Two musical deaths – Milton Babbitt and Dame Margaret Price
January 29, 2011 by Norman Lebrecht
Milton Babbitt, godfather of American ascetic music, has died aged 94. He was far more than his music let on. A mathematician and wit, he once taught Stephen Sondheim, who spoke of him ever after with warm appreciation.
In a 2004 interview, Sondheim said
: ‘Babbitt taught me what long-line composition is about, how to organise music over a span of time. It has to be the musical equivalent of a plot in a play.’
Here’s a 2006 Babbitt interview. And here’s his Composition for Four Instruments, with running score. More clips on his Facebook page.
Also gone is Margaret Price, the great Welsh soprano, at just 69. She was a heroine almost without honour in her homeland. Acclaimed in Germany and Austria for her Lieder as well as her opera roles, she was inadequately appreciated in London and insufficiently recorded by Decca, which gave its plum roles to Joan Sutherland and Renata Tebaldi, and later to Kiri te Kanawa.
I heard her last some 20 years ago in Salzburg, a memorable Schubert recital, wonderfully modulated and without the harsh edge that sometimes marred her microphone performances.
Soon after, she recorded for Hyperion’s complete Schubert edition.
It’s a sad day for music when two titans leave the scene.
And here’s an underrated Mahler’s Fourth she recorded with Jascha Horenstein.
And Strauss Four Last Songs on Youtube.
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