Obituary: Gershwin and Bernstein biographer Joan Peyser, 80

Posted on: April 26, 2011

In Monday’s (4/25) New York Times, Allan Kozinn writes, “Joan Peyser, a prolific writer about classical music and the author of biographies of Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin, died on Sunday in Manhattan. She was 80 and lived in Manhattan. She died after heart surgery, said her daughter Monica Parks. Ms. Peyser was a lively writer whose interviews with contemporary European and American composers, published mostly in The New York Times between the late 1960s and the late 1980s, helped clarify what those musicians considered most important about their work. Articles she contributed to The Times and other publications were collected in ‘The Music of My Time,’ a 1995 compilation that traced contemporary music from Schoenberg to Charles Wuorinen and Todd Machover, with pieces about Maria Callas, the Beatles and the New York Philharmonic along the way. As a biographer, Ms. Peyser tended to focus on the personal lives and inner motivations of her subjects, an emphasis that attracted considerable controversy in musical circles. … Ms. Peyser was the editor of The Musical Quarterly from 1977 to 1984, and of ‘The Orchestra: Origins and Transformations’ (1986), a compilation of essays tracing the orchestra from the 15th century to the present. Among the many prizes she won were six Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in writing on music from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.”

Posted April 26, 2011