GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: JoshLilly on September 12, 2007, 10:20:46 AM

Title: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: JoshLilly on September 12, 2007, 10:20:46 AM
One thing often discussed is how tragically young some composers died. Often-cited examples are W.A.Mozart, Schubert, Lekeu, and Pergolesi. With the likes of Lekeu (and I would add Arriaga) the deaths came so early that the composers are often mourned more for what they might have done than for what they actually did. While that wasn't what I had in mind, I think that would be an interesting topic for discussion.

I've always been most fascinated among the "Early Death" group by Guillaume Lekeu, but I'm not really sure why (don't care for his small amount of music much). I've seen repeated statements by people familiar with him about how he would have become a Great composer with a capital G had he lived longer, and maybe that sparks my interest. Does anyone here know much about Lekeu, have opinions or thoughts on his music, speculation about what he might have become? Why do some people seem to be almost certain that he would have become one of the giants of composers of the 20th century?

At the other end of the spectrum are composers of long life. Long life spans are probably my #1 obsessive interest, and I'd love to one day be a part of a new 130+ club that hopefully will appear in the next few decades. But my real fascination comes with thinking about those who lived extremely long lives already and what they've seen and done. Considering my passionate love of music, it's no surprise that long-lived composers are a particular interest to me. This probably started in my case upon first hearing music by Gossec and then looking him up and finding that he reached an astonishing (for those days) age of 95. Supposedly, he was literally found dead with pen in hand; while I've seen this stated as fact in one book and would like to believe it, this is not known for sure. Born in 1734, he could theoretically have gone to hear J.S. Bach play the organ, and then heard Berlioz conduct his own works!¹  Other composers have also lived long lives and witnessed drastic evolutions in music over their lives, famously including the likes of Rodrigo. Still, it feels to me that the changes from Gossec's youngest days to his last (Baroque to Romantic) had to rank among the top with regards to how much music changed. Then again, the changes from the first half of the 19th from the first half of the 20th centuries were really amazing, with the likes of Schönberg on the prowl; who knows what Reinecke ever thought if he considered the music of 1908 compared with his youth in the 1820s?

Anyway, enough rambling for now. Maybe I'm the only one really interested in this topic, I don't know. But, as an aside-bonus, I'll nominate a longest-lived composer of all time with Leo Ornstein (c.2 December 1893 – 24 February 2002, accumulating more than 108 years of life). Any composers exceed that?



¹ I'm not sure Berlioz was actually conducting his own works until the mid-1830s, but you know what I mean.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Lethevich on September 12, 2007, 10:38:52 AM
I can't think of any who have exceeded 100, Carter is getting very close, and is also still working seemingly ceaselessly on his music. Sorabji lived until 96, I think, but he was very unconnected from any outside movements and was uninfluential in his life (and still now), and was pretty reclusive, so that is a bit of a dead-end, discussion-wise.

I also find composers with a life-span around the time of Richard Strauss interesting, talk about living in a time of change...

Edit 26/8/2011 (I don't want to needlessly bump this): Harald Genzmer lived until 98.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Joe Barron on September 12, 2007, 10:57:49 AM
Leo Ornstein (1893-2002) lived to be 108. He published his last work at age 97, which made him the oldest published composer up to that time. The record has since been surpassed by Elliott Carter, who has published several new works this year at age 98 and shows no signs of stopping. He has a particular incentive to keep on, since he once promised to let me interview him for a book when he got too old to compose --- something he clearly wanted to avoid.

Sibelius, too, lived to be very old, but he stopped composing in his early 60s. (Nielsen, his exact contemporary, died at 66 but had a longer compositional career.) Two composers who I would say surpassed themselves toward the ends of their long lives would be Verdi and Richard Strauss.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: hornteacher on September 12, 2007, 02:08:18 PM
Copland lived to be 90 years old (1900-1990).  He was born just before the invention of the automobile and the airplane, and died just after the invention of the CD, the mobile phone, and the internet.  In between were two world wars, the depression, radio, television, Woodstock, and landing on the moon.  Quite a life.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Dundonnell on September 12, 2007, 02:30:08 PM
I suffer from the disease of "chronic list-making". There is probably a fancy name for this and-doubtless-a psychological explanation which I would be most grateful if no-one would tell me about!!

Anyway, here goes:

98: Goffredo Petrassi; Arnold Cooke

97: Joaquin Rodrigo

96: Havergal Brian

95: Francois Gossec; Gustave Charpentier; Carl Ruggles; Giancarlo Menotti

94: Harald Saeverud; Alan Bush; Tikhon Khrennikov

93: Charles Widor; Sir Michael Tippett

92: Louis Aubert; Hilding Rosenberg; Virgil Thomson

91: Josef Foerster; Joseph Guy Ropartz; Jean Sibelius; Cyril Scott; Gianfrancesco Malipiero; Ernst Krenek

90: Herbert Howells; Aaron Copland

89: Daniel Auber; Alfred Hill; Alexandre Tansman; Egon Wellesz; Alan Hovhaness; David Diamond

88: Igor Stravinsky; Hugo Alfven; Henri Sauguet; Roger Sessions; Gordon Jacob

87: Heinrich Schutz; Giuseppe Verdi; Ildebrando Pizzetti; Florent Schmitt; Carl Orff; Dame Elizabeth Maconchy

86: Georg Philipp Telemann; Camille Saint-Saens; Dame Ethel Smyth; Cecile Chaminade; Kurt Atterberg; Sir Lennox Berkeley;
       Vagn Holmboe; George Rochberg

and- amongst those still living:

98: Elliott Carter

91: Henri Dutilleux; Milton Babbitt

90: John Gardner

89: Richard Arnell

Apologies in advance to the missing!
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Kullervo on September 12, 2007, 03:56:45 PM
Not crazy about his music, but: Otto Luening (1900 - 1996)
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: scottscheule on September 13, 2007, 05:38:08 AM
I've the most remorse for the loss of Gershwin at 38.  I think he had a drive, and an ability, to create better and better music, and it's tragic that his classical output is as small as it is. 
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: vandermolen on September 13, 2007, 06:16:11 AM
Paul Le Flem (1881-1984)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Le_Flem
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Dundonnell on September 13, 2007, 11:34:26 AM
Paul Le Flem (1881-1984)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Le_Flem

Of course, Paul Le Flem! How could I forget him? I have his 1st symphony(written between 1906 and 1908) on a Timpani CD and his 4th symphony(written between 1971 and 1972) on Marco Polo. A very fine composer indeed, very much influenced by his Breton roots and the sea(as was Joseph Guy Ropartz). A pupil of Widor and d'Indy, he lived to the wonderful age of 103. I have hoped for some time to hear more of his atmospheric music.

I did give my apologies in advance to those missing from my list but Le Flem should have been right up there at the beginning!
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Dundonnell on September 15, 2007, 11:36:56 AM
Update- Richard Arnell is 90 today. Vandermolen has already wished him a happy birthday and I do too!
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Dundonnell on September 15, 2007, 12:03:38 PM
And here are some more composers from the last 150 years who died prematurely(definition chosen is under 60-arbitrary I know!)-

59: Anatol Liadov; Erik Satie; Gustav Holst

58: Sir Arthur Sullivan; Ferrucio Busoni; George Antheil; Mark Blitzstein; Kenneth Leighton

57: William Mathias

56: Horatio Parker; Ottorino Respighi; Don Banks

55: Alexander Dargomitzhsky; Claude Debussy; Franz Schrecker; Ernest Moeran; Gerald Finzi; Matyas Seiber

54: Leo Delibes; Karol Szymanowski

53: Alexander Borodin; Peter Tchaikovsky; Emmanuel Chabrier; Bruno Maderna; Alfred Schnittke

51: Amilcare Ponchielli

50: Gustav Mahler; Alban Berg; Kurt Weill

48: Isaac Albeniz; Enrique Granados

47: Edward MacDowell;Ivor Gurney; Irving Fine

45: Benjamin Godard; Nickolaos Skalkottas; Constant Lambert

44: Henryk Wieniawski; Ernest Chausson; Anton Arensky

43: Max Reger; Alexander Scriabin

42: Modest Mussorgsky; Hugo Wolf

40: Louis Gottschalk

38: George Gershwin

37: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

36: Georges Bizet; Peter Warlock

35: Leon Boellmann; Charles Griffes

31: George Butterworth

Hard to imagine how much wonderful music some at least of these composers still had to offer the world!
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: vandermolen on September 16, 2007, 01:26:45 AM
Robin Orr 1909-2006

A fine Scottish composer. His "Symphony in One Movement" (1963) on EMI British Composers series, is a powerful and oddly moving work of considerable slumbering power.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fricker-Orr-Simpson-Peter-Racine/dp/B00006YX78/ref=sr_1_1/203-1624948-6863157?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1189938460&sr=1-1

Actually, this is a very interesting CD; fine, historical performances of three undeservedly neglected symphonies.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Dundonnell on September 16, 2007, 02:29:27 AM
Indeed, Robin Orr-a fellow Scot!

I once heard his Symphony in One Movement(his first symphony) in a live performance by the (Royal) Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and was instantly gripped by the symphony's superb ominous opening
pages full of grim foreboding. Often wondered what his second and third symphonies sound like.

As vandermolen says, the CD containing the Orr also has Fricker's second symphony-which, like all Fricker's music is undeservedly neglected. Fricker and Iain Hamilton made the 'mistake' of going to the USA to take up teaching posts in California and North Carolina respectively with the result that they became largely forgotten figures in their home countries.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: vandermolen on September 16, 2007, 04:03:57 AM
Indeed, Robin Orr-a fellow Scot!

I once heard his Symphony in One Movement(his first symphony) in a live performance by the (Royal) Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and was instantly gripped by the symphony's superb ominous opening
pages full of grim foreboding. Often wondered what his second and third symphonies sound like.

As vandermolen says, the CD containing the Orr also has Fricker's second symphony-which, like all Fricker's music is undeservedly neglected. Fricker and Iain Hamilton made the 'mistake' of going to the USA to take up teaching posts in California and North Carolina respectively with the result that they became largely forgotten figures in their home countries.


How great that you heard the Orr Symphony live; I am jealous. The EMI CD has a charming photo of Orr with Alexander Gibson, a rather underrated conductor (excellent Sibelius symphony cycle, long deleted Vaughan Williams Symphony 5).
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Lethevich on September 16, 2007, 05:32:22 AM
Alexander Gibson, a rather underrated conductor (excellent Sibelius symphony cycle [...]).

Indeedie. Even after I had bought Davis, Sanderling and Berglund, I still felt the need to buy the last few discs to complete Gibson's Chandos Sibelius cycle- not second rate in the last :)
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: vandermolen on September 16, 2007, 05:51:18 AM
Indeedie. Even after I had bought Davis, Sanderling and Berglund, I still felt the need to buy the last few discs to complete Gibson's Chandos Sibelius cycle- not second rate in the last :)

Indeedie. Gibson's other Sibelius recordings are excellent too; Four Legends, Tapiola, En Saga, Oceanides etc
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: jurajjak on September 16, 2007, 08:32:31 PM
And here are some more composers from the last 150 years who died prematurely(definition chosen is under 60-arbitrary I know!)-

Also, Lili Boulanger, who died at 24.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: lukeottevanger on September 18, 2007, 01:06:07 AM
OK, not a composer, but this is quite cool... (http://www.playbillarts.com/news/article/6704.html)
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Lethevich on September 18, 2007, 07:05:03 AM
Hey - I just realised. If we kill Jay Greenberg, we can produce the youngest composer death of a composer of note in history.

Um... a joke, don't arrest me :-X :P
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: greg on September 18, 2007, 07:14:43 AM
Hey - I just realised. If we kill Jay Greenberg, we can produce the youngest composer death of a composer of note in history.

Um... a joke, don't arrest me :-X :P
stop giving me ideas.....


stop it!  :-[

stop it, stop it!!!!  :'( :'( :'(



STOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP ITTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!

 >:D >:D >:D


no, really, that'd suck, i think his music is pretty cool  8)
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Dundonnell on September 18, 2007, 03:44:03 PM
Hey - I just realised. If we kill Jay Greenberg, we can produce the youngest composer death of a composer of note in history.

Um... a joke, don't arrest me :-X :P

Oh dear!! I must admit that I have not heard this young man's music but it is-at the very least-fantastic that such a young talent should be devoted to the production of so-called classical music at the beginning of the 21st century when most young people of his age have musical interests of a very different kind.

All power to him! Oh........and I am sure that we ALL wish him a long and happy life!
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Lethevich on September 18, 2007, 03:57:09 PM
All power to him! Oh........and I am sure that we ALL wish him a long and happy life!

Indeed... *puts the hammer down*

I also haven't heard his music - and don't feel a pressing need to do so - but will keep an eye out for reviews of any new CDs of his work. If he doesn't burn out or begin to repeat himself, he could become a major figure.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Catison on September 18, 2007, 05:07:34 PM
Oh dear!! I must admit that I have not heard this young man's music but it is-at the very least-fantastic that such a young talent should be devoted to the production of so-called classical music at the beginning of the 21st century when most young people of his age have musical interests of a very different kind.

In a word, his music is rambling.  Its a series of endless little motifs strung together, like he is struggling to score some imaginary movie.  His orchestration skills, however, are very good.  If he is taught to focus his abilities, then I am sure he will become a great composer.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: snyprrr on May 28, 2009, 10:43:37 PM
Jay Greenberg, oy vey.
Bumped.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Lethevich on May 01, 2010, 10:18:34 PM
Bump 2:

Just ran across this guy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mykola_Kolessa

Probably too obscure for it to be possible to discover how long he wrote music for, but another member of the composer's centennial club here.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Fëanor on May 02, 2010, 02:12:35 PM
I suffer from the disease of "chronic list-making". There is probably a fancy name for this and-doubtless-a psychological explanation which I would be most grateful if no-one would tell me about!!

Anyway, here goes:

98: Goffredo Petrassi; Arnold Cooke

97: Joaquin Rodrigo

96: Havergal Brian

95: Francois Gossec; Gustave Charpentier; Carl Ruggles; Giancarlo Menotti

94: Harald Saeverud; Alan Bush; Tikhon Khrennikov

93: Charles Widor; Sir Michael Tippett

92: Louis Aubert; Hilding Rosenberg; Virgil Thomson

91: Josef Foerster; Joseph Guy Ropartz; Jean Sibelius; Cyril Scott; Gianfrancesco Malipiero; Ernst Krenek

90: Herbert Howells; Aaron Copland

89: Daniel Auber; Alfred Hill; Alexandre Tansman; Egon Wellesz; Alan Hovhaness; David Diamond

88: Igor Stravinsky; Hugo Alfven; Henri Sauguet; Roger Sessions; Gordon Jacob

87: Heinrich Schutz; Giuseppe Verdi; Ildebrando Pizzetti; Florent Schmitt; Carl Orff; Dame Elizabeth Maconchy

86: Georg Philipp Telemann; Camille Saint-Saens; Dame Ethel Smyth; Cecile Chaminade; Kurt Atterberg; Sir Lennox Berkeley;
       Vagn Holmboe; George Rochberg

and- amongst those still living:

98: Elliott Carter

91: Henri Dutilleux; Milton Babbitt

90: John Gardner

89: Richard Arnell

Apologies in advance to the missing!
That was then.  Elliott Carter is, of course, in his 102nd year at the moment.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Air on May 02, 2010, 05:34:47 PM
Carl Filtsch - died at 15 years of age.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Luke on May 02, 2010, 09:49:58 PM
topping that, in the most tragic of ways, here's a necessarily brief Wiki page -

Julian Scriabin - died at 11 years of age (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Scriabin)

I've played through some of his pieces (the scores are at IMSLP), and there are also some recordings on Naxos. Very much like his father, but how could it not be - it's really astonishing for a child of his age.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Josquin des Prez on May 03, 2010, 06:28:03 AM
Wasn't Greenberg 15 on his last recording? We have to wait until he reaches his early 20s before we can really gauge his artistic abilities. Got knows we need more prodigies who end up being empty promises in the end.
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: Guido on May 03, 2010, 06:57:49 AM
At least until he is in his 20s I'd say. Some greats didn't reveal their greatness until their 40s (Carter) or 50s (Janacek, Franck, Bruckner and Scarlatti).
Title: Re: Composers and Their Lifespans
Post by: greg on May 03, 2010, 01:51:22 PM
topping that, in the most tragic of ways, here's a necessarily brief Wiki page -

Julian Scriabin - died at 11 years of age (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Scriabin)

I've played through some of his pieces (the scores are at IMSLP), and there are also some recordings on Naxos. Very much like his father, but how could it not be - it's really astonishing for a child of his age.
I didn't even know he composed, so I looked it up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbCsHTonpUg

Wow... I totally agree. Sounds unreal for an 11 year old to be write stuff like this.