George Walker, first African-American awarded a Pulitzer for music, dies at 96

On the first evening of February 1996, the audience in Symphony Hall became the first in the world to hear George Walker’s song cycle “Lilacs.”

After listening to soprano Faye Robinson perform the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Globe critic Richard Dyer noted in a review that the composition’s original title, “Melismas,” describes singing several notes for a single syllable. Dyer said that was “a useful description of Walker’s vocal writing, which is not bound by the single-syllable-per-note declamation that is the enemy of soaring vocalism.”

Each of the piece’s four sections was set to a stanza of “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” a Walt Whitman poem.

“There is wonderful music in this cycle, which is profoundly…

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