Remembering those who are no longer with us

A year-end list of musicians we lost in 2015, but who left much behind to be grateful for

By Peter Alexander

Here is my annual list of musicians who passed in the last year. This is a personal list; it includes people who were recognized worldwide as great artists, as well as people whose work I admire and respect, and people I was fortunate enough to know personally.

But they all deserve to be remembered as we turn the corner into 2016. Each affected a great many people, whether other musicians or members of audiences around the world. And we should not forget that each was a person who left friends, family, students and others who were touched deeply by their lives.

May you all rest in peace. And may we all try to be worthy of your various legacies in the coming year.

January 19: Ward Swingle, founder and arranger for the Swingle Singers, 87
February 1: Aldo Ciccolini, Italian-born French pianist, 89
February 16: Lesley Gore, popular singer best known for the proto-feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me“ and “It’s My Party,” 68
March 24: Soprano Maria Radner, 34, and baritone Oleg Bryjak, 54, who died on the Germanwings flight that was crashed in the Alps days after singing in Wagner’s Siegfried in Barcelona
April 3: Andrew Porter, longtime influential music critic for The New Yorker as well as The Financial Times and other publications in England; also known as a librettist, scholar and editor, 86
May 14: Blues legend B.B. King, 89
May 31: Nico Castel, comprimario tenor at the Metropolitan Opera who was best known to many opera singers as one of the foremost diction coaches of the 20th century, 83
June 2: Günther Schneider-Siemssen, German opera stage designer, 88
June 13: Ronald Wilford, American artist agency manager and executive, 87
June 21: Gunther Schuller, American composer, conductor, teacher and author, known for coining the term “third-stream” for music that was between classical and jazz, 89
July 10: Jon Vickers, Canadian tenor known for singing Siegfried and other Wagnerian heldentenor roles, as well as many other leading tenor roles, 88
June 11: Great jazz saxophonist and innovator Ornette Coleman, 85
July 15: Alan Curtis, American harpsichordist, conductor and scholar, 80
July 26: Vic Firth, percussionist and timpanist with the Boston Symphony 1952–2002, familiar to anyone who attended Boston Symphony Orchestra performances, and the many who watched BSO television broadcasts, during those years, 85
September 17: Sir David Willcocks, British choirmaster, director of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, 95
November 10: Robert Craft, American classical music writer, conductor, and amanuensis to Igor Stravinsky, 92
November 21: violinist Joseph Silverstein, concertmaster of the Boston Symphony for 22 years, and conductor with several orchestras, 83
December 2: John Eaton, a composer known for working with quarter-tones—the pitches midway between the chromatic halfsteps of our more familiar scales—and composition professor at Indiana University and the University of Chicago, 80
December 19: Kurt Masur, conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra who in 1989 played an important role in the peaceful resolution of demonstrations in the former East Germany; also led the New York Philharmonic 1991–2002, 88

 

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