Art Song and Opera Composer Lee Hoiby
(February 17, 1926 – March 28, 2011)
Lee Hoiby wrote some 100 songs over his long life “making singers sound good” as he expressed it. I first heard his songs when Leontyne Price sang Autumn, The Message and The Serpent at Chrysler Hall on October 5, 1980. Many of his texts were selected by his life partner, Mark Shulgasser, who survives him.
My fondest memories are of his tender, evocative Lady of the Harbor as sung by Karen Hoy and more recently, young, upcoming baritone Andrew Garland who sang the cycle I Was There: Five Poems of Walt Whitman when he appeared at Art Song of Williamsburg (February 10, 2006) and then there is his singing Private First Class Jessie Givens, now renamed Last Letter Home, a setting of a soldier's last letter home from Iraq. Mr. Hoiby is the pianist and a link to a video of the piece can be found by clicking HERE. We heard a fine performance of Four Dickinson Songs by Scott Williamson in 2009 at a Virginia Wesleyan concert.
Hoiby's best known opera is a setting of Tennessee Williams play Summer and Smoke. His songs are tuneful and from the heart and will survive him, I am sure. More details can be found in the March 29, 2011 New York Times obituary.
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