William Carragan (1937-2024)

William Carragan (1937-2024)
It is with a great deal of sadness that I announce the passing of William Carragan. He was an incredible scholar and musicologist and a dear friend. He died in Troy, New York on June 9th.

I am using the space below to collect remembrances from people who had the good fortune of interacting with Will. If you have thoughts you wish to share, please send them to me.

John Berky:I will leave it to others to fill in the details of William Carragan's remarkable life and his achievements as I would prefer to use this space to recollect a few of my collaborations with him over the years.

When I was able to successfully resurrect the Bruckner Society of America, one of my initial priorities was to present Will with the Society's Julio Kilenyi Medal of Honor. It was an honor long overdue and I was proud to be the one to make that happen.

In 2012, Will and I travelled together to the Dominican Republic to attend a performance of the Bruckner Symphony No. 7 - the first performance of a Bruckner symphony in that country. Will was to coach the conductor on some of the intricacies of the score. During that trip, Will and I were recorded as we had a conversation about the performance. That conversation can still be seen here.

On another trip to visit a mutual friend, I pressed Will on the idea of preparing a booklet that would describe (with audio examples) some of the differences in the various versions and editions of Bruckner's symphonies. With the assistance of Benjamin Korstvedt, Will tackled the project but quickly expanded the project from a booklet to a full sized book, "ANTON BRUCKNER: Eleven Symphonies" subsequently published and distributed by the Bruckner Society of America.

I have lost a wonderful friend and the Bruckner community has lost one of its greatest scholars.

His obituary from the Albany Times Union can be read here.

Comments from others:

Benjamin Korstvedt: Will was a good friend of mine for more than 30 years. I am very sad-and still cannot quite imagine he is gone. Will was a wonderful person and a good friend, thoughtful, kind, highly intelligent and deeply musical, full of good humor and a genuine love for music, Bruckner's above all. He was also a fine harpsichordist, and owned a small but excellent collection of those instruments. Considering the very important role that Facebook came to play for Will in the final years of his life, it is perhaps surprising that ca. 1993 when email started to become prevalent, Will resisted that means of communication for quite a while, preferring phone calls and faxes! He was a true one of a kind-and will be sorely missed by all who knew him. He is surely resting in peace in a realm filled with music! Sail on, old friend!

Dermot Gault: This is a terrible shock and very sad news. We have lost a great Brucknerian and a wonderfully wholehearted person. I would like to pass on my condolences to his family. Very very sad news indeed.

Christian Hoskins: I was thinking of Will only yesterday when I was using his Red Book to check some details before sending a review to Gramophone. I use his timing analyses, posted on abruckner.com, every time I review a recording.

John Proffitt: Will was a dear friend and colleague, whose last months were a trial for him in many ways. May he rest in peace and I am quite certain his spirit rejoices in, among other things, meeting and communing with his beloved AB!

Reginald Hulhoven: Very sad to hear this. I greatly appreciated the wise and very instructive contacts I had with William Carragan, who had, I think I can write, over the years become a true friend.
Requiescat in pace!

James Altena: What a shame that he did not live to make the bicentenary pilgrimage to Austria -- but still fitting that he passed in the bicentenary year. Requiescat in pacem.

George Schatzkamer:So sad to hear the news. It is a loss for all of us music lovers and his friends and family.

Wouter van Doorn:Terrible news on every level. My own interactions with the great man (I say this with no reservations at all) were limited to very few facebook posts, in which we found a mutual love of (model) railways. I am yet to immerse myself into the Eleven Symphonies book, for which I know I'm not well enough equipped, but it won't stop me. His kindness in never letting his vast knowledge become a stumbling block in sharing enthusiasm for Bruckner's work - he would happily converse with an ignoramus like me - will not be forgotten. I wish his family and friends, as well as the world of Bruckner scholarship, all my very best in coping with this huge loss, which I very keenly feel personally as well.

Charles Benson: A very sad day. Rest in peace Will. What a great Brucknerian and human being.

Gary Smith: I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. He did so much to promote and inform us all on Anton Bruckner. He will be missed.

Richard Lehnert: This is a sad day for us all. Will and I had our differences, but I've always greatly respected his scholarship and acumen, and great contributions he's made to Bruckner performance and scholarship: his book, the editions of several of the symphonies for Musik Wissenschaftler Verlag, his snapshot of Bruckner's studio in his interim version of the Eighth, of course his completion of the Finale of the Ninth, and more and more and more. I mourn the end of what had always seemed an endless font of energy and knowledge and expertise in all things Bruckner.

Laurence Levine: I wish to add my condolences to many others on the passing of a great man. I attended the world premiere of the Bruckner ninth with the finale on January 8, 1984.

Ira Levin: I am very sad to learn of Will’s passing. I happen to be conducting B5 on Thursday here in Rio. I know the significance that particular work had for him and I profited from his writings about it when I prepared for the first time many years ago. I will have him in my thoughts and send his family and all of you who had the pleasure of knowing him personally (we only spoke once). My condolences.

George Banks: He will be greatly missed. I remember meeting him at two Bruckner weekend conferences here in Oxford UK some years ago, and I was fascinated and greatly impressed by his encyclopedic knowledge of the Bruckner symphonies. What a loss. RIP

Michael Cucka: This is very sad news indeed… Will has always been an icon to me and I can’t imagine him not being available anymore to share time with. I will miss him greatly…

Crawford Howie: Will was a polymath and a remarkable Bruckner scholar who contributed an enormous amount of time and energy to deepening our knowledge of the composer's works as well as our awareness of the unique structural aspects of his symphonies. I, like many others, will cherish very fond memories of his participation in Bruckner Journal conferences as both speaker and performer in the UK over the the last 30 years. He will be sorely missed.

Alan Anbar: His depth of knowledge and fascination with Bruckner and his works was unparalleled in recent years. We were lucky to have him in our midst so often. He always made time to answer questions for me and many others here. His scholarship and completion of the Finale of the Ninth have linked his name with Bruckner forever. Long may he be remembered by family and friends!

David Griegel: I at a loss for words. I can only think to tell a story. I came across the Eichhorn recording of B2, with Will's editions of the 1872 and 1873 version, by chance one night in a Tower Records store in Philadelphia in the early 1990s. I had never heard of this recording, but through it I contacted Will (he was a fellow physicist), and I have considered him to be a friend ever since. He was such a kind person, and he loved to teach others, whether it was about Bruckner or quantum mechanics. I never imagined the day would come when he would no longer be with us. I will miss you, Will.

Ramón A. Khalona: I met him twice, once in CT and the second time in Saratoga, CA, after a performance of his revised B9 completion. Bill had a larger than life personality (he loved good beer and Manhattans, as I recall), boundless enthusiasm and vast curiosity and knowledge in many areas. Very, very sad to hear of his passing.

Manki Michael Perukangas: I am glad that I knew this man, whose generosity in spirit and enterprising nature was matched by his wit.

Juan Ignacio Cahis: A great person, a great musician, a great musicologist, a great Brucknerian, and a great friend!!! A very sad news, R. I. P.

Bjorn W Man: He meant so much for the public knowledge about Bruckner's music. Probably more than anyone else in this respect. His online articles, analysis tables and comments; the Red Book; the result of his editorial work. I am very grateful for all of this.

Paul Gibson: I enjoyed his writings and scholarship, as well as my interactions with him online. I recall some messages we shared concerning Haydn symphonies, and harpsichord tunings, a hobby we both shared. He was a real gentleman. I will miss him.

Scott Greer: It was an honour to have chatted with him on a few occasions over the years; remarkable how he always took time to reply and so graciously. Certainly one of the smartest and most knowledgeable persons I have ever known (not just about Bruckner but a wide array of topics); but it is his thoughtfulness and kindness, and the way he conveyed his understanding, that I will carry with me.

Gerry Borts: This is terribly sad news. Sad for his family, friends, colleagues, and any others that knew him. My heartfelt condolences to all. Though we never met in person, I considered him a friend. I'm sad that my suspicions were correct, as I had noticed that, recently, he had not participated in discussions here that normally he would have, nor reacted or commented on any posts on my Timeline either. I'm very saddened by this.

Joel Lazar: Deeply saddened to hear of his passing. He brought a splendid combination of wisdom and enthusiasm to our group and to the few personal interactions I had with him. My condolences to all his people, may his name be for a blessing.

Dirk Borth: Met him in 2011 in Ebrach. What a men! So sad! A great Brucknerian!!

Sol Siegel: After all the years and all the dinners (and, of course, beers!) with him - not only in Connecticut but also in New York and Austria - and all the lively Facebook exchanges, it pains me beyond words that there won't be any more. Always generous with his time, with his opinions... just plain generous.
But thinking back, it seems that there's one moment that somehow defines him for me. It wasn't about music. It came the fall before the pandemic, when I posted a photo of myself in Colorado straddling the Continental Divide. Will, ever the scientist, simply commented: "You are facing north."

Fred Reissig: I felt honored that Professor Carragan would take the time to share thoughts on aspects of Master Bruckner's symphonies with me. I loved to share my passion about his music with him. Primarily sharing this passion was my reason for reaching out to him, but also another motivation to communicate is that my late father, Richard Reissig, played the French Horn and also the Wagner Tuba, of the latter he loved playing more. He loved Bruckner's music. Prof. Carragan informed me that he also played this wonderful instrument as well. I also shared photos of my father playing it. I was hoping some day to meet him. I will always have his insight and memories to enhance my enjoyment of this glorious music. Rest peacefully, Professor.

Gerd Schaller: very sad news, as you write: terrible news. I am really shocked about this message. Will was such an extraordinary and extremely multitalented genius. And he had a great and deep heart full of emotions and love. Of course – he was one of the greatest Bruckner scholars. What he has done for Bruckner and his music is incredible. You cannot find words for this. It`s very very sad.

Gary Galo: Thanks for keeping us updated on this very sad news. I had always assumed that his formal education was in music. How amazing to discover that he was actually a physicist, and a college professor in that field. Remarkable! He will be greatly missed by so many people in music and the sciences – a true Renaissance man.

Sebastien Letocart: It is with deep sorrow that I learned of William Carragan's passing. He was a musical friend with whom I had regular online discussions. He was an exquisite person and undoubtedly one of the most dedicated Brucknerians on this planet. His "Red Book" is to be considered a reference for anyone interested in understanding the complexity of the Bruckner case in terms of different versions and publications. As completers of Bruckner's ultimate and unfinished Finale, we had always very friendly and interesting conversations, despite some significant differences in how we approached the topic. I guess he has now the privilege of being welcomed by our beloved 'Tonerl' in heaven...

Peter Aigner: After the sudden death of the artistic director of the Altomonte Orchestra St. Florian, Thomas Wall (with this orchestra, Bruckner's symphonies have been recorded under Rémy Ballot in recent years), William Carragan, another important companion of this project, has now passed away. As the orchestra's solo viola player and above all as chairman of the Bruckner Association Ansfelden, in 2019, when Bruckner's 2nd Symphony in the version by William Carragan was on the program, I was able to invite him, together with John F. Berky, Michael Cucka and John Gladney Proffitt, to a tour of Bruckner's birthplace in Ansfelden. In a short television interview Carragan was enthusiastic about the redesign (of 2014) of the now museum. After completing his "Red Book" I immediately received a copy as a gift with a personal dedication from him, with the best wishes for the Bruckner year 2024. In the last few months I have been in contact with him mainly via Facebook Messenger, not knowing that his wish to come to Upper Austria in 2024 would not come true. I was given many copies of the "Red Book" for free use by the Brucknerbund Ansfelden, many members have taken advantage of this offer and ordered this valuable analysis of Bruckner's symphonies. I am also currently using it to prepare concerts for the F minor Symphony, WAB 99, which he would certainly have liked to hear. I will conduct these two concerts in memory of William Carragan, with whom I have a short but mutually valued friendship.

Ted Watterson: Sorry to hear this news. He was a lovely man. Amongst other things, his fine completion of Bruckner 9 will be one of his legacies. I was in contact with him via Facebook. He certainly always had time for me. R. I. P. Will.

Ken Ward: The passing of William Carragan is a great loss to all Brucknerians, and especially to The Bruckner Journal and its subscribers. Will became a stalwart of our biennial Readers Conference, never failing to make the journey across the pond to join us in the UK. His first appearance at the first conference, in April 1999, was to present a paper consisting of an examination of tempos in editions and performances of the Seventh Symphony. It was a stunning paper, a stunning performance, demonstrating all those characteristics that made his appearances one of the highlights of our conference: he would speak quickly, full of life and enthusiasm for Bruckner and the study of Bruckner, full or original ideas, and he had assembled a staggering amount of information – in this first paper an analysis of tempos in 56 recordings of the symphony. That seemed incredible, but pales in comparison with later surveys he accomplished. As time went on his papers became so overloaded with such information that he would have to make swingeing cuts as he rushed through the presentation, but it was always the case that he gave us ways of thinking about the works, and about how Bruckner composed them and how they should be performed, which were often new and always enlightening and invaluable.
When we began to have our Conferences at Hertford College, Oxford University he was in his element, “This is our home,” he said. He and Crawford Howie performed two piano versions of Bruckner Symphonies in the college chapel to provide the music performance element of our Conference. These were always riveting events – not so much that they were done excellently well (after all, these were not professional performers) but that they were done at all!
As well as his regular visits to the UK, it would be wonderful to meet him at other Bruckner events, such as the performances of his editions that Gerd Schaller conducted at Ebrach. It was at Ebrach 2011 that I and some friends were privileged to visit him in his hotel room as he folded and packed his clothes and talked throughout about the form, the manuscripts and editions of symphonies 1, 2 and 3: it was as though we had been present as students in a masterclass. An unforgettable privilege.
His work to present the Ninth as a four-movement work was invaluable, especially the ground-breaking 1985 Yoav Talmi recording with Finale and the Fragments, after Orel and the 2010 Schaller recording. No finale is Bruckner’s finale, but I thought Will Carragan had addressed one of the major issues when he used a transfigured augmented version of the agonised Adagio main theme rising up on the trumpet in the coda of his completion. That Adagio theme and the enormity of its discordant climax is a question that needs answering somehow in the Finale. Will told me how the inspiration for that treatment came to him when eating out, and he jotted it down on a napkin or menu-card. I’m never sure that it sounds truly ‘Brucknerian’, but it is for me the Great Carragan Moment, and completes the symphony wonderfully.
There was something childlike in his enthusiasm for anything connected with Bruckner, and he was especially keen to purchase badges and even my portrait busts of Bruckner. He was in so many ways a remarkable man: I remember a heart-stopping moment when at St Florian he missed his footing and tumbled down the stairs of the guest house, ending up flat on his back at the bottom. I thought it was possibly catastrophic, and it crossed my mind that were this the end of him, there was no better place for it to happen than St Florian. But he rose from the dead, clambered to his feet, and when I expressed my concern told me that when he felt himself going, “I went into a Judo roll”. No doubt Judo was yet another facet of his manifold expertise!
We’ll remember him as a lovely character, full of good humour, gentle at heart, an extraordinary and tireless researcher into all matters Brucknerian, an inspired completer of the Ninth, and a blessing to all of us who have had the pleasure to hear or to read what he has had to say to help us on our way through Bruckner’s music. For this, and much else, we shall remember him so fondly.

Raymond Cox: It was sad to learn of Will Carragan's passing, having fond memories of him when he attended the Bruckner Journal readers' conferences here in the UK. These memories were not only of his remarkable scholarship and knowledge, but also of his friendly demeanour and warm-heartedness.

Lionel Tacchini: I feel very privileged to have known Bill and been invited to share in his knowledge of a music I love. His work, his passion for the music of "the Old Man", as he used to refer to Anton Bruckner, and his generosity with his thoughts about it were a gift I treasure. He leaves bright memories and a feeling of deep gratitude. Let's have a happy thought about Bill, his achievements, his friendship and our mutual bonds.

Jonathan Welsh: RIP, I am grateful to have corresponded with him via Facebook, he was a thoughtful and extremely knowledgeable man. My condolences to his family.

Louis Lohraseb: The loss of my mentor for more than half of my life has been heartbreaking, but these words have served as an uplifting reminder during this dark time of just how impactful his presence was to so many people. My last conversation with Mr. Carragan was Tuesday, June 11, in which he was feeling weak, and yet his wit and jovial spirit were still intact. Throughout my life, whenever I called him and was working on a difficult project, or going through a rough time, he would always hang up the phone with, "courage". And when I hung up the phone that day, I said it to him as my goodbye, and he chuckled. Let us all have courage in this time, and do our best to honor his wonderful memory.