remembering peter lieberson

Peter Lieberson and Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson.

Theirs became one of the all-time “great” love stories in classical music, with an irresistible blend of the forbidden (he was married and had three children when he and Lorraine met), the inevitable (they fell in love), the passionate (deeply in love, so he divorced his first wife and married Lorraine), and the tragic (she died in 2006).

Unfortunately, on balance, there was much more of the latter in recent years.

Another chapter concluded over the past weekend in the story of the Liebersons, with his death after a five-year battle with lymphoma. I don’t need to get into the whole story of the Liebersons’ personal and artistic relationship here. You either know it already, or you can find it summarized in many other places such as this good article from NPR Music.

What I can speak to is the deeply affecting quality of the songs (in particular, along with many other fine non-vocal works) Peter wrote later in his life. The Rilke and Neruda song cycles are stunning pieces of music, made all the more lovely with Lorraine’s performance of them. Check this one out, it’s  the final song from the Neruda cycle – “Amor mio, si muero y tu no mueres…” :

If you don’t know Lieberson’s music, start there. A more soulful and intimate insight into his inner artistic mind you will not find. His piano concerto and horn concerto are great next steps.

This is a really nice personal remembrance of the composer from Alex Ross, Lieberson’s one-time student.

Peter Lieberson is survived by his three children and his third wife, Rinchen Lhamo.

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