Obituary: American Baritone Sanford Sylvan Dies, Aged 65

By Logan Martell

Sanford Sylvan, celebrated American baritone, has died on Jan. 29, 2019. The cause of death is unknown at this time, but it is believed to be the result of a respiratory infection.

Born on Dec. 19, 1953, Sylvan would study at the Manhattan School of Music before going on to enjoy a successful career in the performing arts, singing with the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and London Symphony Orchestra.

Among the conductors he sang under are Herbert Blomstedt, Pierre Boulez, Christopher Hogwood, James Levine, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. As a recording artist, Sylvan would receive five Grammy nominations for works such as John Adams’ 1990 chamber orchestra piece “The Wound Dresser,” a work written specifically for Sylvan. He also recorded the title role in Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer” for Decca and he sang the role of Chou-En Lai for the premiere of Adams’ “Nixon in China” which received a Grammy and an Emmy.

His performances of Figaro in “Le nozze di Figaro” and Alfonso in “Così fan tutte” were also seen on PBS’s Great Performances and were recorded on DVD for Decca.

As a professor of voice, Sylvan served at the Julliard School, McGill University Schulich School of Music, and Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program. Of Sylvan’s passing, composer Christopher Rouse writes: “I am devastated by the news of Sanford (Sandy) Sylvan’s sudden death. Beyond his great musical artistry – he was the magnificent baritone soloist in the world premiere of my Requiem – were his personal warmth and humanity. This is an enormous loss to the world of music.”

Here is Sylvan performing a work by Barber.