News from around the world

March 2020 Obituaries

Our summary of those the
classical music world lost last month

 

Here are brief details of the many people lost to the classical music world during March 2020, mostly recently deceased first. We hope that this list is reasonably complete. Please let us know if you know of anyone we have missed out.

Hungarian conductor and composer Zoltán Peskó (1937-2020) died on 31 March, aged eighty-three, following a long illness. Born in Budapest on 15 February 1937 into a musical family - his father and brother were organists - he studied with Goffredo Petrassi, Franco Ferrara, Sergiu Celibidache and Pierre Boulez. He worked as an assistant to Lorin Maazel and was chief conductor of the Portuguese Symphony Orchestra (2001-4). Known mainly as an operatic conductor, he also performed much Hungarian and twentieth century orchestral music.

Zoltán Peskó (1937-2020) in Bergamo, 2006
Zoltán Peskó (1937-2020) in Bergamo, 2006

Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) passed away on 29 March, aged eighty-six, at his home in Lusławice, east of Kraków, following a long and serious illness.

Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020). Photo © 2004 Oliver Oppitz
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020). Photo © 2004 Oliver Oppitz

Austrian contralto Hertha Töpper (1924-2020) died on 28 March, aged ninety-five. Born in Graz on 19 April 1924, she studied at the Graz Conservatorium and began her career with Graz Opera. She sang in Wagner's Ring at the 1951 Bayreuth Festival, and became a regular performer at Bavarian State Opera, where she took part in the first performance of Hindemith's Die Harmonie der Welt in 1957.

Hertha Töpper (1924-2020)
Hertha Töpper (1924-2020)

Japanese/Brazilian choral conductor, teacher and broadcaster Naomi Munakata (1955-2020) died on 26 March in São Paulo, Brazil, aged sixty-four, as a result of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. Born in Hiroshima on 31 May 1955, her family moved to Brazil when she was two years old. She studied at the Instituto Musical de São Paulo and also in Sweden and Tokyo. She was conductor of the Brazilian state youth choir, the choir of the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo and the chorus of the Municipal Theatre of São Paulo. She ran Vozes, an informational radio programme about choral music.

Naomi Munakata (1955-2020)
Naomi Munakata (1955-2020)

Swedish trombonist Olle Holmquist (1936-2020) died on 26 March, aged eighty-three, following a battle with Alzheimer's disease and Coronavirus disease 2019. Born in Skellefteå on 15 November 1936, he was completely self-taught. He initially worked freelance in the 1960s, and played with various big bands. From 1978 until 2013 he was a member of the James Last Orchestra.

Brazilian choral conductor Martinho Lutero Galati died in São Paolo on 26 March 2020, aged sixty-six, following a battle with COVID-19. He was born in Alpercata on 29 September 1953, and worked abroad in various countries, including Angola, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Mozambique, Portugal and Tunisia.

French musicologist and linguist Donatien Laurent (1935-2020) died in Brest on 25 March, aged eighty-four. Born in Belfort on 27 September 1935, Laurent discovered Breton culture whilst at secondary school, learnt to play the bagpipes, and made recordings from the Bro Gwened area. He devoted his life to Breton culture, producing a series of books between 1967 and 2004.

British organist Jennifer Bate (1944-2020) died on 25 March, aged seventy-five. She was born in London on 11 November 1944, the daughter of organist H A Bate. Her concert repertoire spanned several centuries, and she appeared at the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts in London four times. She recorded the complete organ music of Mendelssohn and Franck, and a selection of English organ music. She made friends with Olivier Messiaen towards the end of the composer's life, gave the first UK performance of Messiaen's Livre du Saint-Sacrement, made the first recording of the work, supervised by the composer, and became an expert on his music.

Dutch/British composer and conductor Gerard Schurmann (1924-2020) passed away on 24 March, aged ninety-six, at his home in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, USA.

Gerard Schurmann (1924-2020, right) in conversation with Pierre Boulez
Gerard Schurmann (1924-2020, right) in conversation with Pierre Boulez

Ukrainian opera singer Anatoliy Mokrenko (1933-2020) died on 24 March, aged eighty-seven. Mokrenko was born in Sumy on 22 January 1933. Whilst working as an engineering geologist, he studied voice with Nikolai Zubarev and Alexandra Grodzinska at Kiev Conservatory. From 1968 until 1996 he was a soloist at the National Opera of Ukraine, and was the company's General Director (1991-1996), during which time the company toured abroad extensively.

Anatoliy Mokrenko (1933-2020) in 2009
Anatoliy Mokrenko (1933-2020) in 2009

American trumpeter and musicologist Edward Tarr (1936-2020) died on 24 March, aged eighty-three, from complications following heart surgery. Tarr was born on 15 June 1936 in Norwich, Connecticut, and studied trumpet with Roger Voisin and then Adolph Herseth, followed by musicology with Leo Schrade in Basel. Tarr played Baroque, classical and modern works, including new pieces by Mauricio Kagel, and was instrumental in reviving Baroque and Romantic trumpet performance practice.

Edward Tarr (1936-2020) in 1996 at St Gertrud-Church, Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Kai Kowalewski (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Edward Tarr (1936-2020) in 1996 at St Gertrud-Church, Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Kai Kowalewski (CC BY-SA 3.0)

German violinist Helmut Stern (1928-2020) died on 21 March, aged ninety-one. He was born in Berlin into a musical Jewish family on 21 May 1928. In 1938 his family escaped to China, and in 1948 the family settled in Israel, where Isaac Stern arranged for him to play in the second violins of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Following a brief period in the USA, he returned to Berlin in 1961, where he played first violin with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and as principal violin from 1986, until retiring in 1994.

Spanish tenor and actor Enrique del Portal (1932-2020) passed away on 20 March, aged eighty-seven. His death was indirectly due to COVID-19 and the 'saturación sanitaria' in Spain - he had a fall at his home in Madrid, was unable to be treated in hospital due to the virus pandemic, and died from gastroenteritis. Born in Madrid on 3 July 1932, he sang at the Teatro de la Zarzuela from 1959. He retired in 2014.

Ghanaian composer Kenneth Kafui died on 18 March, aged sixty-eight. Born on 25 July 1951, he taught composition and music theory at the University of Ghana's music department. One of Ghana's leading composers of African art music, he created the concepts of Pentanata, the HD-3 form and Drumnata, and wrote music for traditional African instruments, piano, organ, choir and orchestra. He also directed the university's Abibigromma theatre group.

English music administrator John Tooley (1924-2020) passed away on 18 March, aged ninety-five. Born in Rochester on 1 June 1924, he studied at Repton School and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He gave up initial plans to sing professionally, and worked in industry before becoming secretary of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1952-5). He then took several roles at the Royal Opera House in London from 1955 until retiring in 1988, becoming general director in 1980.

Taiwanese singer and actress Hsiao Feng Hsien (1941-2020) died on 17 March, aged seventy-nine. She performed on stage in Taipei, and in many televised performances of Chinese opera. She also broadcast on radio, and acted in various TV series.

American flautist Doriot Anthony Dwyer (1922-2020) died in Lawrence, Kansas on 14 March, aged ninety-eight. Born in Streator, Illinois on 6 March 1922, she was one of the first women to become principal flute in a major US orchestra - the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1952-90). She also taught at Boston University and at Boston Conservatory.

American composer, pianist and conductor Charles Wuorinen passed away on 11 March, aged eighty-one, after suffering a fall in September 2019.

American opera conductor and composer Anton Coppola (1917-2020) died in New York City on 9 March. He was born in the same city on 21 March 1917, nearly 103 years earlier, and his musical education included singing with the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus, aged eight. He was director of both the Symphony and Opera Departments at the Manhattan School of Music, and served as music director of six Broadway musicals. His own compositions include the opera Sacco and Vanzetti, a symphony and a violin concerto.

Croatian composer and teacher Martin Davorin-Jagodić (1935-2020) passed away on 8 March in Auxerre, France, aged eighty-four. Born in Pag on 16 December 1935, he studied in Zagreb, Ljubljana and Paris, and his teachers included Milko Kelemen and Olivier Messiaen. In France from 1960, he worked at Pierre Schaeffer's Groupe de Recherches Musicales. He also taught in Paris. His music often used graphic, stylised scores, and he produced experimental film sound tracks, theatre music, radio art, multimedia installation art and electroacoustic music on tape.

Martin Davorin-Jagodić (1935-2020)
Martin Davorin-Jagodić (1935-2020)

American soprano Elinor Ross died in Manhattan, New York City on 6 March, aged ninety-three. Born in Tampa, Florida on 1 August 1926, she made her debut in 1958 as Leonora in Il trovatore for Lyric Opera of Chicago. The following year she gave the first American performance of Songs of the Tropical Forest by Villa-Lobos, who conducted. From 1968 onwards, she sang regularly at New York Metropolitan Opera. She also appeared in Baltimore, Berlin, Bologna, Boston, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Florence, Hartford, Houston, London, Milan, New Orleans, Palermo, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Venice, Verona and Vienna.

German conductor, musicologist and teacher Günther Müller (1925-2020) died on 3 March, aged ninety-five. Born in Gersdorf on 19 January 1925, he conducted in Chemnitz, Dessau and Dresden. He was general music director at the opera house in Glauchau from 1953. He retired in 1988, but the following year he founded the Georgius Agricola Choir, and celebrated the group's twentieth anniverary with a concert in 2009.

Posted 1 April 2020 by Keith Bramich

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