Here are brief details of some of the people lost to the classical music world during May 2020, most recently deceased first. May they rest in peace. We'll update this page as necessary, throughout the month.
French coloratura soprano Mady Mesplé passed away in Toulouse on 30 May 2020, aged eighty-nine.
Uruguayan composer, conductor and teacher Federico García Vigil died on 27 May, aged seventy-nine. Born in Montevideo on 5 January 1941, he showed musical talent at an early age and studied at the Guillermo Kolischer Conservatory. From 1985 until 1990 he was the principal conductor of the Montevideo Municipal Symphony Orchestra and from 1991 until 1994 he conducted the Colombian Symphony Orchestra. He was director of the Montevideo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1993 until 2008. He conducted many orchestras in Latin America, and several in Europe and in the USA. He also taught conducting in Montevideo at the University and at the Municipal School of Music.
English baritone Neil Howlett passed away on 21 May, aged eighty-five. Born in Mitcham on 24 July 1934, he studied at St Paul's Cathedral School in London, King's College Cambridge and Stuttgart's Hochschule für Musik. Whilst studying at Cambridge, in 1957, he won the Kathleen Ferrier Award. He made his debut in 1964 in the first performance of Britten's Curlew River. He was principal baritone at English National Opera for seventeen years, but also sang at Teatro Colón and Covent Garden. He created roles in works by Gordon Crosse and David Blake, made a series of recordings and was a professor at the Guildhall School of Music. After retiring from full-time performing, he became Head of Vocal Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music.
English choral conductor and teacher John Poole passed away in Haute-Vienne, France on 18 May 2020, aged eighty-six.
Italian composer, conductor, double bass player and pianist Ezio Bosso died in Bologna on 15 May, aged forty-eight, following a long struggle with a neurodegenerative syndrome. Born in Turin on 13 September 1971, he could read and play music at under four years old. At fourteen he was a rhythm-and-blues musician, but then switched to classical music, playing double bass in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and elsewhere. He later studied composition and conducting at the Vienna Music Academy. He wrote film scores and ballet, orchestral and chamber music. One of his albums was very popular in Italy, and his piano music has been compared with scores by Philip Glass.
Swedish soprano and actress Berith Bohm died in Stockholm on 14 May, aged eighty-seven. Born Maria Kristina Bohm in Stockholm on 23 August 1932, she won a Swedish talent show in her teens. She sang operetta at the Vienna Volksoper, and appeared in shows such as South Pacific, Guys and Dolls and Emmerich Kálmán's The Gipsy Princess at the Oscarsteatern in Stockholm, and in the Swedish musical Elvira Madigan in Malmö.
Italian baritone (early in his career) and tenor Angelo Lo Forese died in Milan on 14 May, aged one-hundred. Born in the same city on 27 March 1920, he studied with Primo Montanari and Aureliano Pertile, made his debut in 1948 as Silvio in Pagliacci and enjoyed a long career, singing in over eighty operas and working in America, Africa, Europe and Japan.
French baritone Gabriel Bacquier died in Lestre on 13 May, aged ninety-five. Born Gabriel Augustin-Raymond-Théodore-Louis Bacquier in Béziers on 17 May 1924, he grew up fascinated by everything involving singing. He studied in Béziers as a teenager, but had to wait until after the war to study (on a scholarship) at the Paris Conservatoire. His career began at José Beckmans' opera company in 1950, and from 1953 until 1956 he worked at La Monnaie in Brussels, making his debut in the title role of Rossini's The Barber of Seville. From 1956 he was at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and before long was working at the Paris Opera. His international career began when he was seen outside of France on Eurovision from the Aix-en-Provence Festival, singing Mozart's Don Giovanni.
Spanish musicologist José López Calo died at the Jesuit residence in Salamanca on 10 May 2020, aged ninety-eight. Born in Nebra, Porto do Son on 4 February 1922, he studied music at the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario in Santiago de Compostela and philosophy at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid. He was ordained as a priest in 1951. From 1963 until 1970 he was secretary general of the International Society for Sacred Music and musical advisor to Vatican Radio. From 1965-70 he was professor of musicology and vice-rector at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome. From 1973 he was associate professor, then professor and then professor emeritus at the University of Santiago de Compostela. His many academic publications include the results of his study of the Calixtino Codex, Galician medieval music, Beethoven piano sonatas and music in Spanish cathedrals.
American bass John Macurdy died of natural causes in Stamford, Connecticut on 7 May, aged ninety-one. He was born in Detroit, Michigan on 18 March 1929 and sang in his local church choir as a child. He took an apprenticeship with General Motors and worked as a die and patternmaker before leaving for New York in 1957 to pursue his singing career, making his debut with New York City Opera in 1959. He went on to sing more than a thousand times at New York Metropolitan Opera. He also appeared at Opéra de Paris, La Scala, Teatro Colón and at the Salzburg Festival.
Austrian choral conductor Norbert Balatsch died in Vienna on 6 May, aged ninety-two. He was born in the same city on 10 March 1928 and sang in the Vienna Boys Choir (1938-44). From 1952 he sang baritone in the Vienna State Opera Chorus, and in 1953 became conductor of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein. Later, he was chorus director at Vienna State Opera (1968-83) and at the Bayreuth Festival (1972-1980). From 1983 he was conductor of the Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and from 1999 until 2001 was director of the Vienna Boys Choir.
Dutch clarinetist, composer and conductor Willy Hautvast died in Nijmegen on 6 May, aged eighty-seven. He was born on 31 August 1932 into a musical family in Maastricht, where he studied clarinet at the conservatory. He was clarinet soloist in the Dutch Royal Navy Band (1951-74) and arranged approximately 250 works for the band. In 1974 he was appointed director at the Band and Classical Department at The Lindenberg Music Education Centre in Nijmegen. He published about 300 compositions and arrangements, mostly for concert bands and brass bands.
Canadian-born American cellist Lorne Munroe died on 4 May, aged ninety-five. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 24 November 1924, he started learning cello at three years old, using a viola with a leg attached, winning the Winnipeg Music Competition when he was ten. Australian composer Arthur Benjamin sponsored him to study at the Royal College of Music in London (1937-9), and he continued his studies at the Curtis Institute with Orlando Cole and Gregor Piatigorsky. He won the 1949 Naumburg award, played in the Cleveland Orchestra and was principal cello with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and then the Philadelphia Orchestra. Leonard Bernstein invited him to become the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's principal cellist. He also had teaching positions at Juilliard and at the Philadelphia Musical Academy.
American mezzo Rosalind Elias passed away on 3 May, aged ninety. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts on 13 March 1930 into an American-Lebanese family, she studied at the New England Conservatory, then with Luigi Ricci and Nazzareno De Angelis at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome and at Tanglewood. She began singing at New York Metropolitan Opera in 1954, interpreting fifty-four roles there, including creating two roles in operas by Samuel Barber - Erica in Vanessa and Charmian in Antony and Cleopatra. She also performed overseas - at Scottish Opera, Vienna State Opera and Glyndebourne - and made many recordings. Later in her career, in addition to continuing to sing, she directed operas, including Carmen for San Diego Opera.
British ballet dancer and teacher Anne Heaton died on 1 May, aged eighty-nine. She was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and studied in Birmingham (1937-43) and then with Sadlers Wells Ballet School, making her debut with Sadler's Wells Opera in 1945. From 1946-48) she performed with Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet, and from 1949 until 1959 she danced with Sadler's Wells Ballet at Covent Garden, becoming a principal. A foot injury forced her to resign in 1959, and she appeared as an occasional guest until 1962. Later she staged ballets, including Giselle for Iranian National Ballet, she taught at the Arts Educational School and (with her husband John Field) was co-director of the British Ballet Organisation.
Posted 6 May 2020 by Keith Bramich