Classical music deaths of the decade

Classical music deaths of the decade


norman lebrecht

December 26, 2019

2010 Singers Philip Langridge, Blanche Thebom, Bass Cesare Siepi, Anthony Rolfe Johnson,Giuseppi Taddei,  Maureen Forrester, Joan Sutherland

Pianist Earl Wild

Conductors Charles Mackerras, Rudolf Barshai

Composer Henry Mikolai Gorecki


2011 Composer Milton Babbitt

Conductor Yakov Kreizberg

Pianist George Shearing

Singers Amy Winehouse, Dame Margaret Price, Robert Tear, Salvatore Licitra, Sena Jurinac


Violinist Josef Suk

2012 Soprano Lisa Connell

Baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Sopranos Evelyn Lear, Galina Vishnevskaya, Lisa Della Casa

Organist Carlo Curley

Composers Hans Werner Henze, Jonathan Harvey, Dave Brubeck, Richard Rodney Bennett, Elliott Carter, Jonathan Harvey

Sitar player Ravi Shankar

Conductor Gustav Leonhardt

Violinist Ruggiero Ricci


2013 Conductors Wolfgang Sawallisch, Colin Davis

Pianist Van Cliburn,

Composers Henri Dutilleix, Steve Martland, John Tavener, Wojech Kilar

Organist Marie-Claire Alain

Director Patrice Chereau


2014 Conductors Claudio Abbado, Christopher Hogwood, Julius Rudel, Frans Brüggen, Lorin Maazel

Composer Peter Sculthorpe


2015 Composers John McCabe, Ezra Laderman, Gunther Schuller, Ronald Stevenson

Conductors Kurt Masur, David Willcocks, Walter Weller

Tenor Jon Vickers

Violinist Joseph Silverstein


2o16 Pierre Boulez

Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Composers Steven Stucky, Pauline Oliveros, Einojuhani Rautavara, Peter Maxwell Davies

Conductor Neville Marriner

Cellist Heinrich Schiff

Pianist Zoltan Kocsis

Singers Daniela Dessi, Johan Botha


2017 Conductors George Pretre, Stanislaw Skrowacewski, Louis Fremaux, Jiri Belohlavek,

Singers Nicolai Gedda, Dmitry Hvorostovsky


Director Peter Hall

Harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková


2018 Activist: José Antonio Abreu
Conductors Jean-Claude Malgoire, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Jesus Lopez Cobos

Violinists Wanda Wilkomirska, Hermann KrebbersComposers Oliver Knussen, Noam Sherriff

Soprano Montserrat Caballé

Cellist Aldo Parisot

A detailed list of 2019 losses follows here.


  • Petros Linardos says:

    Soprano Lisa Della Casa (1919 – 2012)

  • Dr Presume says:

    “Classical music deaths of the decade” – Amy Winehouse? (not saying she wasn’t a talent or a loss…)

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Gustav Leonhardt, harpsichordist, organist, conductor, musicologist, teacher and editor

    Aloys Kontarsky, pianist, teacher

    Anner Bylsma, violoncellist who mastered both modern and period instruments

  • Amadeus Guffle says:

    Actually the decade closes at the end of next year – 2020. This century’s first year was 2001, and the current decade’s first year was therefore 2011.

    • Yes Addison says:

      No. Decades aren’t named the same way centuries are. They’re defined by the tens place of the year.

      You wouldn’t say about a 20-year-old that she’s in her late teens. She’d be perceived now to have moved into her twenties, which will end when she turns 30.

      • Tamino says:

        You are wrong. Teens is a term related to the end of the numbers. It ends with Nine-TEEN.
        A decade starts always with the year 1 of it. So the next decade starts 2021.
        Unless you can prove, that the counting of years started with living in a year ZERO.

  • Clarrieu says:

    «Ondes specialist» was Jeanne Loriod, who died in 2001. As for her sister Yvonne, well, maybe you remember who she was? !!

  • V. Lind says:

    Why Amy Winehouse? And not Whitney Houston (2012) or Dolores O’Riordan (2018)? All significant deaths in the POP music world.

    The latter at least sang with Pavarotti. Though that may be Department of Who Didn’t.

    • Fan says:

      Exactly. Winehouse might be closer to England and Mr. Lebrecht, but Whitney Houston was closer to a source of true classical relevance: black gospel music.

  • Sarah Watts says:

    2017 – Harry Sparnaay. Bass Clarinet

  • Harold Lewis says:

    Surely Jeanne Loriod was the ondes martenot specialist. I recall Yvonne Loriod only as a pianist (but what a pianist!)

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I know it is impractical to attempt a complete list, or maybe because I only tend to get sad about fiddle players, but I’d add violinists Israel Baker (1919-2011), Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012), Roman Totenberg (1911-2012), Zvi Zeitlin (1922-2012), Lydia Mordkovitch (1944-2014), Dénes Zsigmondy (1922-2014), Mark Sokol (1946-2014), Ida Levin (1963-2016), Anahid Ajemian (1924 -2016), Paul Zukovsky (1943-2017), Fredell Lack (1922-2017), Robert Mann (1920-2018), Nina Beilina (1937-2018).

    And I bet I have left someone out that I’ll regret.

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    Classical music critic Claude Gingras: Dec.30/2018

  • Graham says:

    The decade has another year to run!

  • Paul Pellay says:

    Yvonne Loriod was a pianist – the ondes specialist was his sister Jeanne (1928-2001).

  • Paul Pellay says:

    You left out Elliott Carter among the composers who left us in 2012.

  • Ari Bocian says:

    Let’s not forget composer Elliott Carter, who died in 2012, and conductor James DePreist, who died in 2013.

  • Julien says:

    2011 Yakov Kreizberg
    2012 Elliott Carter
    2013 Janos Starker
    2014 Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
    2015 Aldo Ciccolini
    2016 Peter Maxwell Davies
    2017 Kurt Moll
    2017 Jeffrey Tate
    2017 Pierre Henry
    2018 Jesus Lopez Cobos

  • MusicBear88 says:

    Yvonne Loriod was a pianist. Jeanne Loriod, her sister, was the ondiste.

  • Monsoon says:

    Can’t believe it’s been nearly a decade without Charles Mackerras.

  • Jean says:

    2015, Jouni Kaipainen. (Composer of 4 symphonies, 10 concertos, 7 string quartets.)

    Internationally lesser-known colleague of Saariaho, Lindberg & Salonen, but nevertheless from the ‘same classroom’.

  • Just saying says:

    At least as much merit as Amy Winehouse:

    2010 Shirley Verrett, mezzo, Hugues Cuénod, high tenor; Hilde Rössel-Majdan, contralto

    2011 Margaret Price, soprano; Sena Jurinac, soprano; Yakov Kreizberg, conductor; Josef Suk, violinist

    2012 Ruggiero Ricci, violinist; Elliott Carter, composer; Jonathan Harvey, composer

    2013 John Tavener, composer; Rafael Puyana, harpsichordist; Janos Starker, cellist; Winton Dean, musicologist

    2014 Carlo Bergonzi, tenor; Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, composer and conductor

    2015 Alan Curtis, harpsichordist and conductor; Aafje Heynis, soprano; Ivan Moravec, pianist

    2016 André Isoir, organist; Russell Oberlin, high tenor

    2017 Roberta Peters, soprano

    2018 Blandine Verlet, harpsichordist; Livia Rev, pianist; Claudio Scimone, conductor

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Dmitry Hvorostovsky: this was the cruelest of all.

  • V. Lind says:

    2011 Malcolm Forsyth.

  • Jacco says:

    Gustav Leonhardt was first and foremost a harpsichord player, reviving the use of old instruments! But he certainly deserves to be mentioned here.

  • Jacco says:

    Also worth remembering: Marie-Claire Alain (1926-2013), one of best and most influential organ players of her generation.

  • Emil says:

    2013, that’s John Tavener, not Taverner.

  • Rob says:

    Frank Comstock May 21, 2013, 90yo. Not classical but he was responsible for the arrangements and orchestrations in the film musical Calamity Jane – think of the backing on the songs “Secret Love” and “The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!)”, and also worked on Hello Dolly.

  • Rob says:

    I should add too that Frank Comstock wrote the arrangement of I wanna be loved by you seen in Some Like it hot:

  • Abbado, Pretre, Harnoncourt, Janson 4 men fantastics in Vienna the first of January

  • V. Lind says:

    And what about David Bowie?

  • Straussian says:

    2012: Lisa Connell

    Never heard Soprano Elizabeth Connell referred to as “Lisa”…

    Also in 2015, Canadian soprano Clarice Carson (1929-2015) passed

  • Amos says:

    I forgot that it was a decade ago that Charles Mackerras passed away. Despite the knighthood, I’ve always thought he is one of the conductors largely overlooked in a profession populated by a number of overhyped mediocres. I purchased tickets to a Mackerras/BSO Berlioz concert but he was forced to cancel, one of the above-mentioned JAC’s (just another conductor) stepped in and the BSO played from memory. CM was largely associated with good to very good orchestras but rarely the top tier and I would appreciate if anyone can explain why?

    • Nick2 says:

      I totally agree with Amos’ comments about Mackerras. He was a great conductor in many respects. He did have an association with many major orchestras, although more often in Principal Guest positions than as MD, and conducted many more including the Vienna Philharmonic. And he surely did more than any other conductor to champion the works of Janacek.

      Perhaps it was his long association with opera that denied him a greater symphonic heritage. His association with the D’Oyly Carte company and then directorships at Hamburg, the ENO and Welsh National companies as well as his regular operatic guest engagements will have taken up a great deal of his time. Later in life he was especially associated with smaller scale orchestras, lending his authority in particular to the young Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

      I only heard him twice, both times in opera. A marvelous Die Walkure as part of the ENO’s Ring in English, and Dido and Aeneas with Dame Janet Baker for Scottish Opera with the SCO at the Aix en Provence Festival. I treasure those memories.

  • Betsy Jacobson says:

    I have not seen a notice of the death of composer, Elliott Schwartz, this past decade, I believe.

  • Clarrieu says:

    So, since she wasn’t an Ondiste, poor Yvonne Loriod just vanished off Norman’s list for 2010. What a recognition for her work…

  • Helena says:

    Elena Obraztsova, mezzosoprano 1939-2015
    Inge Borkh, soprano 1921-2018

  • Helena says:

    Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund 1929 – 2012



  • baritone says:

    Baritone Dan Iordachescu

  • Nick2 says:

    So many giants of the concert platform, opera stage and recording studio. How many of us now regret that great artists like Earl Wild, Maureen Forrester and even Dame Margaret Price chose to limit their careers to just a few countries and a few cities?

  • Yale says:

    Claude Frank, a wonderful pianist and professor

  • Walter says:

    Giorgio Tozzi (January 8, 1923 – May 30, 2011)

  • Novagerio says:

    Other conductors: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Bruno Bartoletti, Berislav Klobučar, Elio Boncompagni, sopranos Magda Olivero, Licia Albanese, tenor Carlo Bergonzi, bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk, cellist Alexander Ivashkin…