Monday, April 25, 2011

Composer Peter Lieberson, RIP

IT"S easy to recall the rude good health with which Peter Lieberson, a serene and gracious Santa Fe-based composer who was in town for a new piece with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, greeted me in 2005.

Peter Lieberson, 1946-2011
We spoke about the poetry of Neruda -- the inspiration for his latest piece -- his range of classical influences, the music of jazz pianist Bill Evans, his interest in Buddhism and his father Goddard's leadership of Columbia Records. The composer's wife, the heavenly mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, came to the door to say a brief but loving hello to him. Here, I thought at the time, is a handsome, cool guy with a searching mind and a wife of unparalleled talent -- he seemed to have it made.

In just over a year, Lorraine had died from breast cancer. Peter would soon be diagnosed with cancer himself, and he passed away Saturday in Tel Aviv, where he was undergoing treatment for lymphoma. He was 64.

HERE is my piece from the LA Times, just before the 2005 world premiere of "Neruda Songs." And here is an excerpt from my story:

Over lunch in an artist's suite at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Lieberson describes himself as a kind of conscientious objector in the wars that have long wracked the classical music world.
Pablo Neruda
"This is a battle that no longer needs to be fought," he says, describing the still-smoldering fight between academic 12-tone composers and the minimalists and other mavericks who oppose them. "There was something to it; there were a lot of people hurt in the '60s and '70s. But I don't think it's necessary to keep re-creating the struggle."
Rarely does an interview subject make the impression on me that Peter Lieberson did. I'm not the only one who will miss him.

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