Here we are with our annual recap to commemorate a selection of relevant musicians who passed away in 2016, and some listening suggestions to remember them by.
2016 has been a sad year, marked by the loss of important figures of the contemporary music scene, not only linked to the classical or jazz world. Among them for example – just in the UK – how can we not remember David Bowie (died at 69 on 10th January), Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, members of the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer (died on 10th March and 7th December respectively) and George Michael, who sadly died on Christmas Day? All the items mentioned below can be found at the Pendlebury Library of Music.
5 January 2016: Pierre Boulez, 90, French composer and conductor. We have already dedicated a post to this controversial but undoubtedly incisive musician a few weeks after his passing (To celebrate, to commemorate: Pierre Boulez (1925 – 2016)). At the Pendlebury it is possible to find plenty of his scores, CDs and books about him. His vast discography includes the prize-winning recording of Berg’s Lulu made in conjunction with the first performance of the completed opera, produced in 1979 at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris (Pen CD.C.773, part of the Phillip John Greenwood’s collection).
25 February 2016: John Chilton, 83, English jazz trumpeter and writer. Best known as leader of the ‘Feetwarmers’, Chilton had the chance to come into contact with some significant musicians of his time as a biographical author. For example he co-authored, together with Max Jones, an important study on Armstrong – Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story (Pb.810.96A.L1) – and a book on Coleman Hawkins – The song of the hawk: the life and recordings of Coleman Hawkins (Pb.810.90H.C1) – which earned him the ‘American Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Award for Historical Recorded Sound Research’.
5 March 2016: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 86, Austrian conductor, cellist and viol player. Pioneer of early music, particularly known for his accurate philological performances, in 1953 he founded the instrument ensemble ‘Concentus Musicus Wien’ with the aim of performing the Renaissance and Baroque repertoire with period instruments, trying to follow the composer’s will. After these beginnings, at the time considered outrageous by many, in the 1980s he widened his repertoire to include the great symphonic masterpieces of Austrian-German Romanticism up to the Twentieth Century of Bartók and Gershwin. The Pendlebury Library holds many recordings of his huge discography. One of this is Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria (Pen CD.C.136) which marked Harnoncourt’s debut at the Theater an der Wien in 1971.
14 March 2016: Peter Maxwell Davies, 81, English composer and conductor. Considered one of the most prolific composers of our time, Peter Maxwell Davies’ works include symphonies, chamber pieces, works for solo instruments and music for the theatre. Among them, the monodrama Eight Songs for a Mad King composed in his most avant-garde period and premiered in London on 22 April 1969. The Pendlebury holds both the score (Sa.860.93D.S1) and the recording (Pen CD.K.85)
27 July 2016: Einojuhani Rautavaara, 87, Finnish composer. Without any doubts the most prolific and popular of Finnish composer since Sibelius, Rautavaara tried his hand at different forms and styles, composing varied genres. One of his most famous and original work is Cantus arcticus, a three movement concerto for birdsongs and orchestra, commissioned by the ‘Arctic’ University of Oulu, that includes a recording of arctic birds the composer made near the Arctic Circle and on the bogs of Liminka in northern Finland. You can borrow the CD to listen from the Pendlebury (Pen CD.M.1132, part of the Phillip John Greenwood’s collection).
2 October 2016: Sir Neville Marriner, 92, English conductor. One of the most influential and sensitive interpreter of his generation, in 1958 he founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields orchestra and was its leader over some decades, until 2011, producing an extensive discography. Among other things, Sir Neville Marriner was behind the incredible success of the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film Amadeus which has sold over 6.5 million copies, becoming one of the most popular classical music recordings of all time. The DVD is available at the Pendlebury (Pen DVD A.2).
7 November 2016: Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer, songwriter, novelist and poet. During his life Cohen was awarded both as novelist and for his music career (he was the ninth Glenn Gould Prize winner). His first album as a songwriter, Songs of Leonard Cohen, released in 1967, was not a success at the time, but some of the songs contained in it – starting with Suzanne, for many years his most covered song – remained the bedrock of his lucky career. His most popular song, Hallelujah, has been performed by a large number of singers and translated in various languages.
23 December 2016: Heinrich Schiff, 65, Austrian cellist and conductor. Schiff was one of the finest cellists from the last two decades of 20th century until nowadays, with a repertoire that ran from Bach through Shostakovich. He was also a renowned conductor with a particular inclination for contemporary music. Many of his recordings emerged as the winner of international prizes; for example, his 1985 recording of the Shostakovich concertos won him the ‘Grand Prix du Disque’, the premier French award for musical recordings (Pen CD.M.61)