French organist, composer and teacher Odile Pierre died on 29 February 2020, aged eighty-seven. Born in Pont-Audemer on 12 March 1932, she took an early interest in the church organ, and by the age of fifteen was a choir leader and organist. She studied at the Conservatoire De Rouen, at the Paris Conservatoire with Marcel Dupré, with Fernando Germani in Rome, and at the Salzburg Mozarteum. She gave over two thousand organ recitals during her career, and was organist at La Madeleine in Paris from 1969 until 1979. She taught in Rouen and Paris, and represented France at the 1977 International Organ Congress in Washington DC and Philadelphia.
Russian pianist Sergei Dorensky has died on 26 February 2020, aged eighty-eight. Born on 3 December 1931, he studied with Grigory Ginsberg at Moscow Conservatory and won several prizes, resulting in his touring America and Western Europe. He taught at Moscow Conservatory, where he was a professor from 1978 until 1997. In 1989 he became a People's Artist of Russia, and was later given the Russian Federation's Order of Friendship. He was also vice-president of the Fryderyk Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninov Societies of Russia.
We also mark the passing of Dutch conductor, composer and pianist Reinbert de Leeuw (1938-2020) on 14 February, aged eighty-one.
French viola player and contemporary music specialist Christophe Desjardins died on 13 February 2020, aged fifty-seven. Born in Caen on 24 April 1962, he studied with Serge Collot at the Paris Conservatoire, from the age of twenty. During his career he was solo violist in Brussels at La Monnaie, was a member of Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, and gave first performances of music by Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Ivan Fedele, Jonathan Harvey, Michael Jarrell, Michaël Levinas, Emmanuel Nunes and Wolfgang Rihm. He taught widely at university level, including at Juilliard and at Germany's Hochschule für Musik Detmold.
English pianist Hamish Milne died on 12 February 2020, aged eighty. Born in Salisbury on 27 April 1939, Milne studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and later in Italy with Guido Agosti. In the 1970s, Hamish Milne was the first pianist to offer a complete survey of the piano music of Russian composer Nikolai Medtner since the composer had made his own recordings. Hamish Milne also taught at the Royal Academy of Music.
Italian soprano Mirella Freni (1935-2020) died on 9 February, aged eighty-four.
Swedish soprano, composer, actress and painter Margareta Hallin died on 9 February 2020, aged eighty-eight. Born in Karlskoga on 20 February 1931, Hallin studied at the University College of Opera in Stockholm, where she made her debut as Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, and then joined Royal Swedish Opera as a full-time employee in 1956. Considered talented enough to work internationally, she chose instead to stay in Sweden, although she toured the Soviet Union and performed in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. She began writing music in the mid 1980s, beginning with a series of poems set to music. She also set several works by August Strindberg.
American pianist, composer, artist and film maker Sorrel Hays died on 9 February 2020, aged seventy-nine. Born in Memphis, Tennessee on 6 August 1941, Doris Ernestine Hays adopted her grandmother's family name - Sorrel. She studied at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She taught at Cornell College in Iowa, then moved to New York City to study with Hilde Somer. Her international career as a pianist began in 1971, after winning first prize in the Gaudeamus Competition for Interpreters of New Music, and she became known as one of the world's top performers of cluster piano music. In 1998 she directed a graduate programme in electronic music at Yildiz University in Istanbul. She was also a guest lecturer at various colleges and universities, including Vassar College and Brooklyn College.
Russian composer, pianist and musicologist Sergei Slonimsky died in St Petersburg on 9 February 2020, aged eighty-seven, following a long illness. Born on 12 August 1932, Slonimsky studied at Moscow Musical College and at Leningrad Conservatory. As a teacher of composition at St Petersburg Conservatory, most of his students were Russian, but he also taught students from China, Colombia, Germany, Iran, Italy, Korea and the United States of America. His own eclectic compositional style included experimentation with new forms of notation, serial techniques and a folkloric style. He left over a hundred compositions, including operas, ballets, symphonies, chamber, vocal, choral, theatre and cinema music. His uncle was the Russian-American composer Nicolas Slonimsky.
Italian conductor Nello Santi (1931-2020) died on 6 February, aged eighty-eight, at his home in Zurich, whilst undergoing treatment for a blood infection.
German composer and viola player Volker David Kirchner died in Wiesbaden on 4 February 2020, aged seventy-seven. Born in Mainz on 25 June 1942, Kirchner studied at Peter Cornelius Conservatory, the Hochschule für Musik Köln and the Hochschule für Musik Detmold. For decades he played viola in the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt. He was also the viola player in the Kehr Trio, and composed incidental music for Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden. His operas, which first brought him to attention as a composer, were commissioned by major German houses. By 1988, he had become a freelance composer, working in Mainz.
American pianist Peter Serkin (1947-2020) died on 1 February, aged seventy-two, from pancreatic cancer.
Posted 1 March 2020 by Keith Bramich