The past several days saw the respective deaths of four distinguished musicians, each of whom had made significant contributions to the musical world in the 20th century. The consecutive obituaries came with such suddenness as shocking as it is saddening. These musicians, especially Rosen and Della Casa, will be missed.
Acclaimed scholar and noted pianist Charles Rosen, 85, died Sunday (9th December) in New York City. His extraordinary books on music and other topics concerning the arts have compelled and enlightened music lovers and professionals since their publication. The last from the Czerny-Beethoven-Liszt-Rosenthal pianistic heritage, Rosen’s pianism was unfalteringly intellectual, and as unpretentious and cultivated as his prose writing.
The eldest of the three by the age of 93, soprano Lisa Della Casa, died Monday (10th December) in Switzerland. Her performances of the vocal works of Mozart and Richard Strauss will continue to be admired and loved for their genuineness, elegance and sweetness. Her performance of Strauss’ Four Last Songs with Karl Bohm has been hailed as a classic, and is a Top Ear favorite. Della Casa was also known for her great beauty – an English critic once said that a Della Casa concert should be attended twice: once to listen, and once to look.
The Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar died 11th December, 2012 (yesterday) at the age of 92. He is possibly the only sitarist to have gained such a widespread international acclaim and fame, as well as one of the greatest exponents of Indian classical music. His success has lead to collaborations with western classical musicians André Previn, Yehudi Menuhin and Philip Glass, and his sitar concerto compositions, written for such great orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic, have been released on major labels such as EMI.
Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, 86, died Tuesday (11th December) in Moscow. Spouse of Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya was renowned for her Russian opera and lieder repertoire and also her roles in Italian operas. Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich were friends of Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten, the latter of whom wrote especially for Vishnevskaya the soprano part of his famous War Requiem.