Foss (real name, Fuchs), Lukas
Foss (real name, Fuchs), Lukas
Foss (real name, Fuchs), Lukas, brilliant German-born American pianist, conductor, and composer; b. Berlin, Aug. 15, 1922. He was a scion of a cultural family; his father was a prof. of philosophy and his mother was a talented painter. He studied piano and theory with Julius Goldstein-Herford in Berlin. When the dark shadow of the Nazi dominion descended upon Germany in 1933, the family prudently moved to Paris; there Foss studied piano with Lazare Levy, composition with Noel Gallon, and orchestration with Felix Wolfes. He also took flute lessons with Louis Moyse. In 1937 he went to the U.S. and enrolled at the Curtis Inst. of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied piano with Vengerova, composition with Scalero, and conducting with Reiner; in 1939–0 he took a course in advanced composition with Hindemith at Yale Univ., and also studied conducting with Koussevitzky at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood (summers, 1939–3). He became a naturalized American citizen in 1942. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1945; in 1960 he received his 2nd Guggenheim fellowship. His first public career was that of a concert pianist, and he elicited high praise for his appearances as soloist with the N.Y. Phil, and other orchs. He made his conducting debut with the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch. in 1939. From 1944 to 1950 he was pianist of the Boston Sym. Orch.; then traveled to Rome on a Fulbright fellowship (1950–52). From 1953 to 1962 he taught composition at the Univ. of Calif, at Los Angeles, where he also established the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble to perform music of “controlled improvisation,” In 1963 he was appointed music director of the Buffalo Phil; during his tenure, he introduced ultramodern works, much to the annoyance of some regular subscribers; he resigned his position in 1970. In 1971 he became principal conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonia; also established the series “Meet the Moderns” there. From 1972 to 1975 he conducted the Jerusalem Sym. Orch. He became music director of the Milwaukee Sym. Orch. in 1981; relinquished his position in 1986 after a tour of Europe, and was made its conductor laureate; continued to hold his Brooklyn post until 1990. In 1986 he was the Mellon Lecturer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In 1962 he was elected a member of the National Inst. of Arts and Letters. He was elected a member of the American Academy and Inst. of Arts and Letters in 1983. Throughout the years, he evolved an astounding activity as conductor, composer, and lately college instructor, offering novel ideas in education and performance. As a composer, he traversed a protean succession of changing styles, idioms, and techniques. His early compositions were marked by the spirit of Romantic lyricism, adumbrating the musical language of Mahler; some other works reflected the neo-Classical formulas of Hindemith; still others suggested the hedonistic vivacity and sophisticated stylization typical of Stravinsky’s productions. But the intrinsic impetus of his music was its “pulse,” which evolves the essential thematic content into the substance of original projection. His earliest piano pieces were publ. when he was 15 years old; there followed an uninterrupted flow of compositions in various genres. Foss was fortunate in being a particular protege of Koussevitzky, who conducted many of his works with the Boston Sym. Orch.; and he had no difficulty in finding other performers. As a virtuoso pianist, he often played the piano part in his chamber music, and he conducted a number of his symphonic and choral works.
DRAMATIC Opera : The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1949; Bloomington, Ind., May 18, 1950); Griffelkin (1953–55; NBC-TV, Nov. 6, 1955); Introductions andGoodbyes (1959; N.Y., May 7, 1960). B a 1 1 e t : The Heart Remembers (1944); Within These Walls (1944); Gift of the Magi (1944; Boston, Oct. 5, 1945). I n c i d e n t a l M u s i c To: Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1939–0; N.Y., March 31, 1940). ORCH.: 2 Symphonic Pieces (1939–40; not extant); 2 Pieces (1941); 2 clarinet concertos: No. 1 (1941; rev. as Piano Concerto No. 1, 1943) and No. 2 (1988); 2 piano concertos: No. 1 (1943) and No. 2 (1949–51; Venice, Oct. 7, 1951; rev. version, Los Angeles, June 16, 1953); T/ie Prairie, symphonic suite after the cantata (Boston, Oct. 15, 1943); 3 syms.: No. 1 (1944; Pittsburgh, Feb. 4, 1945), No. 2, Symphony of Chorales (1955–58; Pittsburgh, Oct. 24, 1958), and No. 3, Symphony of Sorrows (1991; Chicago, Feb. 19, 1992); Ode (1944; N.Y., March 15, 1945; rev. version, Philadelphia, Oct. 17, 1958); Pantomime, suite after Gift of the Magi (1945); Recordare (Boston, Dec. 31, 1948); Elegy for Clarinet and Orch. (1949); Concerto for Improvising Instruments and Orch. (Philadelphia, Oct. 7, 1960); Elytres for Chamber Orch. (Los Angeles, Dec. 8, 1964); Stillscape, renamed For 24 Winds for Wind Orch. (Caracas, May 11, 1966); Cello Concert for Cello and Orch. (N.Y., March 5, 1967); Baroque Variations (Chicago, July 7, 1967); Geod (1969); Orpheus (1972; qai, Calif., June 2, 1973; rev. as Orpheus and Euridice for 2 Violins, Chamber Orch., and Tape, 1983); Fanfare (Istanbul, June 28, 1973); Concerto for Solo Percussion and Orch. (1974; Camden, N.J., April 9, 1975); Folksong (1975–76; Baltimore, Jan. 21, 1976; rev. 1978); Salomon Rossi Suite (1974); Quintets (Cleveland, April 30, 1979); Night Music for John Lennon for Brass Quintet and Orch. (1980–81; N.Y., April 1, 1981); Dissertation (Bloomington, Ind., July 2, 1981; new version as Exeunt, 1982); Renaissance Concerto for Flute and Orch. (1985–86; Buffalo, May 9, 1986); Griffelkin Suite, after the opera (Oshkosh, May 3, 1986); For Lenny (Variation on N.Y., N. Y.) for Piano Obbligato and Orch. (1988); Elegy for Anne Frank for Piano Obbligato and Orch. (N.Y., June 12, 1989); Guitar Concerto, American Landscapes (N.Y., Nov. 29, 1989); Celebration, renamed American Fanfare, for the 50th anniversary of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood (July 6,1990); Concerto for Piano, Left-hand, and Orch. (1993; Tanglewood, July 23, 1994). CHAMBER: 4 Preludes for Flute, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1940); Duo (Fantasia) for Cello and Piano (1941); 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano (N.Y., Nov. 13, 1944; arranged as 3 Early Pieces for Flute and Piano, 1986); 4 string quartets: No. 1 (1947), No. 2, Divertissement pour Mica (1973), No. 3 (1975; N.Y., March 15, 1976), and No. 4 (Buffalo, Oct. 6, 1998); Capriccio for Cello and Piano (1948); Studies in Improvisation for Clarinet, Horn, Cello, Percussion, and Piano (1959; N.Y., March 11, 1962); Echoi for 4 Players (1961–63; N.Y., Nov. 11, 1963); Non- Improvisation for Clarinet, Cello, Piano or Electric Organ, and Percussion (N.Y., Nov. 7, 1967); Paradigm for Percussionist-Conductor (N.Y., Oct. 31, 1968; rev. version, Buffalo, Nov. 8, 1969); Waves for Instruments (Hempstead, N.Y., Jan. 17, 1969); MAP (Musicians at Play), musical game for 5 Players (St. Paul de Vence, July 16, 1970; rev. version for 4 Players, Buffalo, June 14, 1977); The Cave of Winds (La Grotte des Vents) for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Horn (N.Y, Dec. 14, 1972); Ni Bruit Ni Vitesse for 2 Pianos and 2 Percussion (Buffalo, Feb. 13, 1972); Chamber Music for Percussion and Electronics (Buffalo, March 22, 1975; in collabo-ration with J. Chadabe); Quartet Plus for 2 String Quartets, Narrator, and Video (N.Y, April 29, 1977; based on String Quartet No. 3); Music for 6 for 6 Treble Clef Instruments (1977; rev. 1978); Curriculum Vitae for Accordion (N.Y, Nov. 1, 1977); Brass Quintet (1978); Round a Common Center for Piano Quartet or Quintet (1979; Lake Placid, N.Y, Jan. 30, 1980); Percussion Quartet (Rochester, N.Y, Nov. 5, 1983); Horn Trio (1983); Saxophone Quartet (Buffalo, Sept. 22, 1985); Embros for 3 Winds, 3 Brass, Percussion, Strings, and Electric Instruments (1985; N.Y, Feb. 25, 1986); Tashi for Clarinet, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1986; Washington, D.C., Feb. 17, 1987); Central Park Reel for Violin and Piano (Singapore, June 17, 1987); Chaconne for Guitar (N.Y, Nov. 8, 1987). KEYBOARD : Piano : Fantasy Rondo (1944); Prelude (1949); Scherzo Ricercato (1953); Solo (1981; Paris, March 24, 1982; new version as Solo Observed for Piano and 3 Instruments, Miami, June 7, 1982). Organ : Etudes (Mount Vernon, Iowa, Nov. 14, 1967). VOCAL: Melodrama and Dramatic Song for Michelangelo for Voice and Orch. (1940); We Sing, cantata for Children’s Chorus and Piano (1941); The Prairie for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (1943; N.Y, May 15, 1944); Song of Anguish for Baritone or Bass and Orch. (1945; Boston, March 10, 1950); Song of Songs for Soprano or Mezzo-soprano and Orch. (1946; Boston, March 7, 1947); Adon Olom: A Prayer for Cantor or Tenor, Chorus, and Organ (1948); Behold! I Build an House for Chorus and Organ (Boston, March 14, 1950); A Parable of Death for Narrator, Tenor, Chorus, and Orch. (1952; Louisville, March 11, 1953); Psalms for Chorus and Orch. (1955–56; N.Y, May 9, 1957); Time Cycle for Soprano and Orch. (1959–60; N.Y, Oct. 20, 1960; also for Soprano and Chamber Group, Tanglewood, July 10, 1961); Fragments of Archilochos for Countertenor, Male Speaker, Female Speaker, 4 Small Choruses, Optional Large Chorus, and Orch. (Potsdam, N.Y, May 1965); 3 Airs for Frank O’Hara’s Angel for Male Speaker, Soprano, Women’s Chorus, and Instruments (N.Y, April 26, 1972); Lamdeni (Teach Me) for Chorus and 6 Instruments (1973); American Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Speakers, Chorus, and Orch. (Interlochen, Mich., July 24, 1976; rev. version, N.Y, Dec. 1, 1977); Then the Rocks on the Mountain Begin to Shout for Chorus (1978; N.Y, Nov. 9, 1985); 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird for Soprano or Mezzo-soprano, Instruments, and Tape (1978); Measure for Measure for Tenor and Chamber Orch. (1980); De Profundis for Chorus (1983); With Music Strong for Chorus and Orch. (1988; Milwaukee, April 15, 1989). OTHER: For 200 Cellos (A Celebration) (Coll. Park, Md., June 4, 1982).
K. Perone, L. F.: A Bio-Bibliography (N.Y, 1991).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire