We have compiled this list from various sources on the internet. Please let us know if we have any erroneous information or if you think there is a composer we should add to this list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
John Coolidge Adams 1947 -
A Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer with strong roots in minimalism. His best-known works include On the Transmigration of Souls, a choral piece commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music), and Shaker Loops, a minimalist four-movement work for strings. His well-known operas include Nixon in China, which recounts Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, and Doctor Atomic, which covers Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project, and the building of the first atomic bomb.
Adams began composing at the age of ten and first heard his music performed around the age of 13 or 14. After he matriculated at Harvard University in 1965 he studied composition under Leon Kirchner, Roger Sessions, Earl Kim, and David Del Tredici. While at Harvard, he conducted the Bach Society Orchestra and was a reserve clarinetist for both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Opera Company. He performed as the soloist in the Carnegie Hall world premiere of Walter Piston's Clarinet Concerto. He earned two degrees from Harvard University and was the first student ever to be allowed to submit a musical composition for a Harvard undergraduate thesis. He taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from 1972 until 1984.
Adams wrote, "in almost all cultures other than the European classical one, the real meaning of the music is in between the notes. The slide, the portamento, the "blue note"—all are essential to the emotional expression, whether it's a great Indian master improvising on a raga or whether it's Jimi Hendrix or Johnny Hodges bending a blue note right down to the floor." Adams uses this concept in many of his influential pieces post-Nixon in China. In October 2008, Adams told BBC Radio 3 that he had been blacklisted by the U.S. Homeland Security department and immigration services.
The music of John Adams is usually categorized as minimalist or post-minimalist. While Adams employs minimalist techniques, such as repeating patterns, he is not a strict follower of the movement. Adams was born a generation after Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and his writing is more developmental and directionalized, containing climaxes and other elements of Romanticism. Adams, like other minimalists of his time, used a steady pulse that defines and controls the music.
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Bela Bartok 1881-1945
Béla Bartók was born in Romania. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father died soon after Bartók's birth. He took piano lessons with his mother, and later studied the piano with Laszlo Erkel and Anton Hyrtl. In 1898 he attended the Budapest Academy, where he was a pupil of Franz Liszt as well as studying composition. As a composer, Bartok took Johannes Brahms as a model. Later in life he became friends with Zoltan Kodaly. Through Kodály, he was introduced to Claude Debussy, who influenced him greatly. This led him to begin work on his first String Quartet. He would add five more to the collection that has come to be known as the New Testament with Beethoven's string quartets being the Old. In 1940, he moved to New York because of political problems in Hungary, where he continued to compose. His Third Piano Concerto was left unfinished when he died, but would be later finished by a colleague, Tibor Serly.
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Alban Berg 1885 - 1935
Along with Anton von Webern Alban Berg ranks among the most highly regarded pupils of Arnold Schoenberg. Under his guidance, Berg began to compose under the systems that Schoenberg had created. These three composers formed what was known as the "Second Viennese School," and at this school, they would teach the theory of atonalism, serialism, and the twelve-tone tehnique. These three composers would go on to revolutionize the way the world heard music in the twentieth century.
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Claude Bolling 1930 -
Renowned French jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and occasional actor. He was born in Cannes, studied at the Nice Conservatory, then in Paris. A child prodigy, by age 14 he was playing jazz piano professionally, with Lionel Hampton, Roy Eldridge, and Kenny Clarke. Bolling's books on jazz technique show that he did not delve far beyond bebop into much avant garde jazz. He was a major part of the traditional jazz revival in the late 1960s, and he became friends with Oscar Peterson. He has written music for over one hundred films, mostly French, starting with the score for a 1957 documentary about the Cannes Film Festival, and including the films Borsalino, and California Suite. Bolling is also noted for a series of "crossover" collaborations with classical musicians. His Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio with Jean-Pierre Rampal, a mix of Baroque elegance with modern swing, has been a top seller for many years, and was followed up by other works in the same vein. It was particularly popular in the United States, at the top of the hit parade for two years after its release and on billboard top 40 for 530 weeks, roughly ten years.
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Elliott Cook Carter, Jr. 1908 -
A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer born and living in New York City. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1930s, and then returned to the United States. After a neoclassical phase, he went on to write atonal, rhythmically complex music. His compositions, which have been performed all over the world, include orchestral and chamber music as well as solo instrumental and vocal works.
Carter's father, Elliott Carter, Sr. was a businessman and his mother was the former Florence Chambers. The family was well-to-do. As a teenager he developed an interest in music and was encouraged in this regard by the composer Charles Ives (who sold insurance to his family). In 1924 a "galvanized" 15-year-old Carter was in the audience when Pierre Monteux conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the New York première of The Rite of Spring, according to a 2008 report. Carter was again in attendance at Carnegie Hall, on the occasion of his 100th birthday in 2008, when the orchestra, now under the baton of James Levine, again performed the Stravinsky piece as part of its tribute to Carter. Although Carter majored in English at Harvard College, he also studied music there and at the nearby Longy School of Music. He sang with the Harvard Glee Club. He did graduate work in music at Harvard, from which he received a Master's degree in music in 1932. He then went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. Carter worked with Mlle Boulanger from 1932–35 and in 1935 he received a doctorate in music from the Ecole Normale in Paris. Later in 1935 he returned to the US where he wrote music for the Ballet Caravan.
From 1940 to 1944 Elliott Carter taught in the program, including music, at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. On July 6, 1939, Carter married Helen Frost-Jones. They had one child, a son, David Chambers Carter. During World War II, Carter worked for the Office of War Information. He later held teaching posts at the Peabody Conservatory, Columbia University, Queens College, New York, Yale University, Cornell University and the Juilliard School. In 1967 he was appointed a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1985 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Carter has lived in Greenwich Village since 1945. On February 7, 2009, Carter was given the Trustees Award (a lifetime achievement award given to non-performers) by the Grammy Awards.
Gordon Shi-Wen Chin 1957 -
Born in Taiwan, he is among the most active composers in his native country. He has a DMA degree from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Samuel Adler and Christopher Rouse, and serves as music director of the Yin- Qi Chorus and Symphony Orchestra in Taipei, where he is a faculty member of Taiwan National Normal University. Gordon Chin's works have been performed worldwide.
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Unsuk Chin 1961 -
Unsuk Chin studied composition with Sukhi Kang at Seoul National University and won several international prizes in her early 20s. She studied with György Ligeti in Hamburg 1985-1988. Ligeti dismissed Chin's early pieces as unoriginal, which led her to stop composing for a few years. In 1988 Unsuk Chin moved to Berlin, where she worked for years as a freelance composer at the Electronic music studio of the Technical University of Berlin, realizing seven works. Her first large orchestral piece, Troerinnen, was premiered by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990. In 1991, her breakthrough work Acrostic Wordplay was premiered by the Nieuw Ensemble - since then it has been performed in 15 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. Chin's collaboration with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, which has led to several commissions from the latter, started in 1994 with Fantaisie mecanique. In 1999, Chin began an artistic collaboration with Kent Nagano, who has since premiered five of her works.
Chin's Violin Concerto, for which she was awarded the Grawemeyer, was premiered in 2002 by Viviane Hagner. Since then it has been programmed in Europe, Asia and North America, and performed, among others, by Christian Tetzlaff, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Simon Rattle in 2005.
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Chick Corea 1941-
Considering the staggering volume of his recorded output over the past 40 years, it is no overstatement to call Chick Corea one of the most prolific composers of the second half of the 20th century. From avant-garde to bebop, from children's songs to straight-ahead, from hard-hitting fusion to heady forays into classical, Chick has touched an astonishing number of musical bases in his illustrious career while maintaining a standard of excellence that is simply uncanny. His career resume teems with accolades, including more than 50 Grammy nominations and 14 Grammy Awards.
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John Corigliano 1938 -
American composer John Corigliano continues to add to one of the richest, most unusual, and most widely celebrated bodies of work any composer has created over the last forty years. Corigliano's numerous scores—including three symphonies and eight concerti among over one hundred chamber, vocal, choral, and orchestral works—have been performed and recorded by many of the most prominent orchestras, soloists, and chamber musicians in the world. One of the few living composers to have a string quartet named for him, Corigliano serves on the composition faculty at the Juilliard School of Music and holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, City University of New York, which has established a scholarship in his name.
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Nathan Kind Currier 1960-
Winner of the Academy Award, given for lifetime achievement, from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, as well as the Rome Prize and Guggenheim Fellowships, Nathan Currier has frequently been honored for his compositions. He was the 2008 winner of the International Sackler Prize for Composition, and has received the Fulbright, NEA, NYFA, Fromm, Ives, Barlow, and ASCAP prizes, as well as the Silver Medal, as a pianist, in the International Piano Recording Competition, for a performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Currier recently served on the faculty of the University of Virginia for two years, and previously had taught at Juilliard, on their MAP and Evening Division faculties. He studied at Juilliard and Peabody, was the Leonard Bernstein Fellow in composition at Tanglewood, and also holds a Diplome, with First Prize, from the Royal Conservatory of Belgium. Renowned critic Tim Page has written that "Currier's music is often wildly virtuosic," and that his "engaging, virtuosic and richly inventive" works do not "fit into any of the pre-fabricated categories that have been set aside to describe composers...ultimately, Currier is an independent, with no seeming allegiance to any creed but the most valuable one of all – that of creating a succinct, personal and well-crafted music."
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Richard Danielpour 1956 –
Richard Danielpour has become one of the most sought-after composers of his generation — a composer whose distinctive American voice is part of a rich neo-Romantic heritage with influences from pivotal composers like Britten, Copland, Bernstein, and Barber. His works are "solidly rooted in the soil of tradition, yet with an optimistic voice for today... [they] speak to the heart as well as the mind."
Danielpour has commented that "music [must] have an immediate visceral impact and elicit a visceral response." This visceral element can indeed be heard throughout Danielpour's œvre: expansive, sweeping, romantic gestures; energetic rhythmic accentuations; contrasting stylistic characters; arresting, introspective, melodic beauty; rich, enticing orchestrations; and brilliantly juxtaposed, yet cohesive harmonic angles. His impact on the contemporary music scene stands firm, with an illustrious array of international champions and a reputation as a devoted mentor and educator.
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Erno von Dohnanyi 1877-1960
Erno grew up with a strong musical awareness. His father was a fine amateur cellist who introduced his son to music and gave him his first lessons in piano and violin. The family cultivated friendships with some of the foremost musicians who passed through Eastern Europe, with live music-making taking center stage in household activities. It was in this milieu that young Dohnányi developed his lifelong love of chamber music. Indeed, as a nine-year-old boy he publicly played Mozart's G Minor PianoQuartet, and wrote much chamber music before his teens. A debut solo recital came at 13, with a difficult program of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt and several of his own works. At 17, though, already a veteran pianist and composer, he knew that music was his future and enrolled at the Royal Hungarian Academy of Music. He studied piano with Bartók's teacher István Thomán..Dohnányi revered Beethoven, was superficially perceived under the wing of Brahms, and employed traditional harmonic language while most peers sought new conceptions of
musical form. It should be made clear that Dohnányi's gifts produced an original thinker whose works stand on their own, though the Brahms connection is especially close. Dohnányi was acknowledged as atop-flight pianist from the beginning. After successful appearances in Berlin and Vienna, he made his London debut at21, performing Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto to rapturous acclaim. In 1900, he set out on a groundbreaking American tour, playing his own First Concerto with the Boston Symphony during part of that sojourn. Critics and audiences began to speak of Dohnányi as Hungary's greatest pianist-composer since Liszt. He also made appearances at that time in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and St. Louis.
In 1905, he was invited by Joachim to teach at Berlin's prestigious Hochschule für Musik. During his Berlin years, he composed many chamber works, as well as the Variations on a Nursery Song ("Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"), famous then and now primarily because of its novelty and for instigating laughter in the concert hall. It was a joke written, he said, "for the enjoyment of fun-lovers and the annoyance of others."
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Tan Dun 1937 –
Tan Dun was born in the village of Simaonae, Changsha in the Hunan province of China. As a child, he was fascinated by the role of the shimaon in his village, who conducted rituals and ceremonies, often set to music made with organic objects such as rocks and water. He went to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and studied with musicians such as Toru Takemitsu, who strongly influenced his musicianship, and his sense of musical style. Tan Dun is widely recognized for using non traditional and organic instruments in his compositions. His piece Water Passion After St. Matthew employs amplified bowls of water in lieu of traditional percussion, and his Paper Concerto (2003) relies solely on the manipulation of paper to create music. He is also recognized for adding multimedia aspects to his performances, such as orchestras that interact with video, or audience participation.
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Jean René Désiré Françaix 1912 – 1997
Françaix's natural gifts were encouraged from an early age by his family: his father, Director of the Conservatoire of Le Mans, was a musicologist, composer, and pianist, and his mother, a teacher of singing. He was only six when he took up composing, and his first publication, in 1922, caught the attention of a composer working for the publishing house who steered the gifted boy toward a gifted teacher, Nadia Boulanger. She encouraged Françaix's career, considering the young composer to be one of the best, if not the best, of her students. Françaix himself often played his own works, to public acclaim; notably in the premier of his Concertino for Piano and Orchestra at the festival of Baden-Baden in 1932.
He was an accomplished pianist from an early age, earning a First Prize in Piano at the Paris Conservatory (his only formal musical qualification) and was sought after for accompanying as well as solo performances. He performed notably in a duo with the French cellist Maurice Gendron, and also performed the Poulenc Two Piano Concerto with Francis Poulenc for several engagements when Jacques Fevrier was not available. His own Two Piano Concerto was written however for his daughters, both of whom were budding young pianists at the time of the composition.
Since he was a virtuoso pianist, many of his works feature the piano, particularly his numerous chamber works which he wrote for nearly every orchestral instrument and standard ensemble. He was a skilled orchestrator, which was reflected in his use of tone colors. Françaix wrote pieces in many of the major large musical forms, including concerti, symphonies, opera, theatre, ballet, and works drawing on traditions falling out of favor in the 20th century, such as the cantata. Though he often put his own modern spin on the old modes of expression, he was an avowed neoclassicist who rejected atonality and formless wanderings, and he drew from great literature of the past for his vocal settings. He also wrote ten film scores for director Sacha Guitry.
Françaix's style is marked by lightness and wit (a stated goal of his was to "give pleasure"), as well as a conversational style of interplay between the musical lines. It changed little throughout his career; while he was influenced by composers he admired he integrated what he picked up into his own distinct aesthetic, which was already evident in his early works. He remained prolific throughout his life; even in 1981 he described himself as "constantly composing", barely finishing one piece before beginning another, and continued thus until his death in 1997.
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Xiang Gao -
Recognized as one of the world's most successful performing artists of his generation from the People's Republic of China, in 1994, Xiang became the first Chinese violinist to join the roster of Columbia Artists Management (Wilford/Tucker division) and began his professional solo career.
As a creative musician, Mr. Gao composes, arranges and performs in the styles of Jazz, Bluegrass, Asian folk, and South American music. He is a member of the renowned "China Magpie" ensemble established by Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, which combines the styles of all music from Chinese folk to western classical and rock music.
With his strong interest in theater and Asian traditional music, Xiang Gao created the acclaimed Butterfly Lovers Multimedia Violin Concerto, which recreates a popular ancient Chinese fairytale similar to "Romeo and Juliet" for the western world through the use of a modern orchestral or piano score (composed by Zhanhao He and Gang Chen), a solo violin, a synchronized visual presentation of ancient Chinese brush painting on screen and a dramatic reading (written by playwright Danny Peak) presented by two actors. This production was successfully premiered in the Grand Opera House of Wilmington, Delaware in 2004 and was most recently awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. Major orchestral debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra took place on February 17 of 2007. Xiang Gao is also the creator and producer of very creative and engaging "iMusic" productions which successfully humanizes classical music in multimedia violin concerts that brings the audience of all ages and performers together in ways people have not imagined.
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Phillip Glass 1937 –
He was born in 1937 and grew up in Baltimore. He studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland , Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble – seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer.The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. Or, to put it another way, it immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops. There has been nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 25 years, Glass has composed more than twenty operas, large and small; eight symphonies; two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defense secretary Robert McNamara; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
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Reinhold Moritzevich Glière 1875 – 1956
Glière was the second son of the wind instrument maker Ernst Moritz Glier (1834-1896) from Saxony, who emigrated to Kiev and married Józefa (Josephine) Korczak (1849-1935), the daughter of his master, from Warsaw (Poland). His original name, as given in his baptism certificate, was Reinhold Ernst Glier. About 1900 he changed the spelling and pronunciation of his surname to Glière, which gave rise to the legend, stated by Leonid Sabaneyev for the first time (1927), of his French or Belgian descent
He was born in Kiev. Glière entered the Kiev school of music in 1891, where he was taught violin by Otakar Ševčík, among others. In 1894 Glière entered the Moscow Conservatory where he studied with Sergei Taneyev (counterpoint), Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (composition), Jan Hřímalý (violin; he dedicated his Octet for Strings, Op. 5, to Hřímalý), Anton Arensky and Georgi Konjus (both harmony). He graduated in 1900, having composed a one-act opera 'Earth and Heaven' (after Lord Byron) and received a gold medal in composition. In the following year Glière accepted a teaching post at the Moscow Gnesin School of Music. Taneyev found two private pupils for him in 1902: Nikolai Myaskovsky and the eleven-year old Sergei Prokofiev, whom Glière taught on Prokofiev's parental estate Sontsovka.
n 1920 Glière moved to the Moscow Conservatory where he taught until 1941. For some years he held positions in the organization Proletkul't and worked with the People's Commissariat for Education. In 1923 Glière was invited by the Azerbaijan People's Commissariat of Education to come to Baku and compose the prototype of an Azerbaijani national opera. The result of his ethnographical research was the opera Shakh-Senem, now considered the cornerstone of the Soviet-Azerbaijan national opera tradition. In 1927, inspired by the ballerina Yekaterina Vasilievna Geltser (1876-1962), he wrote the music for the ballet Krasny mak (The Red Poppy), Perhaps this was his most famous work in Russia as well as abroad.
After 1917 Glière never visited the West as some other Soviet composers did. He gave concerts in Siberia and other remote areas of the Soviet Union instead. He was working in Uzbekistan as a "musical development helper" at the end of the 1930s.Before the revolution Glière had already been honoured three times with the Glinka prize. During his last few years he was very often awarded: Azerbaijan (1934), the Russian Soviet Republic (1936), Uzbekistan (1937) and the USSR (1938) appointed him Artist of the People. The title "Doctor of Art Sciences" was awarded to him in 1941. He won first degree Stalin Prizes: in 1946 (Concerto for Voice and Orchestra), 1948 (Fourth String Quartet), and 1950 (The Bronze Horseman).
Notwithstanding his political engagement after the October revolution Glière kept out of the ideological ditch war between the Association for Contemporary Music and the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians during the late 1920s. Glière concentrated primarily on composing monumental operas, ballets, and cantatas. His symphonic idiom, which combined broad Slavonic epics with cantabile lyricism, is governed by rich, colourful harmony, bright and well-balanced orchestral colours and perfect traditional forms. Obviously this secured his acceptance by Tsarist and Soviet authorities, at the same time creating resentment from many composers who suffered intensely under the Soviet regime. As the latter genuine representative of the pre-revolutionary national Russian school, i.e. as a 'living classic', Glière was immune to the standard reproach of "formalism" (mostly equivalent to "modernity" or "bourgeois decadence"). Thus the infamous events of 1936 and 1948 passed Glière by.
The concerti for harp, coloratura soprano, and horn, which attained popularity also in the West, have to be mentioned as 'virtuoso use music'. Nearly unexplored are Glière's educational compositions, his chamber works, piano pieces and songs from his time at the Moscow Gnesin School of Music.
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John Harbison 1938 –
Composer John Harbison is among America's most prominent artistic figures. He has received numerous awards and distinctions, including three of the most prestigious: the MacArthur Foundation's "genius" award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. Harbison has composed music for most of this country's premiere musical institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Los Angles Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Santa Fe and Aspen festivals. His works include four string quartets, five symphonies, a ballet, three operas, and numerous chamber and choral works.
Harbison's music is distinguished by its exceptional resourcefulness and expressive range. He is considered to be "original, varied, and absorbing - relatively easy for audiences to grasp and yet formal and complex enough to hold our interest through repeated hearings - his style boasts both lucidity and logic"(Fanfare). Harbison is also a gifted commentator on the art and craft of composition and was recognized in his student years as an outstanding poet (he wrote his own libretto for Gatsby). Today, he continues to convey, through the spoken word, the multiple meanings of contemporary composition.
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Joel Hoffman 1953 –
Born in Vancouver, Canada in 1953, Joel Hoffman received degrees from the University of Wales and the Juilliard School. He is part of a distinguished musical family that includes brothers Gary and Toby, cellist and conductor, and Deborah, harpist.. During the 1993-94 season, he served as composer-in-residence with the National Chamber Orchestra of Washington, DC and in 1991-92, he held the position of New Music Advisor for the Buffalo Philharmonic. He has been a resident composer at the Rockefeller, Camargo and Hindemith Foundations, the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. Hoffman is also an active pianist, having appeared as soloist with, among others, the Chicago Symphony, the Belgian Radio and T.V. Orchestra, the Costa Rica National Symphony and the Florida Orchestra. Hoffman's works draw from such diverse sources as Eastern European folk musics and bebop, and are pervaded by a sense of lyricism and rhythmic vitality. They have been performed by many ensembles such as the Chicago Symphony Brass, the BBC Orchestra of Wales, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, members of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Cleveland Quartet, the Shanghai Quartet, the Brentano Quartet and the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio.
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Leoš Janáček 1854 – 1928
A Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and all Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research and his early musical output was influenced by contemporaries such as Antonín Dvořák. His later, mature works incorporate his earlier studies of national folk music in a modern, highly original synthesis, first evident in the opera Jenůfa, which was premiered in 1904 in Brno. The success of Jenůfa (often called the "Moravian national opera") at Prague in 1916 gave Janáček access to the world's great opera stages. Janáček's later works are his most celebrated. They include the symphonic poem Sinfonietta, the oratorial Glagolitic Mass, the rhapsody Taras Bulba, string quartets, other chamber works and operas. He is considered to rank with Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, as one of the most important Czech composers
Born in Hukvaldy, Moravia, (then part of the Austrian Empire). He was a gifted child in a family of limited means, and showed an early musical talent in choral singing. His father wanted him to follow the family tradition, and become a teacher, but deferred to Janáček's obvious musical abilities. In 1865 young Janáček enrolled as a ward of the foundation of the Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno, where he took part in choral singing under Pavel Křížkovský and occasionally played the organ. Křížkovský found him a problematic and wayward student but recommended his entry to the Prague Organ School.
Janáček originally intended to study piano and organ but eventually devoted himself to composition. He wrote his first vocal compositions while choirmaster of the Svatopluk Artisan's Association (1873-76). In 1874 he enrolled at the Prague organ school, under František Skuherský and František Blažek. His student days in Prague were impoverished; with no piano in his room, he had to make do with a keyboard drawn on his tabletop.
From the early 1890s, Janáček led the mainstream of folklorist activity in Moravia and Silesia, using a repertoire of folksongs and dances in orchestral and piano arrangements. Most of his achievements in this field were published in 1899-1901 though his interest in folklore would be lifelong. His compositional work was still influenced by the declamatory, dramatic style of Smetana and Dvořák. He expressed very negative opinions on German neo-classicism and especially on Wagner in the Hudební listy journal, which he founded in 1884. The death of his second child, Vladimír, in 1890 was followed by an attempted opera, Beginning of the Romance and the cantata Amarus.
In the first decade of the 20th century Janáček composed choral church music including Otčenáš (Our Father), Constitutes and Ave Maria. In 1901 the first part of his piano cycle On an Overgrown Path was published, and gradually became one of his most frequently performed works.
Janáček's life in the first decade of the 20th century was complicated by personal and professional difficulties. He still yearned for artistic recognition from Prague. He destroyed some of his works - others remained unfinished. Nevertheless, he continued composing, and would create several remarkable choral, chamber, orchestral and operatic works. His fifth opera, Výlet pana Broučka do měsíce, composed from 1908 to 1917, has been characterized as the most "purely Czech in subject and treatment" of all Janáček's operas.
In 1925 he retired from teaching, but continued composing and was awarded the first honorary doctorate to be given by Masaryk University in Brno. In the spring of 1926 he created the monumental orchestral work Sinfonietta, which rapidly gained wide critical acclaim. In his later years, the still-active Janáček became an international celebrity. His operas and other works were finally performed at the world stages, though From the House of the Dead was first performed posthumously. In August 1928 he took an excursion to Štramberk with Kamila Stösslová and her son Otto, but caught a chill, which developed into pneumonia. He died on the 12th August 1928 in Ostrava. He was given a large public funeral, to music from the last scene of his Cunning Little Vixen, and was buried in the Field of Honour at the Central Cemetery, Brno.
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Aaron Jay Kernis 1960 –
Born in Philadelphia in 1960, Kernis, largely self taught on violin, piano, and composition, attended the San Francisco Conservatory, the Manhattan School of Music, and Yale University. His West to East coast trajectory is betrayed in the wild catholic range of his influences—everything from Gertrude Stein to hard-edged rap to the diaphanous musical canvas of Claude Debussy. Coming up when he did, in the 1980s and 90s, he took from what was around him — the disparate musics and the collapsing aesthetic streams — and, gathering influence from his broad swathe of teachers, forged a rich, distinctive, emotionally immediate music, neither "this" nor "that" but simply and clearly good. The brilliance of his work rests on the exuberant splay of his instrumental palette (even when writing solo or chamber music) crossed with a brooding, poetic depth cut in sharp relief: wild, visceral, violent passages against calm, prayer-like quietude.
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Aram Khachaturian 1903 - 1978
Born in Tiflis, Imperial Russia to a poor Armenian family. In his youth, he was fascinated by the music he heard around him, but at first he did not study music or learn to read it. In 1921 he travelled to Moscow to join his brother, the stage director of the Second Moscow Art Theatre. Although he had almost no musical education, Khachaturian showed such great talent that he was admitted to the Gnessin Institute where he studied cello under Sergey Bychkov, and later Andrey Borysyak. In 1925 Mikhail Gnessin started a composition class at the Gnessin Institute which Khachaturian joined.
In 1929, he transferred to the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1934. In the 1930s, he married the composer Nina Makarova, a fellow student. In 1951, he became professor at the Gnessin State Musical and Pedagogical Institute and the Moscow Conservatory. He also held important posts at the Composers' Union, becoming deputy chairman of the Moscow branch in 1937, then appointed vice-chairman of the Organizing Committee of Soviet Composers in 1939. He temporarily fell from grace in 1948 when he was severely denounced for writing “formalist” music, along with those of Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. These three composers by then had already become established as the so-called "titans" of Soviet music, enjoying worldwide reputation as some of the leading composers of the 20th century.
Khachaturian's works include concertos for violin, cello, and piano as well as concerto-rhapsodies for the same instruments. The piano concerto originally including an early part for the flexatone, and was his first work to gain him recognition in the West. The composer's largest scaled works are the ballets Spartacus and Gayane, both of which contain Khachaturian's most well-known music, with Gayane featuring in its final act what is easily his most famous music, the "Sabre Dance".
He also composed some film music and incidental music for plays such as the 1941 production of Mikhail Lermontov’s Masquerade, the orchestral suite of which has become relatively popular. The cinematic quality of his music for Spartacus was clearly seen when the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia was used as the theme for a popular BBC drama series. Since then, it has become one of the most popular of all classical pieces for UK audiences. Gayane's adagio was used in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey among other films. The climax of Spartacus was also used in Caligula (film) and Ice Age: The Meltdown.
Khachaturian died in Moscow on May 1, 1978, just short of his 75th birthday. He was buried in Yerevan, Armenia, along with other distinguished Armenians who made Armenian art accessible for the whole world. In 1998, he was honored by appearing on Armenian paper money (50 dram).
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Leon Kirchner 1919 – 2009
Kirchner was born in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at the University of California, Los Angeles with Ernest Bloch and Arnold Schoenberg. Kirchner began graduate studies with Bloch at the University of California, Berkeley but he served in the military and studied in New York with Roger Sessions before completing his degree. He was Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music at Harvard from 1961 to 1991.During his period in California, his piano teacher introduced him to the composer Ernst Toch. Kirchner also took a composition course with Schoenberg at the University of California at Los Angeles. Having won UCLA's highest musical award, the Prix de Paris, he had hoped to study in Europe, but was prevented from traveling because of the outbreak of war in Europe, and instead went to New York for private study with the composer Roger Sessions. Kirchner's musical style is highly influenced by Schoenberg though he did not employ the twelve-tone technique, preferring a generally linear chromatic language and irregular rhythms. He was awarded a Pulitzer prize for his String Quartet No. 3.
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Zoltan Kodaly 1882 – 1967
Born in Kecskemét, Kodály spent most of his childhood in Galanta and Nagyszombat. His father was a stationmaster and keen amateur musician, and Kodály learned to play the violin as a child. He also sang in a cathedral choir and wrote music, despite having little formal musical education. In 1900, Kodály entered the University of Budapest to study modern languages, and began to study music at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where Hans Koessler taught him composition.One of the first people to undertake the serious study of folk tales, Kodály became one of the most significant early figures in the field of ethnomusicology. In 1905 he visited remote villages to collect songs recording them on phonograph cylinders. In 1906 he wrote the thesis on Hungarian folk song ("Strophic Construction in Hungarian Folksong"). Around this time Kodály met fellow composer Béla Bartók, whom he took under his wing and introduced to some of the methods involved in folk song collecting. The two became lifelong friends and champions of each other's music.After gaining his PhD in philosophy and linguistics, Kodály went to Paris where he studied with Charles Widor. There he discovered and absorbed various influences, notably the music of Claude Debussy. In 1907 he moved back to Budapest and gained a professorship at the Academy of Music there. He continued his folk music-collecting expeditions through World War I without interruption.Kodály was very interested in the problems of music education, and wrote a large amount of material on music education methods as well as composing a large amount of music for children. Beginning in 1935 he embarked on a long term project to reform music teaching in the lower and middle schools. His work resulted in the publication of several highly influential books and he had a profound impact on musical education both inside and outside his home country. Some commentators refer to his ideas as the "Kodály Method", although this seems something of a misnomer, as he did not actually work out a comprehensive method, rather laying down a set of principles to follow in music education.
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Gabriel Mălăncioiu 1979-
His works have been performed in concerts in Romania and also in USA, Austria, Germany, Norway, Italy, Ireland and Hungary. "In statu nascendi" was selected to be played in a Vox Novus Composer's Voice concert by the clarinet virtuoso Bruce Curlette, and "Tat Tvam Asi" was selected by Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart to be played in Nuova Musica a Treviso Festival, together with ensemble L'arsenale. In 2012 he was member of the Artistic Committee of the "1st International Symposium of New Music and Computer Music", Curitiba (Brazil). He is member of SACEM - Société des Auteurs Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique, of UCMR - Romanian Union of Composers and of ISCM - International Society for Contemporary Music, the Romanian Section. Gabriel Mălăncioiu is currently teaching Musical Analysis at the West University of Timişoara, Faculty of Music.
Born in 1979 in Braşov (Romania), Gabriel Mălăncioiu graduated from “Andrei Saguna” National College from its native town in 1997. Between 1997 and 2002 he followed the courses of the Faculty of Automatics and Computers within the “Politehnica” University of Timişoara, and, in parallel, between 2000 and 2005 he also followed the courses of the Faculty of Music of Timişoara.
In 2001 he began the study of composition under the direction of Remus Georgescu, and in 2005 he began to attend the MA in composition within “Gheorghe Dima” Music Academy of Cluj, under the direction of Cornel Tãranu, PhD, member of the Romanian Academy. In 2011 he completed his PhD in composition with the thesis "Aspects of the sacred / profane relation in my own music" with summa cum laude distinction under the direction of Prof. Adrian Pop, PhD within “Gheorghe Dima” Music Academy.
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Has written a variety of instrumental and vocal works, including two operas and several pieces for orchestra. She was the subject of a March 2008 profile in Chamber Music Magazine written by Kyle Gann. Recent commissions include new works for Present Music (Milwaukee), Ethos Percussion Group, Friends School of Baltimore, and Monadnock Music. An octet for voice, six instruments and electronics inspired by the paintings of Paul Signac written for the Wet Ink Ensemble was premiered in July 2009.
Ms. Mallonée's quartet, Throwing Mountains, received an ASCAP/Morton Gould Young Composers prize in 2004 and has been performed numerous times by the New York-based group counter) induction as well as by the Da Capo Chamber Players and the Washington Square Chamber Players. Another chamber work, 'stain, composed in 2002 for pulsoptional, is featured on their debut CD and has been performed throughout the United States by Flexible Music. Recently, her solo piano piece, Pangrams, was performed by pianist Stephen Gosling at the 2009 Tribeca New Music Festival in New York City.
At age 14, Ms. Mallonée composed The Carolers at My Door, a Christmas carol that was selected by Garrison Keillor for broadcast on a "A Prairie Home Companion."
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Vladimir Martynov 1946 -
Vladimir Martynov is a leader of the generation of composers of the Soviet Union, born after World War II, who pursued avant-garde courses at a time when official disfavor of such styles brought severe penalties to career development, but did not carry the physical risks of earlier years in the USSR. He studied piano as a child and gained an interest in composition. He enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory where he studied piano under Mezhlumov and composition under Sidelnikov. He graduated in 1971.
He got a job in 1973 working at the studio for electronic music of the Scriabin Museum, it was a meeting ground for the avant-garde. Sofia Gubaidulina, Sergei Nemtin, Alfred Schnittke, and Edison Denisov were among the composers regularly working and meeting there. Martynov helped form a rock group called Boomerang at the Scriabin Studio. For them he wrote a rock opera, Seraphic Visions from St. Francis of Assisi.
He was a serious ethnomusicologist, studying the music of the Caucasian nations, Tajikistan, and various ethnic groups within Russia. He also studied medieval Russian and Western music and religious musical history and musicology. This was an acceptable field of study, but it also allowed him to study theology, philosophy, and religious history as a means to express his religious feelings.
He began studying early Russian religious chant in the late 1970s, and studied Renaissance music of such composers as Machaut, Gabrieli, Isaac, Dufay, and Dunstable, publishing editions of their music. He became interested in the brand of minimalism developing in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, a static, spiritually-inspired style without the shimmering pulse of American minimalism. The timeless quality of chants and the lack of a sense of bar lines in Renaissance polyphony entered into his version of minimalism.
At about this time, he began teaching at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, a Russian Orthodox institution located in Paris, where he has remained ever since. There was a period of consolidation in the early 1980s where he wrote music specifically tailored for use in church services, then resumed writing original music in his minimalist style. Among his works from this period is Come in! for violin and ensemble of 1988 which was performed by Gidon Kremer and by the composer's partner, Tatiana Grindenko.
One of his major compositions is a nearly hour-long piece called Opus Posthumum , devoted to the idea that "a man touches the truth twice. The first time is the first cry from a new born baby's lips and the last is the death rattle. Everything between is untruth to a greater or lesser extent." He also composed a much shorter Opus Prenatum and a work called Twelve Victories of King Arthur of Seven Pianos.
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Olivier Messiaen 1908 - 1992
A French composer, organist, and ornithologist. He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and numbered Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré among his teachers. He was appointed organist at the church of La Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post he held until his death. On the fall of France in 1940 Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, and while incarcerated he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments, piano, violin, cello, and clarinet. The piece was first performed by Messiaen and fellow prisoners for an audience of inmates and prison guards. Messiaen was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez and Yvonne Loriod (who later became Messiaen's second wife).
Messiaen's music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources), and is harmonically and melodically based on modes of limited transposition, which were Messiaen's own innovation. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", drawing on his unshakeable Roman Catholicism. He travelled widely, and he wrote works inspired by such diverse influences as Japanese music, the landscape of Bryce Canyon in Utah, and the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Messiaen experienced a mild form of synaesthesia manifested as a perception of colours when he heard certain harmonies, particularly harmonies built from his modes, and he used combinations of these colours in his compositions. For a short period Messiaen experimented with the parametrization associated with "total serialism", in which field he is often cited as an innovator. His style absorbed many exotic musical influences such as Indonesian gamelan (tuned percussion often features prominently in his orchestral works), and he also championed the ondes Martenot.
Messiaen found birdsong fascinating; he believed birds to be the greatest musicians and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer. He notated birdsongs worldwide, and he incorporated birdsong transcriptions into a majority of his music. His innovative use of colour, his personal conception of the relationship between time and music, his use of birdsong, and his intent to express religious ideas all combine to make Messiaen's musical style notably distinctive.
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Darius Milhaud 1892 – 1974
Born in Marseilles to a Jewish family from Aix-en-Provence, Milhaud studied in Paris at the Paris Conservatory where he met his fellow group members Arthur Honegger and Germaine Tailleferre. He studied composition under Charles Widor and harmony and counterpoint with André Gédalge. He also studied privately with Vincent d'Indy. As a young man he worked for a while in the diplomatic entourage of Paul Claudel, the eminent poet and dramatist, who was serving as French ambassador to Brazil.
On a trip to the United States in 1922, Darius Milhaud heard "authentic" jazz for the first time, on the streets of Harlem, which left a great impact on his musical outlook. The following year, he completed his composition "La création du monde" ("The Creation of the World"), using ideas and idioms from jazz, cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.
He left France in 1939 and emigrated to America in 1940. He secured a teaching post at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he collaborated with Henri Temianka and the Paganini Quartet. Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck arguably became Milhaud's most famous student. However, his former students also include two of the seminal figures in America's version of minimalism, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and popular songwriter Burt Bacharach. Milhaud told Bacharach, "Don't be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don't ever feel discomfited by a melody".
Milhaud was an extremely rapid creator, for whom the art of writing music seemed almost as natural as breathing. From 1947 to 1971 he taught alternate years at Mills and the Paris Conservatoire, until poor health, which caused him to use a wheelchair during his later years (beginning sometime before 1947), compelled him to retire. He died in Geneva, aged 81.
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David Ott 1947 -
Born in Crystal Falls, Michigan, Ott's works include four symphonies, an opera (The Widows Lantern), the Annapolis Overture, written for the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, and various pieces of children's music. He has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music (four times) and the Grammies (twice). The premiere of his Concerto for Two Cellos and Orchestra, performed by the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Mstislav Rostropovich, gained Ott the 1988 nomination. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1969. He received his Master's degree at Indiana University, and his PhD. in music at the University of Kentucky.
Ott has served on the faculties of Houghton College in New York, Pfeiffer College in North Carolina, and DePauw University in Indiana, being honored as Outstanding Professor at two of these institutions. He also held the appointment of Pace Eminent Scholar and Composer in Residence at the University of West Florida. David Ott was the founder (2001) and director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Northwest Florida, until it disbanded in 2008.
Ott's opera, The Widow's Lantern, premiered September 25, 2009, and was performed by the Pensacola Opera. After the premiere, Dr. Ott was seriously injured when he fell 14 feet into the basement below the orchestra pit. His newest work, Symphony No. 5, premiered with the Reston Community Orchestra (Reston, Virginia) on November 22, 2009.
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Arvo Part 1935 –
Began writing contemporary atonal, dissonant, a la mode music, then went through a spiritual renovation for about eight years and came back in 1976 writing Renaissance-influenced music (ergo entirely tonal, and generally diametric in approach compared to his previous compositions) of ex- treme simplicity and beauty, via distinct methods. Some of his best-known compositions are `Te Deum', `Fratres', `Summa' for strings, `Festina Lente', `Miserere', and `Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten'. Christianity has clearly profoundly affected Pärt, as his second-period music evinces.
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Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc 1899 - 1963
Born in Paris in 1899. His mother, an amateur pianist, taught him to play and music formed a part of family life. He was a capable pianist and the keyboard dominated his early compositions. Later in his life, the loss of close friends, coupled with a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, led him to rediscover the Roman Catholic faith and resulted in compositions of a more sombre, austere tone.
Poulenc was a featured pianist in recordings, including some of his own songs. He supervised the 1961 world premiere recording of his Gloria, which was conducted by Georges Prêtre. Among Poulenc's last series of major works is a series of works for wind instruments and piano. He was particularly fond of woodwinds, and planned a set of sonatas for all of them, yet only lived to complete four: sonatas for flute, oboe, clarinet, and the Elégie for horn.
Poulenc died of heart failure in Paris in 1963 and is buried at the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise in Paris.
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Sergey Prokofiev 1891 – 1953
Born in Sontsovka, an isolated rural estate in Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. He displayed unusual musical abilities by the age of five. His first piano composition to be written down (by his mother), an 'Indian Gallop', was in the Lydian mode (F major with a B natural instead of B flat) as the young Prokofiev felt 'reluctance to tackle the black notes. By the age of seven he had also learned to play chess. Much like music, chess would remain a passion his entire life, and he became acquainted with world chess champions José Raúl Capablanca and Mikhail Botvinnik.At the age of nine he was composing his first opera, The Giant, as well as an overture and miscellaneous pieces.After a while, Prokofiev's mother felt that the isolation in Sontsovka was restricting his further musical development. In 1904 he applied to the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. By this point Prokofiev had composed two more operas, Desert Islands and The Feast during the Plague and was working on his fourth, Undine. Upon graduation, he spent time composing in San Francisco, Paris, and Bavaria, finally settling in Paris for many years. Prokofiev's return to the Soviet Union took several years -- from 1933 to 1936 he still considered Paris his home, but he frequently traveled to Moscow. Prokofiev did not become a permanent Moscow resident until 1936.
This period between Paris and Moscow is marked by a number of new works, the most important of which were the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and the Second Violin Concerto. By this time, all of Prokofiev's commissions were coming from within the Soviet Union. He had moved permanently to his Moscow apartment and in May of 1936 his wife Lina arrived with his children Oleg and Sviatoslav. The return to Moscow now completed, Soviet officials no longer afforded Prokofiev special treatment.Initially, Prokofiev at least publicly embraced the Soviet ideology. He composed the monumental Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution in 1936-37, and the Zdravitsa (Hail to Stalin) Cantata in 1939. The 20th Anniversary Cantata was rejected as too modernist and never performed during Prokofiev's lifetime. Prokofiev again tried to tow the party line in the summer of 1938 when he began a new opera; Semyon Kotko, the story of a young hero during the occupation of Ukraine by the Germans after the revolution. The Germans were the villains of the story -- a wrinkle which unbeknownst to Prokofiev would doom the work to an ugly fate.Even more detrimental to Prokofiev's fortunes, the Soviet Union's rapprochement with Germany severed ties with France, Great Britain, the United States, and the rest of the Allies. As a consequence, there was no longer any need to let Prokofiev travel abroad as an ambassador of music. And so it was decreed. Prokofiev no longer was allowed to tour outside the Soviet Union.
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Shulamit Ran 1949 –
Ms. Ran began composing songs to Hebrew poetry at the age of seven in her native Israel. By nine she was studying composition and piano with some of Israel's most noted musicians, including composers Alexander U. Boskovich and Paul Ben-Haim, and within several years was having her early works performed by professional musicians, as well as orchestras. She continued her piano and composition studies in the U.S., on scholarships form the Mannes College of Music in New York and the America Israel Cultural Foundation, with Nadia Reisenberg and Norman Dello Joio, respectively, later studying piano with Dorothy Taubman. In 1973 she joined the faculty of the University of Chicago, where she is now the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music and artistic director of Contempo, formerly the Contemporary Chamber Players. She lists her late colleague and friend Ralph Shapey, with whom she also studied in 1977, as an important mentor.
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Max Reger 1873 - 1916
Born in Brand, Bavaria, Reger studied music in Munich and Wiesbaden with Hugo Riemann. From September 1901 he settled in Munich, where he obtained concert offers and where his rapid rise to fame began. During his first Munich season, Reger appeared in ten concerts as an organist, chamber pianist and accompanist. He continued to compose without interruption. From 1907 he worked in Leipzig, where he was music director of the university until 1908 and professor of composition at the conservatory until his death. It was during one of his weekly trips to Leipzig in 1916, to teach at the Conservatory, that he died of a heart attack at age 43. He was also active internationally as a conductor and pianist in that period of time. Among his students there were Joseph Haas, Jaroslav Kvapil, Ruben Liljefors, and George Szell.
During a composing life of little more than 25 years, Reger produced an enormous output, nearly always in abstract forms, although few of his compositions are well known today. Many of his works are fugues or in variation form, including what is probably his best known orchestral work, the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart (based on the opening theme of Mozart's Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331). He also wrote a large amount of music for organ, including the Fantasy and Fugue on BACH. He was particularly attracted to the fugal form his entire life. Once he remarked: "Other people write fugues - I live inside them". He created music in almost every genre, opera and the symphony being the two exceptions.
A firm supporter of absolute music, he saw himself as being part of the tradition of Beethoven and Brahms. His work often combines the classical structures of these composers with the extended harmonies of Liszt and Wagner, to which he added the complex counterpoint of Bach. His organ music, though also influenced by Liszt, was provoked by that tradition..
His works could be considered retrospective as they followed classical and baroque compositional techniques such as fugue and continuo. The influence of the latter can be heard in his chamber works which are deeply reflective and unconventional.
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Maarten Retien born 1963
Regtien studied musicology at the Universities of Utrecht and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
In 1988 he graduated on contemporary experimental music with a thesis on Penderecki's "Threnos".
He wrote 10 stringquartets, two large orchestra works and a number of smaller works.The music he liked to write in general was regarded as 'too modern.'
Not wanting to compromise however on this for him so important part of life the decision was made to a earn a living with a not-musical career and to compose in spare time.
As Mr.Charles Ives (a great influence and admired by the composer) once stated: "If a composer has a nice wife and some nice children, how can he let the children starve on his dissonances?"
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George Rochberg 1918 - 2005
Rochberg was born in Paterson, New Jersey. He attended the Mannes College of Music, where his teachers included George Szell and Hans Weisse, and the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Rosario Scalero and Gian Carlo Menotti.
After a long period of composition using the technique of serialism, Rochberg finally abandoned it upon the death of his teenage son in 1964, saying that serialism was empty of expressive emotion and was inadequate to express his grief and rage. By the seventies he had become controversial for the use of tonal passages in his music. His use of tonality first became widely known through the String Quartet No. 3 (1972), which includes an entire set of variations that are in the style of late Beethoven. Marc-Antonio Barone said of Rochberg, "He brought the same rigor, the same intensity, the same craftsmanship to his work in the most conservative sounding tonal idioms as he did to his most ultramodern, 12-tone composing. It was all about what in the human condition he was trying to express."
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Ned Rorem 1923 –
American composer most noted for being a prolific composer of songs based on a world-wide source of poetry. His songs based on American poetry are intuitively beautiful, ie. those based on poems of Walt Whitman, Paul Goodman, Theodore Roethke and Frank O'Hara.
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Christopher Rouse 1949 –
Attended Oberlin Conservatory where he studied with Richard Hoffmann and graduated with Bachelor's degree in Composition. Began private lessons with George Crumb in Philadelphia in 1971. Completed graduate program in composition at Cornell University where he earned Masters and Doctoral degrees under teacher Karel Husa. Joined composition faculty at Eastman School of Music in 1981.
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Esa-Pekka Salonen 1958 –
Born in Helsinki, Finland, studied horn and composition at the Sibelius Academy, as well as conducting with Jorma Panula. Later, Salonen studied with the composers Franco Donatoni, Niccolò Castiglioni and Einojuhani Rautavaara.His first experience with conducting came in 1979 with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, though he still thought of himself principally as a composer; in fact, Salonen has said that the primary reason he took up conducting was to ensure that someone would conduct his own compositions. In 1983, however, he replaced an indisposed Michael Tilson-Thomas to conduct a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London at very short notice without ever having studied the score before that time, and it launched his career as a conductor.
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Somei Satoh 1947 -
In the post-Takemitsu era, Somei Satoh has steadily been gaining notoriety as one of Japan's most internationally celebrated and significant composers of contemporary traditional music (gendai hogaku). A largely self-taught musician, he came to the technical elements of music not from the usual perspective of western proportions and balance of harmony, counterpoint and orchestration, but rather from a deep understanding of the philosophies of Shinto and Zen Buddhist beliefs. This background reveals a music that delights in the world of infinite spaces and suspended time. His works are fragile in their clarity and simplicity, but are not simplistic or facile. His work represents a kind of sculptural minimalism infused with the lyrical sense of Romanticism.
He studied at Nihon University of Art in the early 1970s and is essentially an autodidact in composition. He wrote his violin concerto for Anne Akiko Meyers.
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Alfred Garyevich Schnittke 1934 – 1998
Alfred Schnittke was born in Engels in the Volga-German Republic of the RSFSR, Soviet Union. He began his musical education in 1946 in Vienna where his father, a journalist and translator, had been posted. It was in Vienna, Schnittke's biographer Alexander Ivashkin writes, where "he fell in love with music which is part of life, part of history and culture, part of the past which is still alive.". "I felt every moment there," the composer wrote, "to be a link of the historical chain: all was multi-dimensional; the past represented a world of ever-present ghosts, and I was not a barbarian without any connections, but the conscious bearer of the task in my life." Schnittke's experience in Vienna "gave him a certain spiritual experience and discipline for his future professional activities. It was Mozart and Schubert, not Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, whom he kept in mind as a reference point in terms of taste, manner and style. This reference point was essentially Classical ... but never too blatant."
In 1948, the family moved to Moscow. He completed his graduate work in composition at the Moscow Conservatory in 1961 and taught there from 1962 to 1972. Evgeny Golubev was one of his composition teachers. Thereafter, he supported himself mainly by composing film scores and composed nearly 70 scores in 30 years. Schnittke converted to Christianity and possessed deeply held mystic beliefs which influenced his music.
Schnittke was often the target of the Soviet bureaucracy. His First Symphony was effectively banned by the Composers' Union, and after he abstained from a Composers' Union vote in 1980, he was banned from travelling outside of the USSR. In 1985, Schnittke suffered a stroke which left him in a coma. He was declared clinically dead on several occasions, but recovered and continued to compose. In 1990, Schnittke left Russia and settled in Hamburg. His health remained poor, however, and he suffered several more strokes before his death on August 3, 1998 in Hamburg. He was buried, with state honors, at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow in which lie many other famous Russian composers, including Shostakovich.
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Joseph Schwantner 1943 -
Known for his dramatic and unique style and as a gifted orchestral colorist, Joseph Schwantner is one of the most prominent American composers today. He received his musical and academic training at the Chicago Conservatory and Northwestern University and has served on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, and the Yale School of Music, simultaneously establishing himself as a sought after composition instructor. Schwantner's compositional career has been marked by many awards, grants, and fellowships, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his orchestral composition Aftertones of Infinity and several Grammy nominations. Among his many commissions is his Percussion Concerto, which was commissioned for the 150th anniversary season of the New York Philharmonic and is one of the most performed concert works of the past decade. Schwantner is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Schwantner’s recent commissions include works for the 75th anniversary of the National Symphony Orchestra, eighth blackbird, Flute Force, a work for flute and piano to honor flutist, Sam Baron’s memory and a Concerto for Percussion Section, Timpani and Orchestra for the Percussive Arts Society and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, for the Society’s 50th anniversary.
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Bright Sheng 1955 –
Bright Sheng is respected as one of the foremost composers of our time, whose stage, orchestral, chamber and vocal works are performed regularly throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Sheng's music is noted for its lyrical and limpid melodies, a Shostakovich sense of breath in music phrases, a Bartokian sense of rhythmic propulsion, and dramatic and theatrical gestures. Many of Sheng's works has strong Chinese and Asian influences, a result of his diligent study of Asian musical cultures for over three decades. He was proclaimed by the MacArthur Foundation in 2001 as "an innovative composer who merges diverse musical customs in works that transcend conventional aesthetic boundaries." The Foundation predicts that "Bright Sheng will continue to be an important leader in exploring and bridging musical traditions."
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Dmitri Shostakovich 1906 - 1975
Shostakovich achieved fame in the Soviet Union under the patronage of Leon Trotsky's chief of staff Mikhail Tukhachevsky, but later had a complex and difficult relationship with the Stalinist bureaucracy. His music was officially denounced twice, in 1936 and 1948, and was periodically banned. Yet he also received accolades and state awards and served in the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. Despite the official controversy, his works were popular and well received.
After a period influenced by Prokofiev and Stravinsky, Shostakovich developed hybrid style, as exemplified by his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. This single work juxtaposed a wide variety of trends, including the neo-classical style (showing the influence of Stravinsky) and post-Romanticism (after Mahler). Sharp contrasts and elements of the grotesque characterize much of his music. Shostakovich's orchestral works include 15 symphonies and six concerti. His music for chamber ensembles includes 15 string quartets, a piano quintet and two piano trios. For the piano he composed two solo sonatas, an early set of preludes, and a later set of 24 preludes and fugues. Other works include two operas, and a substantial quantity of film music.
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Elie Siegmeister 1909 - 1991
Studied composition at Columbia College with Seth Bingham and later with Wallingford Riegger. Went to Paris in 1927 and studied with Nadia Boulanger. Formed the American Ballad Singers in 1939 and toured with them as their conductor. Rouse is commonly referred to as a neo-romantic composer, as many of his works attempt to combine diatonicism with more contemporary musical idioms. He has been praised for his orchestration skills, particularly with percussion
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Stanley Silverman 1938 -
Stanley Silverman was born in New York City and attended The High School of Performing Arts. He was, in fact, the model for Bruno in the film, Fame. His early influences included an encounter with comedian Jerry Lewis, who he met through his mother, a card playing cohort of Lewis' mother Rae. Silverman credits Lewis' influence for his sense of mischief, a trait that is prevalent in his musical personality to this day.
After graduation he pursued a career as a concert guitarist performing frequently with The New York Philharmonic, The Boston Symphony, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and at festivals such as Marlboro and Ojai, working with Bernstein, Boulez, Foss, and Schuller before turning his attention to composing full time.
As a guitarist Silverman specialized in new music, performing and recording many premieres. As a composer he was part of a group of composer-performers led by Charles Wuorinen in New York.
Silverman taught at Tanglewood during the 1960s and in 1965 was appointed music director of The Lincoln Center Repertory Theater before joining Canada's Stratford Festival at the invitation of Glenn Gould. There he composed music for the Shakespeare plays working primarily with directors Michael Langham and John Hirsch. Major performances during this era included the Monday Evening Concerts, founded by Stravinsky in Los Angeles, and the ORTF radio (France Musique), Paris. In 1968 Silverman began collaborating with playwright/director Richard Foreman resulting in several works of music-theatre. During the 1980s Silverman enjoyed a brief and successful directing career. Recently, while devoting full time to composing, he became a consultant to Reveille TV.
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Igor Stravinsky 1882 – 1971
Widely acknowledged as one of the most important and influential composers of 20th century music. Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev and performed by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. The Rite of Spring, whose premiere provoked a riot, transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure, and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary, pushing the boundaries of musical design.After this first Russian phase Stravinsky turned to neoclassicism in the 1920s. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue, symphony), frequently concealed a vein of intense emotion beneath a surface appearance of detachment or austerity, and often paid tribute to the music of earlier masters, for example J. S. Bach and Tchaikovsky.In the 1950s he adopted serial procedures, using the new techniques over his last twenty years. Stravinsky's compositions of this period share traits with all of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form, of instrumentation, and of utterance.
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Tōru Takemitsu 1930 – 1996
A Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Though largely self-taught, Takemitsu is recognised for his skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre, drawing from a wide range of influences, including jazz, popular music, avant-garde procedures and traditional Japanese music, in a harmonic idiom largely derived from the music of Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen.
Tōru Takemitsu was born in Tokyo on October 8, 1930; a month later his family moved to Dalian in the Chinese province then known as Manchuria. He returned to Japan to attend elementary school, but his education was cut short by military conscription in 1944. Takemitsu described his experience of military service at such a young age, under the Japanese Nationalist government, as "...extremely bitter". Takemitsu first became really conscious of Western classical music (which was banned in Japan during the war) during his term of military service, in the form of a popular French Song ("Parlez-moi d'amour") which he listened to with colleagues in secret, played on a gramophone with a makeshift needle fashioned from bamboo.
Despite his almost complete lack of musical training, and taking inspiration from what little Western music he had heard, Takemitsu began to compose in earnest at the age of 16. Though he studied briefly with Yasuji Kiyose beginning in 1948, Takemitsu remained largely self-taught throughout his musical career.
In the late 1950s chance brought Takemitsu international attention: his Requiem for string orchestra was heard by Igor Stravinsky in 1958 during his visit to Japan. (The NHK had organised opportunities for Stravinsky to listen to some of the latest Japanese music; when Takemitsu's work was put on by mistake, Stravinsky insisted on hearing it to the end.) At a press conference later, Stravinsky expressed his admiration for the work, praising its "sincerity" and "passionate" writing. Stravinsky subsequently invited Takemitsu to lunch; and for Takemitsu this was an "unforgettable" experience. After Stravinsky returned to the U.S., Takemitsu soon received a commission for a new work from the Koussevitsky Foundation which, he assumed, had come as a suggestion from Stravinsky to Aaron Copland. For this he composed Dorian Horizon, which was premièred by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Copland.
He was the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and honours; he composed over one hundred film scores and about one hundred and thirty concert works for ensembles of various sizes and combinations. He also found time to write a detective novel and appeared frequently on Japanese television as a celebrity chef.
Boris Tchaikovsky 1925-1996
Boris Alexandrovich Tchaikovsky graduated from Moscow Conservatory in 1949. Studied composition with Vissarion Shebalin, Dmitry Shostakovich and Nikolai Miaskovsky, on a class of piano with Lev Oborin. The Peoples Artist of USSR, Laureate of the USSR State Premium. Professor of Academy of Music after Gnessins.
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Georg Tintner 1917 - 1999
As a child he was a singer in the Vienna Boys' Choir, directed by Franz Schalk. At the Vienna State Academy he studied composition with Joseph Marx and conducting with Felix Weingartner. Soon he was assistant conductor of the Vienna Volksoper.
Due to the persecution of Jews, Tintner moved out of Vienna in 1938, arriving in Auckland, New Zealand in 1940. He conducted a church choir until after the war, when he took over the Auckland Choral Society in 1947, and the Auckland String Players in 1948. He became a New Zealand citizen in 1946. In 1954, he went to Australia and became resident conductor of the National Opera of Australia before joining the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera. Tintner is credited with pioneering televised opera in Australia.
He spent a year with the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra and three years with Sadler's Wells Opera before returning to Australia as Music Director of the West Australian Opera. In 1974, he rejoined the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera, by then known as the Australian Opera. He became Music Director of the Queensland Theatre Orchestra in 1976.
In 1987 he moved to Canada, where he became director of Symphony Nova Scotia. In 1998, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. On 2 October 1999, after a six-year struggle with cancer, he jumped to his death from the balcony of his 11th-storey Halifax apartment.
Tintner was described as "one of the greatest living Bruckner conductors." He recorded a much-praised complete cycle of Bruckner symphonies for the Naxos CD label shortly before the end of his life. Naxos is releasing a "Tintner Memorial Edition" comprising re-releases of some of his earlier recordings of composers other than Bruckner. A disc of Tintner's piano music has also been released by the same label, valuably revealing a side of the man long-forgotten since his student days.
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George Tsontakis 1951 -
Tsontakis studied composition with Hugo Weisgall and Roger Sessions at Juilliard School from 1974 to 1978, and later with Franco Donatoni at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. His music has been performed and broadcast by major orchestras, chamber ensembles, and festivals throughout North and South America, Europe and Japan. Tsontakis was honored with the "Academy Award" in 1995 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2002 he received a Vilar Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, and the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for his Violin Concerto No. 2 in 2005. Pianist Stephen Hough's recording of Tsontakis's "Ghost Variations" on Hyperion Records was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and was cited by Time magazine as the only classical recording among its 1998 Top Ten Recordings.
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George Walker 1922 -
The first black to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He received the Pulitzer for his work Lilacs in 1996. Walker was first exposed to music at the age of five when he began to play the piano. He was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory at 14, and later to the Curtis Institute of Music to study piano with Rudolf Serkin, chamber music with William Primrose and Gregor Piatigorsky, and composition with Rosario Scalero, teacher of Samuel Barber. He received his doctorate from the Eastman School of Music.Walker's first major orchestral work was the Address for Orchestra. His Lyric for Strings is his most performed orchestral work. He has composed many works including 5 sonatas for piano, a mass, cantata, many songs, choral works, organ pieces, sonatas for cello and piano, violin and piano and viola and piano, a brass quintet and a woodwind quintet. He has published over 90 works. He has received commissions from the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and many other ensembles. He is the recipient of six honorary doctoral degrees.
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Chen Yi 1953 -
A Chinese composer of contemporary classical music. She was the first Chinese woman to receive a Master of Arts (M.A.) in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. She is also a violinist. Chen grew up in Guangzhou, China, into a talented family. Her parents were doctors and musicians; her mother played the piano, and her father the violin. Her older sister was a child prodigy, and even today Chen's older sister and younger brother work as professional musicians in China. Chen began studying piano at the age of three, studying the music of Western composers such as Bach and Mozart. However, once the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, Western influences were severely shunned and the arts were attacked. For ten years, education came to a halt and people were relocated to work in large communes in countryside. Chen's father and older sister were the first to be sent away, but Chen managed to hide in her hometown a while longer, and continued to practice music, but with some impediments: she was forced to stuff a blanket inside her piano in order to dampen the sound, and play her violin with a mute. At age fifteen, she could hide no more. Her house was searched, her possessions were taken, and the rest of her family was dispersed to different locations to perform compulsory labor in the countryside.Chen used her time spent laboring in the countryside to learn and appreciate the Chinese folk culture. Her connection with Chinese music would prove a useful tool in finding her own voice for her musical compositions in later life. At age seventeen, she returned to Guangzhou and began working as concertmaster in the orchestra of the Beijing Opera Troupe in Guangzhou.
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Man-Ching Donald Yu 1980 -
Has composed over hundreds original works which have been actively performed internationally. The stylistic traits of his recent works are characterized by the intermingling of the expressive and lyrical language of atonality, stylistic diatonicism with new tonality, and Chinese color while sometimes blending with micro-polyphonic musical materials. Yu studied piano, composition, and conducting at an early age, and at the age of 16 he made his debut twice as a piano soloist with Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra and also earned a Licentiate Diploma (L.R.S.M.) in piano performance from the Royal Schools of Music. He earned his B.M. degree in piano performance and composition from Baylor University, US. Later he furthered his composition study at the Universitaet Mozarteum Salzburg and earned his Ph.D. in composition and music theory at Hong Kong Baptist University. Yu's compositional oeuvre ranges from chamber, vocal, electroacoustic, and Chinese instrumental works to opera, concerti, and choral and symphonic works. His works have been featured at various festivals and venues throughout the North and South America, Europe, and Asia such as the 17th International Festival of Modern Arts: Two Days and Two Nights of New Music at the Odessa Philharmonic Theater, the 2012 Delhi International Arts Festival, the 7th Malta International Spring Festival at the Manoel Theatre, the 2007 International Summer Academy Mozarteum, the Chernivtsi Philharmonic Hall, the Lugansk Philharmonic Hall, and the Tchaikovsky National Academy of Music, etc. Yu has also received commissions and/or performances from the Lugansk Academic Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chernivtsi Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, the Opera Hong Kong Chorus, the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir, the Hong Kong Youth Choir, and the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra. Apart from mainly being a composer, Yu remains active as a versatile performer. As a pianist, he played a diverse repertoire and collaborated with numerous instrumentalists and vocalists. In addition, Yu has been recently appearing as a conductor.
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Isang Yun 1917 - 1995
Yun was born in Chungmu (now Tongyeong, South Korea) in 1917, the son of renowned poet Yun Ki-hyon. He began writing music at the age of 14, and began studying music formally two years later, in 1933. He studied at the Osaka Conservatory, and composition under Tomojiro Ikenouchi in Tokyo from 1938. After Japan entered World War II, he moved back to Korea and participated in the Korean independence movement. He was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese in 1943.
After the war, he did welfare work, establishing an orphanage for war orphans, and teaching music in Tongyeong and Busan. After the armistice ceasing hostilities in the Korean War in 1953, he began teaching at the Seoul National University. He received the Seoul City Culture Award in 1955, and traveled to Europe the following year to finish his musical studies.
In Paris and West Berlin, he studied contemporary music under Pierre Revel, Boris Blacher, Josef Rufer, and Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling. He attended the International Summer Courses of Contemporary Music in Darmstadt. His music was recognized for its fusion of East Asian and Western classical musical traditions. The premiere of his oratorio Om mani padme hum in 1965 and Réak in 1966 gave him international renown.
He first visited North Korea in 1963, and returned there several times after 1979, and promoted the idea of a joint concert featuring musicians from both Koreas, which finally took place in 1990. Yun settled in West Berlin in 1964, and, in 1967, became involved in the East Berlin spy incident. On June 17, he was kidnapped by the South Korean secret police, along with his wife I Soo-ja and many Korean students in West Berlin. He was taken to Seoul, condemned for espionage and sentenced to life imprisonment. A worldwide petition led by Igor Stravinsky and Herbert von Karajan was presented to the South Korean government, signed by approximately 200 artists. Yun I-sang was released and exiled in 1969, returning to West Berlin. He was not allowed to visit South Korea again.
He taught at the Hanover Academy of Music for a year, and was Professor of Composition at the Hochschule der Künste in West Berlin from 1970 to 1985. He attained German citizenship in 1971. From 1973 he began participating in organizations and conferences in Japan and the United States calling for the democratization of South Korea, and the reunification of the country.
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Ellen Taafe Zwilich 1939 -
The first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Her early works are marked by atonal exploration, but by the late 1980s she had matured to a post-modernist, neo-romantic style. She has been called "one of America's most frequently played and genuinely popular living composers.
Zwilich began her studies as a violinist, earning a B.M. from Florida State University in 1960. She moved to New York to play with the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski. She later enrolled at Juilliard, eventually becoming the first woman to earn the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in composition. Her teachers included John Boda, Elliott Carter, and Roger Sessions. She first came to prominence when Pierre Boulez programmed her Symposium for Orchestra with the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra in 1975. Some of her work during this period was written for her husband, violinist Joseph Zwilich. He died in 1979, after which point Taaffe Zwilich refocused her compositional efforts on "communicating more directly with performers and listeners," softening her somewhat harsh, jagged style. Her Three Movements for Orchestra (Symphony No. 1) was premiered by the American Symphony Orchestra in 1982, and it won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, after which point her popularity and income from commissions ensured that she could devote herself to composing full-time. From 1995-99 she was the first occupant of the Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall; while there, she created the "Making Music" concert series, which focuses on performances and lectures by living composers, a series which is still in existence
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