Betty Freeman, RIP

Betty Freeman, RIP


norman lebrecht

January 05, 2009

Our dear friend Betty died yesterday in Los Angeles. I’m a bit too choked up to write much about her now, but I don’t think anyone did more to develop musical creativity in the past generation. I once called her the Midwife to Post-Modernism. I think she liked that.

She had a musical ear and a certainty of taste the like of which I have rarely found in the most celebrated conductors. She also had the capacity to stand apart from her work, and everyone else’s, which is the hallmark of true art.

I attach below a short tribute that my wife’s company has sent out. Betty did a power of good in music and art. She took us into a new era. 



Betty Freeman, who died at her home in Los Angeles on January 4, 2009 at the
age of 87, was the leading patron of new music in the late 20th and early
21st century.

She was the force behind such modern classics as John Adam’s
opera Nixon in China, Steve Reich’s electronic string quartet Different
Trains and Harrison Birtwistle’s Antiphonies, and the dedicatee of works by
Cage, Feldman, Berio and dozens more. She found Harry Partch living on the
strets of Los Angeles and gave him shelter in her garage. In all, more than
80 composers were beneficiaries of her support, in over 400 works.

Betty was also a close friend of the artists David Hockney and R B Kitaj and
a gifted photographer in her own right. Her portraits of modern composers,
taken with the privilege of close and prolonged collaboration, are
exclusively represented by Lebrecht Music and Arts Photo Library.

An accomplished pianist, Betty established a musical salon in Los Angeles in
the 1980s. She had no nostalgia for 19th century romantics and supported
without prejudice both streams of post-modernism – both the minimalist and
atonal tendencies. Few people could claim to be a close friend of both
Philip Glass and Pierre Boulez.

Among other composers she commissioned are George Benjamin, Markus Stenz,
Thomas Ades, Hanspeter Kyburz, Harry Partch, Anders Hillborg, Philippe
Boesmans, Conlon Nancarrow, Lou Harrison, Helmut Lachenmann, George Crumb,
Jorg Widmann, Matthias Pintscher, Friedrich Cerha, Olga Neuwirth, Luciano
Berio, Morton Feldman, Gyorgy Kurtag and LaMonte Young.

Her friendship with Lebrecht Music and Arts dates almost from its foundation
in the early 1990s. The knowledge that her work was professionally and
internationally represented encouraged Betty to continue making photographs
right up to her final illness. She was a kind and extraordinarily
considerate friend who put the interests of art above personal comfort and
convenience. She was also a funny, witty, strong-minded woman who will be
terribly missed by all who knew her the world over.

For more links see: (search ‘Betty Freeman’)
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And Alan Rich has written beautifully here: