News from around the world

October and November 2021 Obituaries

Our summary of those the
classical music world has lost this and last month


Here are brief details of some of the people lost to the classical music world during October and November 2021. May they rest in peace.

American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim died on 26 November, aged ninety-one.

American music journalist, singer, landscape painter and Classical Music Daily contributor Maria Nockin died on 23 November, aged eighty-six.

English composer Gordon Crosse passed away on 21 November, aged eighty-three. Born in Bury, Lancashire on 1 December 1937, he studied music at Oxford University with Egon Wellesz and then researched fifteenth century music for two years. He had a university academic career in Birmingham, Essex, Cambridge, California and at the Royal Academy of Music in London before retiring to Suffolk to concentrate on composition.

Irish composer John Kinsella died in Dublin on 9 November, aged eighty-nine. Born in the same city on 8 April 1932, he studied viola and composition there and became interested in serialism and other contemporary techniques. Several of his early works were performed by RTÉ ensembles, leading up to the large-scale A Selected Life (1973) based on verses by his poet and editor brother Thomas Kinsella. From 1968 he worked in the RTÉ music department. During the 1970s he changed styles, abandoning current fashions, beginning with the 1979 work The Wayfarer, commemorating the centenary of the birth of Irish poet and revolutionary Patrick Henry Pearse. When Kinsella retired from RTÉ in 1988, the broadcaster commissioned a series of works from him, and he's known as Ireland's most prolific writer of symphonies during the twentieth century.

Hungarian clarinettist Béla Kovács passed away on 7 November, aged eighty-four. Born in Tatabánya on 1 May 1937, he studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. He had a playing career as principal clarinet with the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, and a teaching career at the Franz Liszt Academy and also in Graz. His studies for clarinet, Hommages, written in various composers' styles, are still studied and performed widely.

Mexican composer and writer Mario Lavista died on 4 November, aged seventy-eight. Born in Mexico City on 3 April 1943, his teachers at the National Conservatory included Rodolfo Halffter and Carlos Chávez. He won a French government scholarship which enabled him to study in Paris with Jean-Étienne Marie and to attend courses given by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Nadia Boulanger and Henri Pousseur. He founded the improvisation collective Quanta in 1970, and worked on electronic music in Tokyo in 1972. He collaborated with performers to explore unusual instrumental timbres, founded and edited the music journal Pauta and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his opera Aura. He explored Medieval and Renaissance procedures in a series of religious works, most notably his Missa ad Consolationis Dominam Nostram and he taught composition and analysis in Mexico and the USA.

Polish composer Joanna Bruzdowicz passed away on 3 November, aged seventy-eight. Born in Warsaw on 17 May 1943, she studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, Olivier Messiaen and Pierre Schaeffer on a French government scholarship, and joined the Groupe de Recherches Musicales. She moved to Belgium with her husband Horst-Jürgen Tittel and together they created a German TV series Stahlkammer Zürich, with Bruzdowicz writing more than fifteen hours of music. Her output also includes operas, film music, symphonic and chamber music, plus childrens' works.

Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire died from a fall at his home in Rio de Janeiro on 1 November, aged seventy-seven. He was born in Boa Esperança on 18 October 1944 and began to play the piano at three. At twelve he performed Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. He studied with Bruno Seidhofer in Vienna on a Brazilian government grant, and was winning first prizes from the age of twenty. He performed and recorded extensively and internationally, but tended to avoid interviews and other publicity.

Portuguese guitar maker Gilberto Grácio passed away on 1 November, aged eighty-five. Born in Lisbon on 12 May 1936 into a well-known family of luthiers, he began working in his father's workshop aged twelve. The Grácio family has made traditional Portuguese guitars for several generations. Although Gilberto's sons have chosen not to continue the family business, Gilberto Grácio devoted much time to teaching during his later years, and two of his students have continued to make guitars in the Grácio tradition.

Iain C Phillips, creator of the websites, and, died in October 2021.

English soprano Joan Carlyle died on 31 October, aged ninety. Born in Cheshire on 6 April 1931, she sang at Covent Garden from 1955, working with Rafael Kubelik, Rudolf Kempe and Georg Solti. She was often paired with Jon Vickers. Later she sang at Glyndebourne, throughout Europe and in Argentina and the USA.

Italian violinist and teacher Renato Zanettovich passed away on 29 October, aged one hundred. Born in Trieste on 28 July 1921, he studied with Umberto Nigri and founded the Trieste Trio with pianist Dario de Rosa and cellist Libero Lana. He taught in Bolzano, Trieste and Venice, and ran masterclasses in Fiesole, Siena and overseas.

Cuban composer, conductor and teacher Alfredo Diez Nieto died from a heart attack in Havana on 23 October, aged one-hundred-and-two. Born in Havana on 25 October 1918, he founded and conducted the Orquesta Popular de Conciertos and taught composition in Havana. His orchestral and chamber music makes use of and transforms Cuban folk music.

German composer, conductor, musicologist and opera director Udo Zimmermann passed away in Dresden on 22 October, aged seventy-eight, following a long illness. Born in Dresden on 6 October 1943, he sang in the Dresdner Kreuzchor as a boy, which had a profound effect on his later life. He wrote three motets which were performed by the choir. He studied composition with Johannes Paul Thilman and also voice and conducting at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden, and in 1970 became dramaturge of Staatsoper Dresden. From 1976 he lectured at the Dresden Musikhochschule and was professor of composition from 1978. He was invited to conduct high profile orchestras across Europe. He founded the Dresden Center for Contemporary Music in 1986, and became artistic director of Leipzig Opera. He directed the contemporary music series musica viva for Bayerischer Rundfunk (1997-2011), commissioning, performing and broadcasting many new works, and created an ars musica viva festival in 2007-8. He was general director of Deutsche Oper Berlin from 2001 until 2003. His last position was as director of the European centre of the arts in Dresden-Hellerau, until retiring in 2008.

Dutch conductor and violinist Bernard Haitink died on 21 October, aged ninety-two.

Austrian organist, composer, writer and teacher Hans Haselböck passed away in Vienna on 20 October, aged ninety-three. Born in Nesselstauden on 26 July 1928, he studied organ and church music in Vienna. From 1949 he was organist at the Dominican Church in Vienna, remaining in this post for sixty-five years. From 1960, he began teaching organ and improvisation at the Vienna Music Academy, directing the faculty of church music (1963-1987) and becoming a professor in 1972 and deputy rector (1985-1990). He gave concerts in Austria and elsewhere in Europe, and also in Asia and North America. He composed religious music and wrote a book about Baroque organ music in Lower Austria.

Slovakian coloratura soprano Edita Gruberová, the 'Slovak Nightingale', died in Zürich on 18 October 2021, aged seventy-four. Born in Bratislava on 23 December 1946 to German and Hungarian parents, she studied at the Bratislava Conservatory, at the Academy of Performing Arts and later in Vienna with Ruthilde Boesch. She began her career in Bratislava in 1968 but was taken on by Vienna State Opera the following year and achieved success in roles such as The Queen of Night and Zerbinetta. Later she explored heavier Italian bel canto roles. Her career lasted over fifty years, singing leading roles, and she was still performing in 2019.

German cellist and conductor Michael Nebe died on 8 October, following a long illness.

Australian bass Clifford Grant passed away on 7 October, aged ninety-one. Born in Sydney on 11 September 1930, he sang with Sadler's Wells Opera from 1966. He also appeared at Covent Garden and at New York Metropolitan Opera, and sang on various recordings, retiring from the stage in 1990.

German musicologist Manfred Hermann Schmid died on 5 October, aged seventy-four. Born at Ottobeuren in Bavaria into a musical family on 10 August 1947, he studied in Augsburg, Salzburg, Freiburg and Munich, and taught in Augsburg, Bayreuth, Munich, Salzburg, Tübingen and Vienna. From 2010 he was chairman of the Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg's Academy for Mozart Research. Regarded as a Mozart expert, his fields of interest were much wider.

American violinist Raymond Gniewek passed away on 1 October, aged eighty-nine. Born in East Meadow, New York on 13 November 1931, he studied at the Eastman School of Music. In 1957 he became the youngest person ever to hold the post of concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, and continued in this role until 2000.

Posted 24 November 2021 and last updated 16 May 2023 by Keith Bramich




 << Home              More news >>