Here are brief details of some of the people lost to the classical music world during December 2021. May they rest in peace.
British conductor Tom Hammond passed away suddenly on 27 December, aged only forty-seven. He was associated with groups such as Orchestra of the Swan and Sinfonia Tamesa, and was one of the founders and artistic directors of the Hertfordshire Festival of Music. Hammond studied with Charles Mackerras and gave first performances of new works, including those by Matthew Taylor, James Francis Brown and Bernard Hughes. He worked with soloists such as Stephen Hough, Emma Johnson, Steven Isserlis, Matthew Sharp, Ray Chen, Tamsin Waley-Cohen, David Le Page and Ben Goldscheider. He was also known for his visits to the Middle East to conduct ensembles from the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Palestine, including the Palestine Youth Orchestra, and for his adjudication work and his online talks and podcasts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Swiss composer, conductor and pianist Jürg Wyttenbach died in Basel on 22 December, aged eighty-six. Born in Bern on 2 December 1935, he studied with Sándor Veress at University of the Arts Bern and later at the Conservatoire de Paris. He performed as a pianist with orchestras in Germany and Poland, and he conducted various groups including Klangforum Wien and Ensemble Modern. He taught piano at the City of Basel Music Academy (1967-2003).
Steel pan musician, inventor and pioneer Anthony Williams died on 21 December, aged ninety, from complications following COVID-19. Born on 24 June 1931 in Trinidad, he began playing steel pan when very young. He played with Harlem Nightingale Steelband at the first street carnival following World War II and later was a leading light of the Sun Valley steel orchestra. As a member of the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra, he visited England for the Festival of Britain in 1951. He invented a soprano pan with notes laid out in a circle of fifths. The playing surface resembled a spider's web, so he named it the 'Spider Web Pan'. In 2008 he received the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
German composer, conductor, musicologist and teacher George Alexander Albrecht died on 21 December, aged eighty-six. Born in Leuchtenburg on 15 February 1935 into the well-connected Albrecht family, he studied in Italy and the Netherlands. He began his career as répétiteur for Theater Bremen, and then conducted at Landestheater Hannover and the Niedersächsisches Staatsorchester Hannover. When appointed generalmusikdirector of Staatsoper Hannover in 1965, aged twenty-nine, he became the youngest generalmusikdirector in Germany. He continued in this role for three decades, conducting mainstream operas and contemporary works. When he retired, he concentrated on composing.
American string player Judith Davidoff passed away in New York on 19 December, aged ninety-four. Born in Boston on 21 October 1927, she studied music from the age of seven and first appeared in public at twelve. Later she studied at Radcliffe College and the Longy School of Music. Fascinated by folk music and early music, she played a wide range of stringed instruments, including the erhu (which she studied in Taiwan), viol, baryton, vielle, rebec, kemence, saz, early fiddle, and the baroque, classical and modern cello. Equally wide was the range of music she performed and recorded, from works by Marin Marais to Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht and new commissions for viols.
Norwegian mezzo-soprano Torhild Staahlen died on 17 December, aged seventy-four. Born in Skien on 25 September 1947, she studied at Oslo Conservatory and at the Norwegian College of Opera in Oslo. During her career she sang over sixty operatic roles, performing in Scandinavia, the UK and the USA. She also sang in oratorio, gave concerts and performed on radio and TV.
Croatian composer and conductor Pavle Dešpalj passed away in Zagreb on 16 December, aged eighty-seven. Born in Blato on 18 June 1934, he studied at the Zagreb Music Academy and became chief conductor of the Zagreb Radio Television Symphony Orchestra, principal conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra and music programme director of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. He was professor of conducting at Zagreb Academy of Music and also worked in Japan.
Argentinian music theorist and composer Francisco Kröpfl died in Buenos Aires on 15 December, aged ninety. He was born in Timişoara, Romania on 26 February 1931 and became a pioneer of Latin American electroacoustic music, founding the Estudio de Fonología Musical at the university in Buenos Aires and receiving a Guggenheim fellowship for composition.
Vietnamese composer Phú Quang passed away on 8 December in Hanoi, aged seventy-two, due to complications from diabetes. He was born in Phú Tho in North Vietnam on 13 October 1949. His family later ran a restaurant in Hanoi. He was known mainly for his songs about Hanoi and his love songs, but also wrote concertos, symphonies and film music.
Canadian pianist, academic, teacher and Music & Vision Magazine contributor Malcolm Troup died on 8 December, aged ninety-one.
Czech violinist, conductor and teacher Pavel Hůla died on 7 December, aged sixty-nine. Born in Prague on 23 January 1952, he studied at the School of Music of the Prague Academy of Performing Arts and with Antonín Kohout and Vladimir Malinin, then devoted his life to solo and chamber music. He was a member of Prague Chamber Soloists, principal of the award-winning Kocian Quartet and a professor at the String Instruments department of the School of Music of the Prague Academy of Performing Arts.
German violinist and teacher Alois Kottmann passed away on 4 December, aged ninety-two. Born at Großauheim on 20 June 1929, he taught at Musikhochschule Frankfurt, at the Hoch Conservatory and at the University of Frankfurt. He founded various concert series and generally supported music in the Rhine-Main area, took part in radio and TV broadcasts and fought for the Hoch Conservatory not to be merged with other institutions.
American composer Alvin Lucier died on 1 December, aged ninety, in Middletown, Connecticut, where he was, for many years, a music professor at Wesleyan University. Born in Nashua, New Hampshire on 14 May 1931, Lucier became interested in the science of music and in the physics of sound itself. He studied with Aaron Copland and Lukas Foss at Tanglewood, and became a key member of the Sonic Arts Union - a collective of experimental musicians which also included Robert Ashley, David Behrman and Gordon Mumma. Lucier's most important compositions are probably the 1969 I Am Sitting In a Room, in which his recorded voice is played back into the room and re-recorded, multiple times, North American Time Capsule, using a prototype vocoder to modify bits of speech and Music On A Long Thin Wire, which stretches a piano wire across a room and sets up standing waves and overtones.
Posted 9 January 2022 and last updated 15 January 2022 by Keith Bramich