Monday, August 17, 2009
Joaquin Nin - Culmell
By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations , 20 January 2004
BERKELEY – Joaquin Nin-Culmell, an internationally known concert pianist and composer and an emeritus professor of music at the University of California, Berkeley, has died at the age of 95.
Nin-Culmell died on Wednesday, Jan. 14, at a Berkeley nursing home. He suffered a heart attack on Christmas night, according to his niece, Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz of San Francisco, and did not recover.
"Composing music and playing the piano was his life," said Ed Dugger, an emeritus professor of music at UC Berkeley in the College of Letters and Science, who was friends with Nin-Culmell for more than 30 years.
Rosenkrantz recalled that her uncle's Cuban mother and Spanish father, both musicians, married in Cuba but lived in Europe. When Nin-Culmell's mother, singer Rosa Culmell, took him to Europe when he was 15, after he'd been in New York for nine years, he dropped out of high school and immersed himself in music, said Rosenkrantz.
Nin-Culmell attended the Schola Cantorum and the Paris Conservatory, receiving a first prize in music composition there in 1934. He also studied in the early 1930s with Manuel de Falla, Spain's foremost composer. Nin-Culmell studied harmony, counterpoint and fugue, as well as musical composition.
The brother of writer Anais Nin, he contributed prefaces to her four-volume "Early Diaries."
Nin-Culmell moved to the United States in 1939. He taught at Middlebury College in Vermont for two years before joining the music department of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. He stayed at Williams for a decade, before coming to UC Berkeley.
"He was a wonderful mentor at that time to all of the young faculty members," recalled Dugger. "He was exceedingly kind and helpful."
Nin-Culmell joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1950. In addition to academic duties, he conducted the University of California Symphony orchestra and appeared as a pianist with numerous musical groups in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 1952, he performed as soloist in his own "Concerto in C Major" for piano and orchestra with the San Francisco Symphony, under the direction of Pierre Monteux, and was the symphony's guest conductor in March 1953.
Some typical compositions included three Cuban folk songs for mixed chorus, 12 Catalonian folk songs for soprano and piano, and "Eight Variations on a Theme by Gaspar Sanz" for orchestra. But Nin-Rosenkrantz said that as he matured, his musical themes shifted from a regional flavor to the religious. He was commissioned by France to write music for the organ and composed "Symphony of Mysteries" for organ and choir.
St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco commissioned Nin-Culmell to compose music for its dedication Mass in 1971.
Nin-Culmell's career took him to concerts in France, Italy, England, Switzerland, Cuba, Spain and Denmark.
After Nin-Culmell's retirement in 1974, Dugger said, he continued to compose and play music and mentored many young pianists in the area, "essentially giving them free lessons."
He was a member of the International Society for Contemporary Music and the Composers' Forum and was elected to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, as was his pianist father, Joaquin Nin. He also was elected to the Academy of Fine Arts of Sant Jordi in Barcelona and to the French Legion of Honor.
Three years ago, while Nin-Culmell was in Spain working on a cast for an opera he had written, he suffered a stroke, Dugger said. The event affected his eyesight and caused Nin-Culmell to cut back on his musical composition and playing.
Survivors include his niece, a nephew, Charles Thorvald Nin of Mexico City, and their children and grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 22, at St. Albert Priory, 6172 Chabot Rd., Oakland. Contributions can be sent to St. Albert Priory, 5890 Birch Rd., Oakland, 94618.
NIN-CULMELL, Joaquin - Internationally renowned composer Joaquin Nin-Culmell died January 14, 2004 in Berkeley, CA at age 95 after a long illness. He was preceded in death by his life partner, Theodore Reid, his sister, Anais Nin and his brother, Thorvald Nin. He was born September 5, 1908, the son of the pianist, composer and musicologist Joaquin Nin Castellanos, and the singer Rosa Culmell Vaurigaud. His Cuban born parents spent their married years in Europe: their daughter Anais was born in 1903 in Paris; their son Thorvald was born in 1905 in La Habana and their third child Joaquin was born in Berlin. His early childhood years were spent in Germany, Belgium, France and Spain, until his parents separated, and his mother took the three children with her to live in New York in 1914. Mr. Nin-Culmell began his early musical education in Spain, continued in the United States, then in Paris at the Schola Cantorum and Paris Conservatory where he studied piano with Paul Braud, Alfred Cortot, Ricardo Vines and composition with Paul Dukas and Manuel de Falla. His career as a concert pianist took him throughout Europe, Cuba, Canada and the United States with programs which included his own compositions and those of other contemporary composers. In 1940 he settled in the United States, teaching first at Williams College, then the University of California, where he was chairman and then professor of music until his retirement in 1974. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the University he was awarded a Creative Arts Fellowship. Mr. Nin-Culmell was elected as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, an honor awarded earlier to his father. Mr. Nin-Culmell was also elected as member to the Academy of Fine Arts of Sant Jordi in Barcelona and the French Legion of Honor. He wrote a wide range of compositions for voice, piano, guitar, cello, chorus, chamber groups, orchestra, two ballets and an opera and edited a series of 16th century Spanish choral works. His music has been recorded by various artists including Alicia de Larrocha, Elena Gragera and Maria Luisa Cantos. His Fanfare was performed at the opening concert of the San Francisco Symphony in 1997. He also wrote the prefaces to the 4 volumes of Early Diaries by his sister, Anais Nin. Joaquin Nin-Culmell is survived by the children of his brother Thorvald Nin: his niece, Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz and her husband, David Rosenkrantz, of San Francisco, and his nephew, Charles Thorvald Nin, of Mexico City. He is also survived by their children and grandchildren and numerous loving cousins and Godchildren. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and colleagues, not only for his musical gifts and his indomitable wit, but also for his loving and generous heart. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated Thursday, January 22 at 11 a.m., St. Albert Priory, 6172 Chabot Rd., Oakland. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Albert Priory, 5890 Birch Ct., Oakland, 94618.
ALICIA DE LARROCHA ON JOAQUIN NIN-CULMELL
Generously shared with us by Edmund Battersby, a fax:
"Hablaba con Joaquín NIN, dos o tres veces a la semana! Nos queríamos mucho!! La última vez que lo llamé, no tenía casi voz! Estaba ya muy enfermo; Me dijo: Alicia, me estoy muriendo "y sin 'LA CELESTINA'." Su Opera soñada que ansiaba verla estrenada antes de morirse. Espero que será algún día esta CELESTINA el mayor HOMENAJE ofrecido al gran JOAQUIN NIN.
Fue un gran MUSICO y un incomparable bondadoso amigo!
Alicia de Larrocha
"I spoke with Joaquín NIN two or three times a week. We had great love between us! The last time I call him, he had almost no voice! He was very sick; He told me: Alicia, I'm dying, "and without 'LA CELESTINA'." His dream, his OPERA, which he hoped to see premiered before his death. I hope that one day, his CELESTINA would be the biggest HOMAGE to the great JOAQUIN NIN.
He was a great MUSICIAN and a unique and kindest friend!
Alicia de Larrocha
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