MUSIC: Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

Stephen Albert never heard his fine Symphony No. 2

Any composer's death diminishes the musical scene, but Stephen Albert's fatal automobile accident two years ago was especially costly. At 51, Albert had emerged as one of the leaders of the neo-conservative traditionalist movement, a position cemented by his winning the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for his first symphony, RiverRun, a work that was by turns lyrical, witty and sardonic. So it was a bittersweet occasion last week when the New York Philharmonic premiered Albert's Symphony No. 2: the music was first rate, and that made the loss of its composer seem all the more dear.

Commissioned by the Philharmonic, the symphony...

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