Composer Peter Lieberson Dies at 64
Peter Lieberson, the composer of the highly acclaimed Neruda Songs, has died, following complications from lymphoma, at the age of 64. Lieberson died on Saturday, April 23, in Tel Aviv, where he was undergoing treatment for the disease.
Lieberson was born in New York City in 1946, the son of Goddard Lieberson, president of Columbia Records, and the ballerina Vera Zorina. After composition studies at Columbia University, he studied with Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist master he met in 1974. A Ph.D. from Brandeis, years teaching at Harvard, directing Shambhala Training in Halifax, and many years composing followed.
Peter Lieberson was honored many times in his career, including the University of Louisville’s Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition for Neruda Songs, his setting of Pablo Neruda's sonnets, which he wrote for his late wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, before her untimely passing in 2006. The mezzo-soprano was posthumously awarded the Grammy Award for the Nonesuch recording of the piece with James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2007.
“I discovered the love poems of Pablo Neruda by chance in the Albuquerque airport,” the composer said. "The book had a pink cover and drew me in. As I glanced through the poems I immediately thought that I must set some of these for Lorraine ... I am so grateful for Neruda’s beautiful poetry, for although these poems were written to another, when I set them I was speaking directly to my own beloved, Lorraine.”
The Washington Post described Neruda Songs as "one of the most extraordinarily affecting artistic gifts ever created by one lover to another ... [T]hey are just as universal as they are shatteringly personal."
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