Posts Tagged ‘RIP’

Veljo Tormis, RIP

January 23, 2017

The Estonian composer Veljo Tormis passed away on January 21. Here is an obituary from the New York Times. He was one of the elder statesman of musical life in Estonia — a country that punches well above its weight in this sphere. Arvo Pärt was one of his students.

Tormis’ music is quite interesting. He was greatly indebted to folk music traditions, and many of his compositions are inspired by folk songs or are new settings of traditional texts. Although he may have written some sacred music, I am not aware of any. His music is often extremely dramatic, charged with a Dionysian energy.

As an example of his art, here is Curse Upon Iron. The choir in this video (Nederlands Kamerkoor) is led by Tonu Kaljuste, one of the leading interpreters of Tormis’ music. I once had the privilege of attending a master class with Kaljuste in which he led his choir (the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, on that occasion) in a performance of this same piece. It was in a small room, with maybe thirty or so people present, and I’ll never forget how I felt engulfed by this strange, violent, and urgent music.

But Tormis could write simple, beautiful music as well. Here is “How Can I Recognize My Home”, one of my personal favourites:

Veljo Tormis, rest in peace.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, RIP

May 18, 2012

The great German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died, just a few days shy of his 87th birthday. He had a wonderful voice, but, more than that, he was a great singer. His vast repertoire ranged from Mozart and (pre-eminently) Schubert to Wagner and Mahler. Alex Ross chooses the right word, calling him a “monumental” figure in twentieth-century music making.

His recording of Schubert’s Die Winterreise, with Jorg Demus on the piano, was one of the first classical music recordings I ever bought, and I have treasured it ever since. His classic recording of Mahler lieder is another desert island disc for me. And just these past few months I have been slowly working my way through the massive set of Schubert lieder that he did with Gerald Moore; I will now continue that listening project in a more sober mood.

Requiescat in pace.

Marion Montgomery, RIP

November 29, 2011

I have just learned that Marion Montgomery passed away last week. I actually know very little about the man; he was a poet and a literary critic, and a professor (I believe) at the University of Georgia. I take note of his death, with sadness, because years ago I read something by him that impressed me greatly, something that, in one way or another, has never been far from my mind for very long. It was a convocation address, and it convinced me, first, that I would do well to labour to become a person capable of writing such an address, and, second, that I should seek out more of his writing, for here was a man worth learning from.

Sadly, I haven’t done very well on either front in the intervening years. Nonetheless I shall miss him. Fare forward, traveller!

The address to which I refer can be read online:

Meanwhile we stand and sway, always in danger of the winds of the world, but the more endangered — because we are persons and not trees. We are tempted to presume beyond knowledge or understanding. At the most dangerous point, we presume to a comprehension absolute: a comprehension of whatever our gift of intellect rests upon at the moment. What we easily forget is that understanding accommodates us to an uncertainty, to an accepting of limits to our omniscience. By limit we are prevented — except as a self–induced and self–defeating illusion — from an absolute comprehension of any thing, including even ourselves. For comprehension is a property reserved to the nature of the Creator God, as are omnipotence and omniscience.

Read the whole thing.