Americans mourn two doyen composers

Americans mourn two doyen composers


norman lebrecht

February 14, 2022

This weekend has seen the deaths in California of William Kraft, 98, and Aurelio De la Vega 96.

Bill Kraft, a Chicagoan, was principal percussion of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years until 1985, when he resigned to become a fulltime composer. He had also been assistant conductor of the orchestra for three years under Zubin Mehta.

He played in the US premieres of Boulez’s Le Marteau sans Maitre and Stockhausen’s Zyklus.

The music he wrote is multifarious, colourful and melodic, with several commissions for single instrument and orchestra. He also composed film scores.

De La Vega, from Havana, settled in Los Angeles in 1959, spending his career until 1992 as Director of the Electronic Music Studio and Composer-in-residence at California State University, Northridge. He received two commissions from Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Intrata (1972) and Adiós (1977), the latter a farewell piece for the conductor who was leaving for New York. He was four times nominated for a Latin Grammy.


  • drummerman says:

    Bill Kraft was actually principal timpanist in Los Angeles. A wonderful talent. RIP.

    “Nr. 9 Zyklus” is a work for solo percussionist – I performed it several times many years ago. I was under the impression that it was Max Neuhaus who did the U.S. premiere, then recorded it. Perhaps I’m wrong?

  • EagleArts says:

    Bill Kraft was a lovely man, RIP.

  • Justus Matthews says:

    Aurelio, my teacher and close friend. I will always have you in my heart and mind. Soon I’ll finish my opera I began writing for you in celebration of your 95th birthday. I only hoped I could have been able to come to LA to give you the remaining pages in person. RIP dearest friend and mentor

  • Justus Matthews says:

    Bill Kraft was a close friend and colleague. I will always think of him fondly, what we talked about and what we did together. RIP Bill… Never will forget you.

  • Una Barry says:

    Here are two interviews that Bruce Duffie did, one for each of them, and which I transcribed recently for Bruce. Worth reading as always.

  • Chris says:

    Kraft is also the percussionist on the recording of L’Histoire du Soldat that Stravinsky conducted in the 1960s.

    I met Kraft a few years ago and even in his mid 90s, he was full of energy. A wonderful man who leaves a great legacy.

    • Larry says:

      Rumors have run wild for years about that L’Histoire recoding session in that Stravinsky allegedly couldn’t conduct all of the complex rhythms.

  • Haydn70 says:

    A link to de la Vega’s website:

    A link to an excellent podcast “Aurelio de la Vega: Out of Cuba” presented by composer Kile Smith as part of the Fleisher Collection Discoveries series: