Sunday, November 19, 2023

Memorial Thoughts about David Del Tredici

I just received word from Boosey & Hawkes of the death last night of composer David Del Tredici at the age of 86. My awareness of Del Tredici goes back all the way to my student days, when I encountered wildly diverse opinions about him. However, my first “serious listening” encounter with his music did not take place until the late Seventies, when I listened to a broadcast of the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing his Final Alice. I could appreciate why my “serious” colleagues tended to turn away from his music (not to mention his outspoken attitude about his sexuality); but I found the sense of humor behind this particular composition to be irresistible.

If my memory is correct, I never viewed a performance of Final Alice until the Detroit Symphony Orchestra provided an Internet-based video of Leonard Slatkin performing the piece. That viewing experience took place in September of 2012, and it provided one more reason why I have long been interested in Slatkin’s work as a conductor. More recently, the Rainbow Chamber Players presented a chamber version of the “Acrostic Song” that concludes Final Alice. Where recordings are concerned, the “Acrostic Song” also showed up in Lisa Kirchner’s album Something to Sing About.

Cover of the Naxos American Classics album of David Del Tredici’s piano works (cover photograph by Bob Peterson)

Looking back at my past articles, I realize that Del Tredici often did not get a fair break. When Naxos released its American Classics CD, which was the first volume of a project to record his complete piano works, I wrote an enthusiastic account for, which appeared on September 30, 2012. The article I wrote said that the album was the first of three CDs. Sadly, I never saw any account of the remaining two CDs; and it was only this morning that I discovered that the project was completed this past April, with Albany Records picking up after Naxos dropped the ball.

I have the chilling feeling that Del Tredici will be as overlooked in death as he had been in life, but at least I have the power to keep up with recordings of his music.

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