A sad loss in Seattle

A sad loss in Seattle


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2022

We have been notified of the death of Bernard Jacobson, who was Riccardo Muti’s programming brain during eight years at the Philadelphia Orchestra and engaged in a buzz of criticism besides. Bernard was 85 and had been suffering various ailments.

His title at the Philadelphia Orchestra was ‘program annotator and musicologist’ but he did much else, founding a chamber music series and acting as a sounding board for the music director.

He also wrote a study of the Polish composers Panufnik, Lutoslawski, Penderecki, and Górecki for a series that I edited at Phaidon Press, translated operas by Henze and Matthus and appeared on a Deutsche Grammophon recording as Noah in Stravinsky’s The Flood, conducted by Oliver Knussen.

image: Andrzej Panufnik with BJ


  • Wurm says:

    A sad loss, that Phiadon book is a good read.

  • Jim Gordon says:

    I believe Bernard died in Philadelphia where he and his wife had been living for some time. I knew him for 50 years starting with his tenure as music critic for the Chicago Daily News, a good friend and one of the best people to have for a musical discourse

    • Armchair Bard says:

      Second that, Jim.

    • Paul Meecham says:

      A very sad loss indeed. Bernard hired me as a rookie music publisher 40 years ago to this month, and our paths continued to cross multiple times over the years including on the East Coast and Seattle. I last saw him a few years ago in Philadelphia at his son’s pie shop. Bernard’s love of food (he was a food writer in another life) was second only to his love of music. Everything about him, including his booming bass voice, will be much missed.

  • Hmus says:

    Bernard was an avid chorister as well: he sang in the premiere of one of my pieces with the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia. A true raconteur if there is any such thing left these days – he had great stories!

  • Bernard Jacobson was something of a Maverick critic. When London was Boulez-crazy, he was praising Robert Simpson. When Lutoslawski’s name came up, he’d recommend Panufnik. He followed his ear and his instincts; was always worth reading.

  • Bernard (whom I likewise knew for 40+ years) and I were discussing an anthology of his writings for Toccata Press. Whether we can still organise and fund it without him remains to be seen.

  • DanP says:

    One shouldn’t forget his 1960’s recording as speaker in Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon that Nonesuch produced. It is as musical – in every sense of the word – as any speaking part could possibly be.