Ned Rorem (1923-2022)

Ned Rorem, the composer and writer who was one of the most prolific and provocative figures in American classical music, has died at 99.

As a composer, Rorem was best-known for his hundreds of art-songs, but he attracted wider notoriety for a series of candid and revealing diaries.

His vocal music, in addition to songs, includes a dozen operas and dozens of choral works. Rorem also produced three symphonies and numerous chamber works and pieces for piano and organ. His “Air Music: Ten Etudes for Orchestra” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1976.

An Indiana native initially trained as a pianist, Rorem was a graduate of Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with Gian-Carlo Menotti, and the Juilliard School in New York. He also counted Virgil Thomson and Aaron Copland among his teachers and mentors.

Rorem, who was gay, filled his diaries with explicit accounts of his sexual encounters and gossip about prominent acquaintances, as well as his opinions on composers and musicians. He also wrote several books of more substantive music criticism.

A longtime teacher at Curtis Institute, Rorem served as president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 2000 to 2003.

An obituary by Tim Page for The Washington Post: