The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ear says goodbye and “Rest in Peace” to 22 prominent classical musicians who died in 2012. | December 29, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the sad duties of ushering in the New Year is saying goodbye to the old year and especially to the people we loved or respected who died last year. (A couple of days remain in 2012, but we can hope no other prominent clasiscal musicians pass away.)

When it comes to classical music, I can’t think of better round up of the classical musicians we lost than the one that was posted this past week by the famed New York City-based all-classical radio station WQXR. (Much of its programming can be streamed live in real time, including its annual end-of-the-year Classical Countdown through this weekend until midnight on New Year’s Eve that includes 105 audience favorites. Check its home page

Not only does the WQXR obituaries offer fine portraits of the musicians, they also give their ages as well as a capsule summary of their careers with particular points of distinction.

Some of the names, from all genres, are all too familiar: baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (below); composers Elliott Carter and Dave Brubeck; pianist Alexis Weissenberg and pianist-writer Charles Rosen, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya (at bottom, singing Villa-Lobos). But there are many more who were also distinguished and who will be missed.

dietrich fischer-dieskau at height

Here is a link:!/blogs/wqxr-blog/2012/dec/26/memoriam-classical-musicians-who-died-2012-slideshow/slideshow/

Let us keep them in our memory and be thankful for the music and beauty they brought into this world, which so sorely needs that beauty.

If you know of someone who was left our,  please leave some remark or remembrance in the COMMENT section.

May the departed rest is peace as we greet 2013.


  1. P.S. Jim Crow was indeed a special guy. I met him at many jazz performances I gave. He never falled to show warmth and enthusiasm for musicians and their efforts. Hail and Bravo to the Best Audience Member Ever! MBB


    Comment by Michael BB — December 30, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  2. Mr. Bennett was, in fact,mentioned in the WQXR list. He was 21st out of 22, but he was there.
    I think the most impactful musician who died was Maurice Andre. If one listens to classical music radio, and trumpet music comes on, the chances that he will be the soloist are really high, sort of like hornist Barry Tuckwell, or oboeist Heinz Holliger. These players defined their instruments sound and style for a generation. Fischer-Diskau was certainly the defining lieder singer. When I worked in the Barnes and Noble classical record shop in Rockefeller Center in the mid-80’s, as the CD conversion revolution was happening, his then-new DG CD’s were always in demand.
    While I am glad that Elliot Carter lived such a long and productive life, I am not at all sure his music will live on as long as he did. It is not often played, not often enjoyed by those who listen to it, and may come to be seen as an historical artifact of the Math-Music generation of composers, and likely will not become the focus of even a small cadre of posthumous enthusiasts. Much Pulitzer-winning literature, which is a side business of mine, is already well-forgotten, as products of a different time, and specific to that time, rather than Classic in the sense of beyond styles and trends, past time and place.


    Comment by Michael BB — December 30, 2012 @ 10:54 am

    • Michael,
      I checked.
      You are right, so I will correct my response.
      Thank you.
      I agree with you about Carter.
      History will tell.
      Happy New Year!


      Comment by welltemperedear — December 30, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  3. Here’s one that WQXR seems to have missed: Swiss-born soparano Lisa Della Casa. As I mentioned in a comment elsewhere, she was the Donna Elvira in a 1957 Metropolitan Opera production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” — the first opera I ever saw.
    Here is a link to the 12/12 New York Times obit.


    Comment by Marius — December 29, 2012 @ 10:39 am

    • Thank you, Marius,
      She is indeed worth including.
      There are more, I am sure, to be included.
      I appreciate your addition.
      Happy 2013!


      Comment by welltemperedear — December 29, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  4. Wow – kind of overwhelming.
    I wonder about Madison and Wisconsin noted musicians who passed this year? Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor and Madison Opera co-founder Roland Johnson comes to mind immediately. Also, there is James Crow, the UW geneticist who was a violist and devoted supporter of MANY arts organizations. In particular, Jim and his late wife, Ann, were very generous to the UW Opera program. I’m sure there are others…


    Comment by Kathy Otterson — December 29, 2012 @ 8:45 am

    • Hi Kathy,
      Sadly, it is indeed a long list of major losses.
      But thank you, thank, thank you for adding local deaths to the list.
      I feel ashamed that I left of Roland Johnson and James Crow, since I knew them both personally and still miss them.
      But the list was meant to be primarily national and international, and my thoughts must have stayed focus on that.
      But you have come to the rescue.
      If you or I or other readers think of other noteworthy local or regional losses, please by all means add them in a comment.
      Happy 2013 to you!


      Comment by welltemperedear — December 29, 2012 @ 9:31 am

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