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Nevett Bartow

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Biography

Born: November, 1934; New York, NY   Died: November, 1973; Philadelphia, PA  
Born in New York in 1934, Nevett Bartow attended Blair Academy in New Jersey and the Manhattan School of Music in New York. He began composing at a relatively young age, and by the time he graduated from the Manhattan School he had a Harpischord Concerto, a Clarinet Sonata, and the Variations and Fugue for piano to his credit. His work on his master's thesis in 1957 entailed the composition of the Mass of the Bells, which he dedicated to his Read more principal composition teacher, Vittorio Giannini. He later studied in Rome with Ildebrando Pizzetti, the director of the Accademia Santa Cecilia, and at the Vienna Conservatory. Bartow was later hired to head the music department at his alma mater, Blair Academy in New Jersey, where, at the insistence of the headmaster, he was allowed his mornings free for composition. He was an extraordinarily popular teacher, commanding the loyalty of a third of the student body through what had been a small music program. The latter rapidly exapnded under Bartow, and teaching came to consume a fair amount of his time; meanwhile, as a composer he found himself hemmed in by the lack of acceptance for his preferred neo-Romantic style, which limited the opportunities available for him to write for large professional ensembles. As a means of satisfying both his teaching obligations and his desire to create, he pursued a path that, at various times in their respective careers, had been taken by Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Holst, principally writing for the student forces at his disposal. This included the Blair Academy choir and glee club, the school organ, and various chamber-scale works for ensembles made up of students and friends, and several of these pieces achieved publication. He continued working, even in the face of his contracting aplastic anemia, a bone marrow disorder that can result in death within six months, in 1967. Bartow responded to treatment involving new and experimental drugs, and continued working for another six years, teaching and writing for the half of each week in which he was not being treated and too uncomfortable to work. His compositions during this period shifted toward larger scale, more extended works, very music in a neo-Romantic style. The most notable of these were the hauntingly beautiful tone poem Summershadow, elegy for orchestra, which Bartow dedicated to Isaac Djerassi, the physician whose treatments had allowed him to survive, which received its premiere in 1968 with the Lexington (Kentucky) Philharmonic; and the two-movement Symphonic Dances, his final work, which he conceived as both a concert piece and a ballet. The second movement, entitled "Sarabande for a Deceased G. Mahler," does, indeed, evoke echoes of Gustav Mahler's late-career works, especially the first movement of the Symphony No. 9 and the Adagio from the Symphony No. 10. The Symphonic Dances received a premiere performance by the Norwalk Symphony on December 1, 1973, 10 days after his death at age 39. Read less

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