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January and February 2019 have been months in which the classical music world has had to say farewell to many composers and performers. Yesterday we featured January obituaries, and below are details of various notable figures who have passed away during February 2019.
South African ballet dancer Margaret Scott, born Johannesburg 26 April 1922, studied at Sadler's Wells Ballet School in London, where her teachers included Ninette de Valois. She began her career with Sadler's Wells Ballet and then Ballet Rambert. She was the first director of the Australian Ballet School, from 1964, where she achieved success as a choreographer, school administrator and ballet teacher in her adopted country, and is known there as one of the founders of Australia's strong ballet tradition.
German soprano Hilde Zadek was born in Bromberg, Pozen on 15 December 1917 and grew up in Stettin, but had to flee Germany in 1934 and settled in Palestine, working as a nurse in Jerusalem and studying voice with Rose Pauly. After World War II she studied with Ria Ginster in Zurich. She sang with Vienna State Opera from 1947 for twenty years, and also appeared in major opera houses internationally. She taught at the Vienna Music Academy from 1967, retired from the stage in 1971 and lived until she was 101. The biennial Hilde Zadek Voice Competition has been held since 2003, to promote young singers.
French baritone Jean-Christophe Benoît was born in Paris on 18 March 1925 into a musical family, and studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where his teachers included Olivier Messiaen, Noel Gallon and Gabriel Dubois. His long career in France and francophone countries included participation in the first performance of Madame de ... by Jean-Michel Damase in 1970. Frank Martin wrote Pilate for Benoît, who sang it in Rome in 1964. He mainly appeared in French operatic roles, but had a wide repertoire which included Monteverdi and contemporary music. From 1970 until 1990 he taught at the Paris Conservatoire.
Portuguese pianist Sequeira Costa, born Luanda, Angola, 18 July 1929, showed exceptional musical talent as a child, and studied in Lisbon with one of Liszt's last pupils, José Vianna da Motta, then with Mark Hambourg in London, and also with Marguerite Long and Jacques Fevrier in Paris and Edwin Fischer in Switzerland, drawing on both the French and German pianistic schools. At twenty-two he won second prize in the 1951 Marguerite Long International Piano Competition. Later he appeared regularly on the panels of various international music competitions, and he taught at the University of Kansas from 1976.
Born on 27 October 1927, American composer Dominick Argento, known for his fourteen operas, major song cycles, orchestral and choral works, was the son of Sicilian migrants, and grew up in Pennsylvania. He studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and also in Florence, where he had lessons for a short period with Luigi Dallapiccola, and developed an attraction for the city which led to his spending time there regularly. Later, at the Eastman School of Music, his teachers were Alan Hovhaness, Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson. In 1958 he moved to Minneapolis, to teach theory and composition at the University of Minnesota, and this became another important influence on his life and work. His reputation as a composer was secured with his 1971 opera Postcard from Morocco. In 1974 he wrote the song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf for Janet Baker, which won a Pulitzer Prize.
Powerful German baritone Ekkehard Wlaschiha was born at Pima, Saxony on 28 May 1938 and studied in Weimar, where he also began his operatic career at Theater Gera, then at Weimar's National Theatre. From 1970 he sang with Leipzig Opera, and from 1982 with Berlin State Opera. He specialised in Wagner's villains - Alberich, Klingsor and Friedrich von Telramund, and also appeared as Pilate on Peter Schreier's 1984 recording of Bach's St Matthew Passion. Wlaschiha won two Grammys for his recordings of Alberich, in 1990 and 1991, and retired from the stage in 1998. He died in Bayreuth on 20 February 2019, aged eighty.
French conductor Jean Périsson, born at Arcachon on 6 July 1924, studied with Igor Markevitch. He conducted a considerable amount of twentieth century opera, and worked internationally, including in Ankara, Beijing, Belgrade, Berlin, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Madrid, Lausanne, Leningrad, London, Moscow, Nice, Paris, Prague, Riga, San Francisco, Toulouse, Vienna, Warsaw and Zagreb.
Israeli composer Ami Maayani, born 13 January 1936, was chairman of the Israel Composers' League from 1970 until 1973 and from 1976 until 1980. He also founded and conducted several orchestras in Israel. His music has been described as post-Eastern-Mediterranean, and contains improvisatory elements and Arabic modal influences. His compositions include a Guitar Concerto, the Serenade in D and Qumran.
Austrian conductor and composer Hans Stadlmair was born at Neuhofen an der Krems on 3 May 1929. He studied with Clemens Krauss and Alfred Uhl at the Vienna Academy of Music with Johann Nepomuk David in Stuttgart. He was artistic director of the Munich Chamber Orchestra from 1956 until 1995 and made guest appearances with other orchestras, conducting over six thousand concerts in total. As a composer he created over a hundred works in all genres except opera, but destroyed about half of them. His 1961 Violin Concerto is published by Schirmer, and his compositions are held by the German National Library.
German organ builder Georg Jann was born in Kalkberge on 17 January 1934. He was apprenticed to organ builder Alexander Schuke in Potsdam, and took over Eduard Hirnschrodt's workshop in 1974, running his company under the name Georg Jann Orgelbau Meisterbetrieb. His work includes organs for Scheyern Abbey (1979), Tegernsee Abbey (1980), Niederaltaich Abbey (1986), Waldsassen Stiftsbasilika (1989) and Igreja da Lapa (Porto, 1995). In 1995 he handed the company over to his son Thomas, who moved the workshop to Portugal. Georg Jann died on 12 February 2019.
English tenor Gerald English was born on 6 November 1925 and grew up in France. He worked in military intelligence during World War II, then studied at the Royal College of Music. At twenty-five he joined St Paul's Cathedral Choir and, a short time later, the Deller Consort. He became known as a recitalist, particularly of the songs of Gabriel Fauré, but also snag Monteverdi and music of his own period, such as Peter Quint in Britten's The Turn of the Screw, directed by the composer. In 1977 he was founding director of the Opera Studio at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia, where he also continued to sing professionally. He died on 6 February 2019.
Russian composer and conductor Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov was born in Voronezh on 29 May 1936. He began composing at the age of nine, and began his studies at the Moscow Conservatory from fifteen. Later, his teachers included Tikhon Khrennikov and Lev Ginzburg.
Outside Russia he is known as a composer of film music for, for example, the 1966-7 film War and Peace, but he also wrote symphonies, symphonic poems, works for chamber orchestra, small ensembles and solo instrumental music. From the 1970s he had a successful career as a touring conductor, and also recorded for Melodiya.