Death of a versatile US composer, 65

Death of a versatile US composer, 65


norman lebrecht

January 27, 2018

Philadelphia is mourning one of its most engaging musical citizens.

Robert Capanna, winner of the Koussevitsky Prize at Tanglewood, was a flourishing composer whose works were performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Berkshire Music Center Orchestra, Trio di Milano, Colorado String Quartet nd many more.

For 27 years he was also executive director of the Settlement Music School, with 9,000 students at six locations across the region. Later, he was president of the Presser Foundation.

Robert Capanna died of cancer on Friday at his home in Philadelphia.


  • Sharon says:

    Settlement Music School–What wonderful work! Is it still in existence? Although many older people may remember their first instrument instruction at a settlement house nowadays so many of these programs have been cut or no longer exist any more. How many community centers and settlement houses provide classical music instruction or indeed, give kids anything but homework help, arts and crafts, computer games, and maybe sports? Very few that I know of.

  • Sharon Beth Long says:

    Addendum: I recently read the autobiography of Mario Lanza. He said that his first musical training as a child was in his home town of Philadelphia at a settlement house, probably the Settlement Music School or a forerunner.

  • John Borstlap says:

    That is a beautiful trio…. refined harmonies, like early Schoenberg before his wife eloped with his painter friend. There is much worry in the music but the thread is not as yet broken. In that idiom, which is expressive but also very free, the music can spill over the brim and return within it, if handled by a composer with the required sensitivity, and this composer obviously had it. What a loss.

  • Yo Mama says:

    Under his leadership, Settlement expanded and expanded until it has a near-total monopoly on musical education, which is not good for teachers who are not on the faculty. I found him to be unfair, unethical, and simply mean. And his music sounds that way.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Wow! What a sudden dissonant, and unprepared.

    • Edison says:

      Is this really the appropriate vehicle for a comment like that? This is an obituary for a man who was committed to what he believed in! Why in the world would you think this is the time and/or place to air your negative feelings? I hope when you go, people are kinder to you, and your legacy is as rich as that of Bob Capanna….

  • Jaime Herrera says:

    I never knew this guy but his music is engaging – the dissonances are not gratuitous nor is the score needlessly percussive or complicated. However, the string quartet playing it sounds like it’s sight reading the score. (I hope I’m not being overly critical. I did enjoy the performance.)