Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Letter from Milton Babbitt

Bernard Zaslav received this letter from Milton Babbitt on April 16, 2005, a few months after the release of the Zaslav Duo’s recording of Babbitt’s 1950 “Composition for Viola and Piano” on the Music and Arts label (CD 1151). Zaslav sent a copy of the recording to the composer, and got this response.
Dear Bernie,

Can you forgive unforgivable delay in responding to your communication, and--more--the wonderful recording?

My only excuse is that these past eight years have not been the best of times. Sylvia, after being crippled by PMR, had three strokes which have left her bedridden in an “extended care facility.” We were driven from our New York apartment by landlords and lawyers on the basis that we did not spend enough time there (of course, since Sylvia was in the “hospital”).

In any event, I am in Princeton, and go to Juilliard on Monday, returning to Princeton on Tuesday, and trying to live in our little faculty house with all of our New York possessions crowding the place and in storage. My dear daughter spends most of her time here (rather than in her home in Mass.) driving me around. I see Sylvia every morning and try to get some work done: Jimmy Levine did the work that the Boston Symphony commissioned in January, but I don’t get around much any more, which merely intensifies my sense of nostalgia when I receive a gift such as your performance, for which a million thanks.

Love to both of you from both of us,


Sylvia Babbitt died on October 28, 2005.
The work Babbitt referred to was the premiere of the 2004 “Concerti for Orchestra” in January, 2005.

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