AllMusic pays tribute to a few of the classical music artists who passed away this past year.
Helmut Müller-Brühl (June 28, 1933 - January 2, 2012)
Maestro Müller-Brühl was director of the Cologne Chamber Orchestra from 1964 to 2008, including a 10-year period when it used period instruments for its mainly-Baroque repertoire. After switching back to modern instruments, Müller-Brühl and the orchestra continued to apply period authentic principals to their performances, expanding their efforts into the Classical and early Romantic eras as well.
Alexis Weissenberg (July 26, 1929 - January 8, 2012)
Weissenberg was one of those pianists whose interpretations were either loved or hated by audiences. His relatively infrequent concert appearances and recordings are described alternately as "brilliant" and "intense," as well as "clinical." Yet, there is little room for argument regarding his skills. Most of his discography covers demanding works by Liszt, Rachmaninov, Chopin, Prokofiev, Bach, and others.
Gustav Leonhardt (May 30, 1928 - January 16, 2012)
Keyboardist and conductor Leonhardt was a pioneer of the period performance movement, figuring largely in establishing the Netherlands as a major center for the re-discovery of early music. It was not only his own performances, but his teaching that influenced the movement greatly. His recordings of Bach's keyboard works and cantatas on authentic instruments make up the bulk of his legacy.
Paavo Berglund (April 14, 1929 - January 25, 2012)
Berglund was a pillar of Scandinavian musical life in the 20th century, but he just as frequently conducted with major orchestras around Europe and North America. He was known as a perfectionist and committed to meticulous music-making. His discography includes three complete cycles of Sibelius' symphonies.
Elizabeth Connell (October 22, 1946 - February 18, 2012)
Connell performed many of the great, dramatic soprano roles around the world throughout her career. She debuted in 1972 singing Janáček at the Wexford Festival, and from there, went on to sing Verdi, Strauss, and Wagner on stages in London, New York, Vienna, and Paris. She also frequently appeared with the Australian National Opera, and often performed as a soloist in choral concert and in recitals.
Maurice André (May 21, 1933 - February 25, 2012)
André was one of the greatest trumpeters of the 20th century, raising the trumpet's profile among classical music fans from just another instrument in the brass section to that of a legitimately virtuoso, solo one. His career spanned 40 years, during which he toured and interviewed frequently, performing Baroque trumpet works and transcriptions and new music written just for him. His ease, confidence, and brilliance even won over casual classical audiences.
Alexander Arutiunian (September 23, 1920 - March 28, 2012)
Arutiunian is the best known Armenian composer from the generation immediately following Khachaturian's. He was involved in all aspects of musical life in and around Yerevan: composing concert music, opera, and film scores; conducting the Armenian Philharmonic; and teaching at the Yerevan Conservatory. His music is closely tied to Armenian culture in its use of folk rhythms and themes, but also in the way he often expressed the history of his country in his works.
Dietrich Fischer Dieskau (May 28, 1925 - May 18, 2012)
One of the finest baritones of the 20th century, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau was revered as a masterful interpreter of German lieder, and widely admired as a performer of opera. He was especially famous for his collaborations with pianist Gerald Moore in their recordings of songs by Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf.
Brigitte Engerer (October 27, 1952 - June 23, 2012)
Praised for her brilliant performances of Romantic music, Brigitte Engerer was a French pianist who notably collaborated with Boris Berezovsky in piano duets. She cultivated a broad repertoire from Baroque to modern keyboard works, and was also heard in concerto and chamber performances, displaying great flexibility and charm.
Evelyn Lear (January 8, 1926 - July 1, 2012)
Best known for creating memorable roles in many 20th century operas, Evelyn Lear was hailed for her versatility, intelligence, and sensitivity. Her performances of Berg's Lulu and Marie in Wozzeck are often cited among her most important characterizations.
Ruggiero Ricci (July 24, 1918 - August 5, 2012)
Renowned for his performances of Paganini's 24 Caprices and much other music of the 19th century, Ruggiero Ricci was also a champion of modern works, such as Ginastera's Violin Concerto.
William Duckworth (January 13, 1943 - September 13, 2012)
An innovator in the tradition of Charles Ives and Henry Cowell, William Duckworth pushed avant-garde ideas into the digital age with his Web-based composition projects. A prolific composer of more than 100 works, Duckworth became known as the founder of post-minimalism.
Hans Werner Henze (July 1, 1926 - October 27, 2012)
Equally famous for his stylistically varied music and his radical politics, Hans Werner Henze was a German composer who lived in self-imposed exile in Italy. His music was dominated by the theater, and he composed many controversial operas, as well as concert pieces on Marxist themes.
Elliott Carter (December 11, 1908 - November 5, 2012)
Respected as the dean of American modernists, Elliott Carter still composed and premiered new works well into his 103rd year. An American original, Carter is best remembered for inventing the technique of metric modulation, and for writing challenging music that was profoundly influenced by the fields of literature and psychology.
Philip Ledger (December 12, 1937 - November 18, 2012)
For much of his career, Philip Ledger was the music director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, but he was also one of the leading organists and choral conductors in England and Scotland. He was also artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival and involved in producing many of Benjamin Britten's recordings.
Charles Rosen (May 5, 1927 - Dec. 9, 2012)
A brilliant pianist, profound literary scholar, and admired author of “The Classical Style,” Charles Rosen was a central figure in classical music for over half a century. His study of the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven was authoritative, as were his writings on Romantic and modern composers.
Lisa della Casa (February 2, 1919 - December 10, 2012)
Swiss soprano Lisa della Casa was known primarily for her engaging performances in operas by Mozart and Richard Strauss in Europe and at New York's Metropolitan Opera. In the early 1970s, while still a strong performer, della Casa suddenly and completely retired from the music profession, with little explanation, yet luckily for opera fans, some of her famous roles were recorded by Decca.
Galina Vishnevskaya (October 25, 1926 - December 11, 2012)
The much-admired soprano Vishnevskaya inspired composers such as Benjamin Britten and Dmitry Shostakovich to write songs and roles just for her. It was her emotional expression as much as her voice and her technique that often impressed listeners, giving the music much vibrancy. She and her husband, Mstislav Rostropovich, were also known for their efforts to improve life for Russian artists, both during and after the Soviet era.
Richard Rodney Bennett (March 29, 1936 - December 24, 2012)
When Richard Rodney Bennett set out to compose music, he aspired to follow in the footsteps of Webern and Schoenberg. However, he soon started writing film music, still incorporating some atonality in his first famous score, Far from the Madding Crowd (1965). He was so successful with the film music that he was able to write concert and stage music without relying on commissions to earn his living. In later years, he turned to accompanying and performing vocal jazz and standards, again finding success in these roles.