23 US composers at Pierre Boulez’s last concert

23 US composers at Pierre Boulez’s last concert

Orchestras

norman lebrecht

June 20, 2021

Someone has posted this extraordinary picture of composers attending Boulez’s farewell concert with the New York Philharmonic.

They are all (but one) male and white.

How many can you name?

Let’s get you started with the front row: Milton Babbitt, Lucia Dlugoszewski, Hershey Kay, George Rochberg…

 

Comments

  • Sam says:

    I see Copland, Carter, Cage, and I think Crumb? I guess I have eyes only for C composers

    • John Borstlap says:

      Some people who listen too much to C composers, get such eyes, it is a well-known medical condition. It is a psychosomatic reaction to the C which is understood, by the subconscious, as the C for Catastrophe.

  • TransHelicopter says:

    Male and white?
    I don’t want to see this picture

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Another misleading title. It’s the last NYPO concert of Boulez, which is different from his very final one. Wasn’t that in Lucerne – when (almost blind) he conducted Berg 3 pieces for Orch

    In the top row are John Cage and Elliott Carter. There’s also Copland and Bill Schuman

    • Dan P. says:

      To be precise, it was Boulez’ last concert as music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. May 1977.

  • Peter says:

    While I can’t name them all, in the back row I recognized Reich, Cage and Carter; in the row before them Gould, Persichetti and Harris; and before them Druckman, Sessions, Schuman, and Copland.

  • Dan P. says:

    In the third row is Donald Harris, me (the one not wearing a tie), Morton Gould, Vincent Persichetti, and Roy Harris. I was about 24 when this picture was taken. Note that it’s only a portion of the entire picture (and one of many) that was taken after the concert. On the program was Berlioz’ Damnation of Faust. And, there were actually two African Americans in the group Hershey Kay (pictured) and Carmen Moore who is out of the shot to the far left of the last row. The missing seat in front was quickly occupied Mario Davidovsky in a later shot.

  • Michael B. says:

    The African-American composer in the front row is not Hershey Kay, but Ulysses Kay. Hershey Kay (whose name should really be spelled Hershy Kay) was white and was mostly an orchestrator for Broadway. Ulysses Kay’s music should be much better known.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Two observations about strange properties of the photo:

    1)
    The rest of the hall seems to be empty – the audience must have fled in despair.

    2)
    George Rochberg sitting there: he had a drastic conversion from modernism and wrote music, henceforth, based upon the styles of Beethoven and Mahler. He wrote eloquently about the meaninglessness and materialism of sound art.

  • front row is Ulysses Kay
    second row: ? Jacob Druckman, Roger Sessions, William Schuman, Aaron Copland
    third row: ? ? ? Vincent Persichetti, Roy Harris
    fourth row: Earle Brown?, Steve Reich, ? John Cage, Elliott Carter

  • That hall looks typical for a modern music concert.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Does the absence of Leonard Bernstein mean anything? Just asking.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Of course that meant something. Bernstein returned gloriously after Boulez left, to a general sigh of relief.

    • Ashu says:

      [Does the absence of Leonard Bernstein mean anything? Just asking.]

      Only, I expect, that he was unable to get away from commitments in Europe, since I believe the two men liked each other, despite their radically different musical ideologies. But others here will speak with authority.

  • Dan P. says:

    Okay – this is the complete list:
    Row 1: [Milton Babbitt, not shown] Lucia Dlugoszewski, Ulysses Kay, George Rochberg, [and in the empty seat, Mario Davidovsky sat down shortly after this was taken.]
    Row 2: [David Gilbert, not shown] Stephen Jablonski, Jacob Druckman, Roger Sessions, William Schuman, and Aaron Copland.
    Row 3: Donald Martino, Donald Harris, Daniel Plante (me, the kid not wearing a tie), Morton Gould, Vincent Persichetti, and Roy Harris.
    Row 4: [Charles Wuorinen, Carman Moore, Sidney Hodkinson, David Del Tredici not shown] Earle Brown, Harley Gaber, Stanley Silverman, John Cage, and Elliott Carter.

    I would have come wearing a tie and jacket if anyone at the Philharmonic had told me we were going to have our pictures taken together. Also, in the other pictures the took, they had me sitting on the unfolded seat to give me a little height. I’m not that short but everyone else near me was on the tall side. Here, I look like I’m 12. But I was actually 24 at the time. Still the kid in the group. I think there are only 6 of us still around.

    I have to say it was an exciting evening at the party that followed. I had seen many and met a few of these folks before at parties and in school but I was really surprised to see Roy Harris, who I had just assumed was no longer among the living by that time. But he was quite alive. Cage was a great story teller. And, Charles Rosen was there at the party as well.

    I was lucky in that Winston Fitzgerald, an orchestra manager, came over to me and asked me if I would like to meet Rosen. I did. I wanted to talk to him (and argue about) his little book on Schoenberg that had just come out. So, Mr. Fitzgerald took me by the arm to Rosen, and said – and these are the exact words seared into my brain: “Charles, I’d like you to meet Harley Gaber, whose work “——-” Pierre had performed this year.” And what followed next was a LONG biography of this Mr. Gaber that he had obviously memorized (and who I didn’t know). I started to get really panicky the more he made it seem we were established colleagues. Finally he stopped for air and there was silence. It was my turn to speak. All I could say was, oh, excuse me, I’m not Harley Gaber, I’m Dan Plante. There followed another awkward silence, after which we all walked in separate directions in embarrassment and never spoke again.

    It was a fun night though. Boulez was in a good mood and very chatty and a lot of his oldest colleagues (among them Paul Jacobs) were there. And Boulez and Cage (also very old friends) acted like old chums – no eye rolling.

    • mary says:

      Fascinating.

      So what was the genesis of this group meeting, there was obviously no Facebook or Twitter to bring you guys together.

      Sounds like the NY Phil management called you guys all up to attend? Was it Boulez’s idea? Were the tickets comped? Did you all get your programs signed by Boulez? ha ha

      (I had imagined that all composers just had each others’ telephone numbers and that you guys (and gals) just telephoned each other every night to gossip and that y’all decided to show up at the final concert, buying blocks of rows. lol.

      • Dan P. says:

        We were invited by the Philharmonic – the purpose being to attend a party for Boulez after the performance. I’m sure it was the management’s idea to give a going away party of PB.

        Besides the invited composers there were other special guests at the party as well. And, yes, we were comped, and while we didn’t get autographed programs, I was given an autographed photo – not this one, but another shot that included everyone I listed above. It still hangs on my workroom wall.

        • Jack says:

          Dan,

          Any idea why Barber, Menotti, Hanson and Diamond were not there?

          • Dan P. says:

            Jack, he invitees where composers whose works were performed during the years of Boulez’ tenure, whether or not PB conducted the music himself. Of those you mentioned, only Hanson didn’t have any performances during those years (I just checked), and the others were conducted by others. I believe everyone was invited, but not everyone showed up. I know George Crumb wasn’t there. I suspect that maybe in those cases, the composers may not have cared to take a late night trip to NYC just to go to a party honoring someone they really didn’t care much about. I’m sure that some of them (Diamond?) would have probably felt outnumbered by the enemy (there was some hostility there) but Roy Harris certainly was enjoying himself and everyone was having a good time. And, in response to a snarky response by Mr. Borstlap, the photos were taken after the concert was over and everyone left. The place was packed. Boulez conducting Berlioz was always a draw.

          • Jack says:

            Thanks Dan. Much appreciated.

          • sam says:

            It is extraordinary that Boulez programmed 30 living American composers in his 6 year tenure in NY, averaging 5 per season.

            Which other music director comes even close?

    • Kyle says:

      Thank you very much for sharing your memory and identifying the lot.

      Surely, though, that’s Steve Reich between Brown and Silverman.

      • Dan P. says:

        It surely looks like Reich, but in the typed listing that the NY Phil taped on to the reverse of the copy of the photo they gave me, it mentions Harley Gaber in that spot. I honestly can’t remember at this point but you might be right and the list may be mistaken.

  • Roger Iain Mason says:

    Elliott Carter, John Cage, Aaron Copland, Milton Babbitt, George Schuman? Roger Sessions? Sorry I don’t recognise anyone else, what a marvellous photo.

  • justin says:

    Brings to mind the quote by John Bolton, the then US Ambassador to the United Nations: if one lopped off a few stories of the UN, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

    That’s how I feel, if one lopped off a few rows of that photo, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference in the history of music.

  • I dont see Babbitt in the photo…maybe cut off.
    back row: Stanley Silverman, John Cage, Elliott Carter.
    Behind Kay: Roger Sessions ( my husband’s teacher). I guess my husband Eric wasnt invited! We did have Boulez for dinner once (he conducted a piece of Eric’s in 1972 in London) and he was by far our most charming interesting guest. I met many of these composers over the years that my husband was a music critic for the NY Times and the Herald Tribune. We were close friends of Elliott and Helen Carter over the years.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Thousand thanks to Daniel Plante for his generous contributions to the discussion and identification of this delightful photo, and his story of the party after.

  • Una says:

    According to musicologist, Bruce Duffie in Chicago, the black composer in the front row of the Boulez photo is not Hershy Kay, but Ulysses Kay.

    http://www.bruceduffie.com/kay.html

    Hershey not Hershey.

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