She insisted on facing death alone: no tests, no chemo, no drawn-out bedside ceremonies. Friends had lunched with her on Christmas, and made plans for future get-togethers, and then Betty Freeman retired to a hospice somewhere and died, on Saturday, of pancreatic cancer, at 86, with just a few family members attending.
Never mind that she’d become a pretty difficult old grouch in her last days. She supported a lot of music, a lot of music-making (plus art and other activities). Her choices for whom and what to support became more and more capricious at times. She worshipped complexity and abstruseness, and this led her to adore composers like HelmutLachenmann and Harry Birtwistle and to fail to grasp the simple surfaces over the profundities in the music of, say, Lou Harrison.
One day back in 1982, Betty asked me to help her round up composers, familiar and not-so, to come to her house, talk about their music to an invited audience, have some performances and end with a little food and drink which her husband Franco Assetto, the Italian sculptor and inventor of exotic pasta sauces, would supply. The Salotti – as Franco dubbed these “grand salons” – soon became the Los Angeles Sunday afternoon hot ticket. Our star performers included Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Philip Glass, John Adams…and a lot of young composers as well, at the start of their careers.
Norman Lebrecht at ArtsJournal: "I'm a bit too choked up to write much about her now, but I don't think anyone did more to develop musical creativity in the past generation. I once called her the Midwife to Post-Modernism. I think she liked that."
* Afternoon update: Mark Swed weighs in at the L.A. Times.