hand. Mr. Morel would ask how it
was sounding, and the player demonstrated.
“Aha; very interesting,” Mr. Morel would say. Then, with a slender tool, he
might reach inside the instrument and, almost imperceptibly, move one of its
vital internal organs — the soundpost, the wooden dowel that fits between the
top and the back and transmits vibrations from one to the other.
The player played some more, and the process was repeated until the sound was
sublime. Mr. Morel, a nonplayer himself, had a failsafe way of knowing precisely
when that was.
“He would put up his sleeve and say, ‘You see the goose bumps,’ ” Mr. Perlman
recalled. “He said as long as he didn’t get the goose bumps, it was not properly
Mr. Morel, who was divorced, lived in Rutherford, N.J. He is survived by three
children, Evelyne, Fran and Pascal; two siblings, Paulette and Jean-Paul; his
companion, Christa Nagy; and grandchildren.
He is also survived by a generation of string players, now at loose ends.
“I was talking to my wife today, and I said, ‘What am I going to do now?’ ” Mr.
Perlman said on Thursday. “I’m going to have to find somebody that can produce
René Morel, Master Restorer of Rare Violins, Dies at 79, NYT, 19.11.2011,
Pioneer in Making Computer Music,
Dies at 84
April 23, 2011
The New York Times
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Max Mathews, often called the father of computer music, died
on Thursday in San Francisco. He was 84.
The cause was pneumonia, his son Vernon said.
Mr. Mathews wrote the first program to make it possible for a computer to
synthesize sound and play it back. He also developed several generations of
computer-music software and electronic instruments and devices.
He was an engineer at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., in 1957 when he
wrote the first version of Music, a program that allowed an IBM 704 mainframe
computer to play a 17-second composition of his own devising.
Because computers at the time were so slow, it would have taken an hour to
synthesize the piece, so it had to be transferred to tape and then speeded up to
the proper tempo. But the experiment proved that sound could be digitized,
stored and retrieved.
“The timbres and notes were not inspiring,” Mr. Mathews told a conference on
computer music at Indiana University in 1997, “but the technical breakthrough is
At Bell, Mr. Mathews developed new generations of Music as well as Groove, the
first computer system for live performance. Music V led to such current programs
as Csound, Cmix and MAX, a visual-programming language for music and multimedia
originally written in the 1980s and named for Mr. Mathews.
The implications of Mr. Mathews’s early research reached popular audiences
through the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” in which the HAL 9000 computer
sings “Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two)” as its cognitive functions are
The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke had visited Bell Laboratories in the
early 1960s and listened as a vocoder, or voice recorder synthesizer, developed
by John L. Kelly, sang “Daisy Bell” to a musical accompaniment programmed by Mr.
Mathews. He incorporated the innovation into the novel on which the film was
Mr. Mathews later developed the Radio Baton, a forerunner of the gestural
controllers developed by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The device consists of
two wands, similar in appearance to timpani sticks, equipped with antennas that
allow the user, waving the sticks like a conductor’s baton, to spatially
manipulate the tempo, dynamics and balance of digitized orchestral music stored
on MIDI files and broadcast on a computer.
“He gave us a whole new way to imagine and create music,” said John M. Chowning,
a composer and the founder of the Center for Computer Research in Music and
Acoustics at Stanford University. “He has had an enormous effect on how music
has evolved in the past 50 years.”
Max Vernon Mathews was born on Nov. 13, 1926, in Columbus, Neb. His parents
taught at the state teachers’ college in Peru, Neb.
After graduating from high school, he entered the Navy, which trained him as a
radio technician and set him on his future course. He went on to study
electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, where he
received a bachelor’s degree in 1950, and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, where he earned a doctorate in 1954.
At Bell Labs, where his mentor was John R. Pierce, Mr. Mathews collaborated with
several scientists, as well as the composer James Tenney, working on voice
synthesis and computer music. Early on, he saw the musical implications of
Claude Shannon’s work on converting analog information into digital form. His
optimism about the musical possibilities of digitized sound was reflected in the
title of an early paper, “The Digital Computer as a Musical Instrument,”
published in Science in 1963.
His research and ideas led to collaborations with the avant-garde composers
Edgard Varèse and John Cage. In the 1970s, with the composer and conductor
Pierre Boulez, he helped create the Institut de Recherche et Coordination
Acoustique/Musique in Paris, a center devoted to research into the science of
music and sound and to avant-garde electroacoustical art music.
An enthusiastic amateur violinist, Mr. Mathews invented several electronic
violins. The first, called the Crossbow because of its appearance, relied on a
voltage-control filter to generate nonviolin sounds. A later violin, made of
sheet metal, transmitted sound from a pickup under each string to an electronic
work station, where a collaborator could transform the music emanating from the
After serving as the director of the Acoustical and Behavioral Research Center
at Bell from 1962 to 1985, Mr. Mathews continued his research as a professor of
music at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford.
In addition to his son Vernon, of San Francisco, Mr. Mathews, who also lived in
San Francisco, is survived by two other sons, Guy, of Palo Alto, Calif., and
Boyd, of Berkeley Heights, N.J., and six grandchildren.
“What we have to learn is what the human brain and ear thinks is beautiful,” Mr.
Mathews told Wired magazine in January. “What do we love about music? What about
the acoustic sounds, rhythms and harmony do we love? When we find that out it
will be easy to make music with a computer.”
Max Mathews, Pioneer
in Making Computer Music, Dies at 84,
Who Was Gershwin’s Bess,
Dies at 96
March 18, 2009
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Anne Brown, a penetratingly pure soprano who literally put the Bess in “Porgy
and Bess” by inspiring George Gershwin to expand the character’s part in a folk
opera that was originally to be called “Porgy,” died Friday in Oslo. She was 96.
Her daughter Paula Schjelderup announced the death.
“Porgy and Bess” burst onto the American scene in 1935 as a sophisticated
musical treatment of poor blacks. Critics could not make out whether it was a
musical comedy, a jazz drama, a folk opera or something quite different. Time
told: it became part of the standard operatic repertory, including that of the
Drawing from the gritty experiences of South Carolina blacks, “Porgy and Bess”
introduced songs that came to be lodged in American culture. Ms. Brown was the
first person Gershwin heard singing the part of Bess, a morally challenged but
achingly human character who was relatively minor in the original 1925 DuBose
Heyward novel and the 1927 hit stage play by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward.
As he composed the opera, often with Ms. Brown at his side, Gershwin added more
and more music for her. Her voice was also the first he heard singing several
other parts in the opera.
“Porgy and Bess” went on to be produced on countless amateur and professional
stages all over the world. Because Gershwin died at 38 in 1937, Ms. Brown was
the only Bess he ever knew.
Her own story has an operatic flavor. She grew up in a protective middle-class
home with crystal chandeliers and music; her father later worried about her
going to New York, where she was accepted at Juilliard, much less playing the
part of a tawdry woman like Bess. She was lauded for her talent, but as a child
was rejected from a Baltimore Catholic elementary school because she was
Even after winning the Margaret McGill prize as the best singer at Juilliard,
she had no hope of reaching the top tiers of opera. Not until 1955 did the Met
feature a black singer, Marian Anderson.
Ms. Brown ultimately moved to Oslo. “To put it bluntly, I was fed up with racial
prejudice,” she said in an interview with The New York Times in 1998.
Anne Wiggins Brown was born in Baltimore on Aug. 9, 1912. Her father, a surgeon,
was the grandson of slaves, and her mother was a music lover who played the
piano daily. Family legend had it that Ms. Brown could sing a perfect scale when
she was 9 months old, The Washington Post reported in 1994.
After attending what was then Morgan College, Ms. Brown was rejected by the
Peabody Institute in Baltimore, a leading conservatory. She was encouraged by
the wife of the owner of The Baltimore Sun to apply to Juilliard. She had earned
an undergraduate degree and was in her second year of graduate studies at
Juilliard when she read that Gershwin was writing his opera. She wrote to ask
for an interview. His secretary called to ask her to go to his apartment, with
lots of music.
She brought music by Brahms, Schubert and other classical composers, which
Gershwin played as she sang, she recalled in numerous interviews. When he asked
her to sing a Negro spiritual, she balked. She considered the request racial
stereotyping, but finally sang “A City Called Heaven” without accompaniment.
Gershwin was quiet after she finished. He finally told her that it was the most
beautiful spiritual he ever heard. They hugged.
Soon, Gershwin telephoned to say, “I’ve finished up to page 33 or so,” and asked
her to come over to sing it. Finally, in the last days of rehearsals, Gershwin
took her to a restaurant to have an orange juice and told her he was expanding
the title of the opera to include Bess, her part. Ms. Brown talked Gershwin into
letting Bess sing “Summertime” in the third act, reprising the song the
character Clara sings earlier.
Although the show received mixed reviews in October 1935, Ms. Brown was praised.
Olin Downes in The Times said her work was “a high point of interpretation.” She
went on to appear in the Broadway play “Mamba’s Daughters” (1939), a revival of
“Porgy” in 1942 and the Gershwin movie biography “Rhapsody in Blue” (1945),
She performed extensively in Europe, South America and elsewhere, and taught
voice for many years in a drama school in Oslo; one of her students was Liv
Ullmann. Her own singing career was cut short by a lung illness in the 1950s.
In 1948, Ms. Brown made a concert tour of European capitals and settled in Oslo,
where she became a Norwegian citizen and married Thorleif Schjelderup, who won
third place in ski jumping at the 1948 Winter Olympics. The marriage ended in
divorce, as did two previous marriages.
Ms. Brown is survived by her daughters Paula and Vaar Schjelderup; four
grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
In 1998, Ms. Brown received the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding
Contributions to Music in America from the Peabody Institute, which has operated
as a division of Johns Hopkins University since 1977.
In the interview with The Times, Ms. Brown suggested she had been born 30 years
“If I had been born even 20 years later I might have sung at the Metropolitan
Opera,” she mused. “I might have marched for civil rights. I would have been
here for that. I would certainly not have lived in Norway, and my life would
have been very different.”
With bright eyes, she added, “Of course, I would not have met Mr. Gershwin, and
that would have been a shame.”
Anne Brown, Who Was
Gershwin’s Bess, Dies at 96, NYT, 19.3.2009,
100 at Carnegie Hall,
With New Notes
The New York Times
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
music tends to lionize the great composer cut down in youth, but Elliott Carter
made a mockery of that trope on Thursday. Mr. Carter, the dean of American
composers, celebrated his 100th birthday, on the day, with a concert at Carnegie
He had a piece on the program, of course, but not some chestnut written when he
was a student in Paris in the 1930s or an avant-gardist in New York in the 1950s
or a Pulitzer Prize winner in the 1960s or a setter of American poetry in the
1970s or a begetter of chamber music and concertos in the 1980s.
Mr. Carter wrote the 17-minute piece, for piano and orchestra, just last year,
at 98. In fact, since he turned 90, Mr. Carter has poured out more than 40
published works, an extraordinary burst of creativity at a stage when most
people would be making peace with mortality.
His first opera had its premiere in 1999. He produced 10 works in 2007 and six
more this year. “I don’t know how I did it,” Mr. Carter said on Tuesday in the
cluttered but homey Greenwich Village apartment where he has lived since 1945.
“The earlier part of my life I felt I was more or less exploring what I would
like to write. Now I’ve found it out, and I don’t have to think so much about
The new piece, “Interventions,” was given its New York premiere Thursday evening
by the pianist Daniel Barenboim and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with James
Levine conducting. When it ended, Mr. Carter slowly rose amid the cheers and
applause, and with the aid of a friend, made his way to the stage. Mr. Barenboim
took his arm and helped him up the steps. A mock cake adorned with piano keys
and musical notes, topped with a sparkler, was wheeled out. The orchestra broke
into “Happy Birthday,” with the audience singing along. After Mr. Carter made
his way back to his seat, Mr. Barenboim and Mr. Levine, who had asked him to
write the piece for the occasion, stood at the edge of the stage applauding.
Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” came next on the program; Mr. Carter said that
hearing a performance of that piece at Carnegie 85 years ago had helped inspire
him to become a composer.
Mr. Carter is a phenomenon. To paraphrase the musical satirist Tom Lehrer, when
Mozart was Mr. Carter’s age, he had been dead for 65 years.
He has lived more than three times as long as Schubert did. Some composers, like
Verdi and Richard Strauss, produced until the end of long lives — but that was
merely their 80s.
Lionized as one of the great American composers, Mr. Carter is respected as
much, if not more, in Europe. The intellectual and performing giants of the
field champion him and several top musicians in New York remain deeply loyal.
Despite the thorny, complex nature of much of his music, his concerts these days
are often packed, as was Carnegie on Thursday night.
“He’s still writing at the top of his form,” Mr. Levine said. “Like all great
composers, every time he writes a piece he has new ideas he’s trying, as well as
coming up with a subtler reworking of something he had done before.”
The Carnegie affair is one of dozens of concerts that have taken place worldwide
recently to honor Mr. Carter. “God help me,” Mr. Carter said.
All the attention has left him feeling a little ambivalent. “There are all these
pieces I want to write,” he said, “and I can’t get to them because there are all
these things getting in the way. But on the other hand one does enjoy appearing,
having especially wonderful performances, which is fascinating to me.”
That prompted a provocative thought.
“I’d rather hear them play good contemporary music than old music,” he said of
the performers devoted to his work. He was bored, he said, with scores from the
age of “gaslights and horses,” although he admits to exceptions: Mozart, Wagner,
Beethoven symphonies. But 20th-century composers “have a spark” and convey “what
it is like to be living now,” he said.
In the interview, Mr. Carter displayed a mind alive with ideas, a gentle but
slightly tart wit and a streak of self-deprecation.
Mr. Carter, whose father was a lace importer, was born in New York. He attended
Harvard with a recommendation from Charles Ives, majored in English, and went to
France to study composition with the legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger. He wakes
every day at 7 a.m., composes for two and a half hours, goes out for a
constitutional with an aide, rests after lunch, composes again or receives
visitors in the afternoon, and watches French satellite television in the
evening, if he does not have a concert to attend.
He said he has gone back to reading the classics, including “Hamlet.” After
starting a third bout with Proust in the original French, “I got a little sick
of it two months ago,” he said. “That’s why I turned to Shakespeare.”
A terra cotta self-portrait head of his wife, Helen, a sculptor who fiercely
protected him until her death in 2003, sits in his living room. Virgil
Blackwell, a clarinetist, serves as Mr. Carter’s business manager and constant
helper, handling everything from royalties to hearing-aid batteries.
Audiences do not always take well to Mr. Carter’s complicated works. But players
are drawn to his music because of its challenges and his ability to write well
for their instruments.
His recent compositions have generally grown shorter and less dense. “I finally
have done all my adventures and great big noisy pieces. Now I write simple ones.
That’s a new adventure.”
He said that life — his, at least — “is just a matter of luck.”
“I’ll be damned if I know why I write all that music that people like,” he said.
“That some people like, anyhow,” he added.
With the interviewer out of the apartment, Mr. Carter was heard on the other
side of the door saying to an aide, “I’ve got to rest a little after this
Turning 100 at Carnegie Hall, With New Notes, NYT,
April 4 1986
dies at his festival home
From The Guardian archive
April 4 1986
Sir Peter Pears, Britain's most celebrated tenor, who brought creative and
emotional support to his lifelong friend, Benjamin Britten, died yesterday at
the Suffolk home he had shared with the composer for 30 years. He was 75, and
had not sung professionally since a stroke five years ago.
Sir Peter's wide vocal repertoire and imaginative range took in the creation of
the rough-hewn and torment edly boy-obsessed Peter Grimes, the modernising of
Suffolk and other folk songs, and even a contribution to the libretto for one of
Britten's sunnier operas, A Midsummer Night's Dream. He will be buried next week
beside Britten in Aldeburgh churchyard.
Living together in Aldeburgh, Pears had been the diplomat of the relationship,
balancing Britten's edgy energy and creativity, which was sometimes more set on
getting artistic results than on keeping friends.
Never totally engulfed by the often overwrought and demanding composer, Pears
gave ideas to others as well as Britten. He was behind the song cycle written by
Britten for Fischer-Dieskau from Songs and Proverbs of Blake, but he also
suggested the idea of the comic opera, The Bear, to Sir William Walton.
He made no secret of the fact that Britten's choice of some of his opera
subjects had nothing to do with him. These included Henry James' Turn of the
Screw, another dark labyrinth of twisted childhood, and the TV opera Owen
"After the success of Peter Grimes, Ben, who was very irascible, went into a
sort of inflated world and those who could went there with him and those who
couldn't, didn't," said a former friend yesterday. "I kept out of it, Peter
remained part of it. But he knew it was a bit much occasionally. I don't think
that Peter had problems because of his childhood and Peter sheltered Ben — I
think quite deliberately so."
Sir Michael Tippett said yesterday that the relationship of the two sovereign
artists had gone through a rocky patch when Britten no longer wanted to
accompany Pears on the piano, but Pears got other accompanists and the
"No relationship can be entirely serene, but this one ended in being serene,"
said Sir Michael. "Peter was tough. He would not go along with Ben when he got
on his high horse."
A Suffolk resident who saw Sir Peter socialising at a recent Aldeburgh festival,
which he and Britten formed, said simply: "He was the sort of man who always had
excellent manners, and always put all sorts of people instantly at their ease."
From The Guardian
archive > April 4 1986,
Peter Pears dies at his festival home, G,
4.4.2007, p. 32,
May 31, 1952
of the wrath to come
From the Guardian archive
Saturday May 31, 1952
In his presidential lecture to the English
Association, Mr AL Rowse consoled his audience by the remark that, if writing is
not at a high peak at the moment, English painting is enjoying a more creative
period than since the eighteenth century, and English music than at any time
since the Elizabethans.
I certainly do not share Mr Rowse's opinion of
contemporary English music. I recall several occasions when a certain school of
English musicians or critics has hailed the passing moment and, like Faust,
called out "Verweile doch!" - "Delay, thou art so fair".
There was a definite renaissance when I was a boy, led by Parry, Stanford,
William Wallace, Ethel Smyth, and others whose names are now forgotten. Time
alone discovers the masterpiece. Contemporary readers will possibly be surprised
to learn that Ethel Smyth's opera The Wreckers was once thought of as highly
here and in Germany as Peter Grimes is today.
In half a century from 1952 several names now famous will have become as remote
as have Granville Bantock and Josef Holbrooke. A certain critic maintained that
Bantock, not Elgar, was the really important composer.
"But", it will be argued, "Elgar and Delius are dated, the one a complacent
Edwardian, the other a romantic". The critical test of music in 1952 apparently
insists not so much on aesthetic values as on values psychological, political,
ideological, and topical. If a work does not express certain "reactions" of the
moment it is dismissed.
None of us who hailed Elgar as a master was aware that he was speaking for a
"complacent" epoch: in fact we thought that we lived in not untroubled times,
our heaven not entirely unshadowed by war clouds.
We thought we heard the note of menace, some prophecy of the wrath to come, in
the slow movement of the E flat Symphony.
There is also the despised 1920s, thence to the outbreak of the second war.
Walton produced Balshazzar's Feast in 1931, the viola concerto in 1929, the
symphony in 1935. Between the two wars, Bax produced his symphonies and the best
of his piano music. No English composer has written for the instrument with more
than his distinction. Not the least valuable of Vaughan Williams's contributions
was given in the 1920s.
So much for comparisons of periods supposedly "creative". Music in 1952 is in a
turbulent melting-pot: we are in a stage of experiment as vital as exciting. The
experiments are often done in public. It is difficult in a disintegrating
external scene to produce integrated art, difficult to turn the soil and sow the
seed at the same time.
the archive > May 31, 1952,
Elgar's prophecy of the wrath to come, G,
September 6 1947
The first Festival at Edinburgh
From The Guardian archive
Frank Harris said that if Edinburgh were dropped into the Trossachs country
we should have another Salzburg. But Edinburgh is as far removed from the
baroque, in spirit and external manifestation, as well could be.
The 'old town' was hewn from granite; and granite lives have been lived in the
twisting declivities of the streets. The 'new town' is a city of Adam mansions
and secluded spa cious squares. Industry and 'progress' dug a railway in the
valley which divides the old town and the castle on the rocks from the new.
Smoke trailing like sentences of Carlyle wafts over the handsome gardens which
border Princes Street, congested with double-decker trams. Cafes and restaurants
close on the Sabbath.
Even on weekdays the visitor to the festival from Vienna or Paris might find
himself forced back on tea and a sandwich after a performance of Figaro, and
driven to premature bedtime while his mind craves for conversation until dawn.
None the less the roots have been thrust into the earth. The Edinburgh Festival
will, I think, continue and burgeon and create sooner or later its own
atmosphere and 'Stimmung.' Why indeed drag in Salzburg? — as Whistler said of
It is remarkable that Edinburgh should have been chosen to house the first truly
international music festival held in Britain; for Scotland, not England, is
really 'das Land ohne Musik'. But cultural ties binding Scotland to Europe were
woven long ago. Kant was wakened from his 'dogmatic slumber' by David Hume.
Carlyle translated Goethe; and Goethe nourished himself on Walter Scott. Boswell
called on Voltaire. Beethoven interested himself for an occasion in Scottish
The sun is once more announcing his opulence. It is royal and day-long sunshine
that so quickly has ripened this festival of the talents of many countries.
Through music Edinburgh picks up again the links of culture forged by hard
thinking, not by the easier sensuous way of music, centuries since, joining
Scotland with the intellectual governance of the world.
We have been blessed beyond all reasonable expectations. Some of the concerts
have restored pre-war standards. Into this challenging air came the Hallé
Orchestra, and made its contribution, definite and characteristic.
Visitors from overseas were incredulous that this was an ensemble of
comparatively brief growth. The playing was entirely free of any suggestion of
provincialism. Barbirolli's achievement in creating this orchestra has been
astonishing — nearly miraculous.
The first Festival at
Edinburgh, from The Guardian archive,
September 6 1947, G,
republished 6.9.2007, p.
September 27, 1909
Edward Elgar's hopes
for new British music
From the Guardian archive
Monday September 27, 1909
Sir Edward Elgar, president of the Musical
League, speaking at a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, said it was
a curious paradox that the teaching of music was treated not as an art of sound,
but as an art of sight.
For example, they were taught that consecutive
fifths were wrong - they looked wrong (laughter); that was an art of sight. But
they had grown through that.
Still a great deal had to be done. A great many people still went to concerts to
look at the conductors when they ought to be listening. (Laughter.) That was,
they treated music as out of sight. (Laughter.)
Some also went to look at the vocalists (renewed laughter).
The commercial side of music had always been a difficulty. They saw vast sums
spent on worthless musical certificates, but until that sort of thing was
cleared away, he did not think they could say that the art of music had been
fairly treated, even by professors of music. He would like to see music treated
purely as an art of sound.
They had to consider, in reviewing the commercial side, how far it was possible
for serious music to remunerate the composer. They had only to consider the
difficulty of getting any return for a serious orchestral work. It was almost
impossible for a composer to get a return which would even keep him in bread and
It was imperative from the composer's point of view that the people should be
educated up to the point of appreciating their British composers (cheers).
He was not saying that everything that was produced deserved to be appreciated.
There was a great deal of poverty in compositions as well as in English
composers. Amongst English composers there had been very legitimate discontent.
There were hopes that a school of British music would be formed and that the
British people would flock to hear the works of their own countrymen.
Curiously enough that had not always been the case. Recognition of some
Englishmen had come from abroad first. The object of the Musical League was to
give British composers as far as possible a dignified introduction to a large
They had endeavoured in the League to produce what the committee thought the
best work that had been sent in for the first festival. In choosing Liverpool it
must not be supposed the League imagined that the city was in any need of
the archive > September 27, 1909,
Edward Elgar's hopes for new British music,
On This Day - May
From The Times Archive
HMS Pinafore was the opera
Gilbert and Sullivan
as the leading contemporary composers
for the Victorian
ON Saturday night HMS Pinafore, a new
“original nautical comic opera”, the joint production of Mr W. G. Gilbert and Mr
Arthur Sullivan, saw the light of the stage.
Like its predecessor from the same source, it bids fair to open a new and
successful epoch in the history of the pretty theatre in the Strand, where
English opera under the auspices of Mr D’Oyly Carte has found a congenial home.
We apply the words “English opera” by some stretch of courtesy, for as yet the
attempt at the establishment of a national musical stage is of a somewhat modest
kind. Here we have a libretto by an English dramatist and music by an English
composer; the former witty and amusing, without a shadow of the more or less
veiled improprieties characteristic of French importations; and the latter
melodious and admirably constructed without the aid of German or Italian models.
Mr Gilbert’s plot is of the simplest description. But with Mr Gilbert a plot is
seldom more than a lay figure which he delights in dressing in the fantastic
garb of his wit and imagination.
The manner in which Mr Sullivan accepts the position thus prepared for him by
his collaborator is worthy of the highest commendation. Whenever he finds that
Mr Gilbert’s humour cannot be aided by musical means he lets well alone. On the
other hand, he loses no opportunity for emphasising comic points or indicating
The Times Archives,
On This Day - May 27, 1878,
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