Sad news: Ned Rorem has died

Sad news: Ned Rorem has died


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2022

The great American songbook composer (and much else) died this morning in his apartment, four weeks after his 99th birthday.

Ned was renowned for his wit, his gay diaries, his edgy friendship with Leonard Bernstein, his knack for being at the beating heart of American music for three quarters of a century. His death was reported to by a friend who was present in the apartment.

His music will not go astray.

Picture shows his 99th birthday party with niece Mary Marshall and clarinetist and friend Thomas Piercy.

More about Ned, with videos, here.


  • Thomas Piercy says:

    A very sad day. Indeed.
    Thank you, Ned, for your friendship, for your music, the many beautiful times, and life lessons.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      My sincere condolences for the loss of your friend. Did he compose much for the clarinet. I’m sure you played everything for your instrument written by him. What do you recommend?

      • Thomas Piercy says:

        Yes, he composed for the clarinet.

        There is “Four Colors” for clarinet and piano, composed for me for his 80th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall.

        Other chamber pieces featuring the clarinet:

        — “End of Summer” for clarinet, violin, and piano.
        –“Nine Episodes for four players” for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano.
        — “Winter Pages” for clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello, piano.
        — “Ariel” for soprano, clarinet, and piano.
        — “Eleven Studies for Eleven Players” for flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, percussion, harp, piano.

        Of course, LOVE the Four Colors. Highly recommend the End of Summer, and Nine Episodes.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      It certainly is a sad day, Thomas, and I envy your friendship with Mr. Rorem.
      IMHO, his songs were the finest of all American composers.
      I hope his final days were comfortable and pain-free.
      R.I.P., Ned.

  • Adam Stern says:

    Thank you, Mr. Rorem, for your beautiful and finely-crafted music. I will be listening to “Lions” and a lot of your songs today… Rest in peace.

  • Straussian says:

    Indeed very sad news, the passing of Ned Rorem. I first heard his songs when I was an undergrad, taking music causes in the mid 60’s, at a time when his melodically inspired musical idiom was very out of style. He was for a brief time composer in residence at my university. But the so-called progressive composers at the time looked upon Rorem’s style with scorn, considering it simple-minded and lacking in substance. What a shame… His melodically inspired works appeal to the heart, not the head. And never forgotten. RIP Ned Rorem.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Maybe now orchestras will start programming some of his music? Is that too much to ask for? About 60 years too late, but better than never.

  • Felixx says:

    It’s sometimes easy even for aficionados to lose track of lesser-known U.S. (or other) composers, but I truly hope Rorem’s music will be (re)discovered and cherished in years to come, in Europe and elsewhere. A wonderful craftsman whose music has real heart, too.

  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    While Rorem was a great composer of songs, he was not a “great American songbook composer” — a title relevant to Gershwin, Kern, Arlen, Porter, Ellington, et al.

    But you knew that, or you would have capitalized “great” and “songbook.”

    Didn’t you?

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    And he slept with four ‘Time covers’ as he boasted in one of his diaries. Farewell fine, fond man.