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Composer Maw Dies

Emily Langer, who works in The Post's Outlook section and is a classical music aficionado, kindly agreed to guest blog in Post Mortem after writing an obit on composer Nicholas Maw, who died today at 73. Her story on Maw appears here:

Langer writes:

If you're a casual listener of classical music, the works of British composer Nicholas Maw may never have found their way onto your iPod. I love classical music -- so much that I recently caught a somewhat shady 5:15 a.m. bus to make a noon performance of "Il Trovatore" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City -- and am sorry to say that Mr. Maw's chamber music, symphonies and operas were nowhere to be found on my playlists.

To get to know Mr. Maw's work, try his symphony "Odyssey," which premiered in London in 1987. Soaring along for 96 minutes, it is believed to be the longest continuous orchestral work ever written. offers 10 short clips--click on "Listen to samples" below the CD cover.

And here you can listen to four 30-second clips from Mr. Maw's "Violin Concerto," which he composed for virtuoso Joshua Bell. Bell won a Grammy Award for his interpretation of this piece.

Thinking about how much I'd missed by overlooking Mr. Maw's music, I remembered this breathtaking piece by The Post's Gene Weingarten. He and Bell did an experiment of sorts on Washington commuters. Dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a ball cap, Bell set up shop in the L'Enfant Plaza metro station and began playing his Stradivarius. A complete recording of the concert is available here -- see if you can get through it without tearing up.

During the 43 minutes that Bell played, 1,097 people passed through the metro arcade. They tossed a total of $52.17 into his violin case, and $20 of that came from a woman who recognized him. The spectacle was lost on practically everyone else. One of the world's finest musicians was right there in front of them, and they missed him.

By Adam Bernstein  |  May 19, 2009; 4:20 PM ET
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Thank you, Emily Langer, for your very well written and moving obituary of Nicholas Maw this morning. I also thank the Post’s photo editor for finding Nikki Kahn's beautiful 2006 photograph of Mr Maw at the time of the Washington National Opera's American premiere of 'Sophie’s Choice'.

I have now read three obituaries of Mr Maw in three major newspapers (Washington, London, and New York City), and the Washington Post’s treatment is the outstanding one.

Mr Maw’s passing is a loss to the fairly small Washington classical music community, and I am glad that you, Ms Langer, stepped in to write this tribute (even if you knew that his passing was imminent – which I did not).

Posted by: snaketime | May 20, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

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