Stevens, Halsey

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Stevens, Halsey

Stevens, Halsey, significant American composer, teacher, and writer on music; b. Scott, N.Y., Dec. 3, 1908; d. Long Beach, Calif., Jan. 20, 1989. He studied composition with William Berwald at Syracuse Univ. (B.M., 1931; M.M., 1937) and with Bloch at the Univ. of Calif, at Berkeley (1944). He taught at Syracuse Univ. (1935–37) and Dakota Wesleyan Univ. (1937–41); was a prof. and director of the Coll. of Music at Bradley Polytechnic Inst. in Peoria, iii. (1941–46), and then a prof. at the Univ. of Redlands (1946). In 1946 he joined the faculty of the Univ. of Southern Calif, in Los Angeles, serving in various capacities until his retirement as prof. emeritus in 1976. He was a visiting prof. at Pomona Coll. (1954), the Univ. of Wash. (1958), Yale Univ. (1960–61), the Univ. of Cincinnati (1968), and Williams Coll. (1969). His music is above all a monument of sonorous equilibrium; melodies and rhythms are coordinated in a fine melo-rhythmic polyphony; dissonances are emancipated and become natural consorts of triadic harmony. Tonality remains paramount, while a stream of coloristic passages contributes to the brilliance of the instrumental texture. Stevens wrote only “absolute” music, without resort to the stage; there are no operas or ballets in his creative catalog. He does not apply conventional modernistic devices in his music, designed at its culmination to please the aural sense. Apart from composition, Stevens took great interest in the autochthonous music of the peoples of the earth; he was particularly fascinated by the fieldwork that Bartók undertook in gathering authentic folk songs of southeastern Europe. He mastered the Hungarian language, retraced Bartók’s travels, and assembled materials on Bartók’s life; the result was his exemplary biography, The Life and Music of Bela Bartók (N.Y., 1953; second ed., rev., 1964; third ed., rev., 1993, by M. Gillies). Stevens received numerous grants and honors; he held 2 Guggenheim fellowships (1964–65; 1971–72), a grant from the NEA (1976), and the Abraham Lincoln Award of the American Hungarian Foundation (1978).


oroh .: 3 syms.: No. 1 (1945; San Francisco, March 7, 1946, composer conducting; rev., Los Angeles, March 3, 1950), No. 2 (1945; N.Y., May 17, 1947), and No. 3 (1946); A Green Mountain Overture (Burlington, Vt., Aug. 7, 1948; rev. 1953); Triskelion (a figure with 3 branches; 1953; Louisville, Feb. 27, 1954); Sinfonia breve (Louisville, Nov. 20, 1957); Symphonic Dances (San Francisco, Dec. 10, 1958); Cello Concerto (1964; Los Angeles, May 12, 1968); Threnos: In Memoriam Quincy Porter (1968); Concerto for Clarinet and Strings (Denton, Tex., March 20, 1969); Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and String Orch. (Los Angeles, Nov. 4, 1973); Viola Concerto (1975). CHAMBER : Piano Trio No. 2 (1945); Quintet for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1945; Middlebury, Vt., Aug. 30, 1946); Suite for Clarinet and Piano (1945; rev. 1953); Bassoon Sonata (1949); String Quartet No. 3 (1949): 3 Hungarian Folk Songs for Viola and Piano (1950); Viola Sonata (1950); Horn Sonata (1953); Trumpet Sonata (1956); Piano Trio No. 3 (1954); Sonatina piacevole for Alto Recorder or Flute and Keyboard (1956); Septet for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, 2 Violas, and 2 Cellos (Urbana, 111., March 3, 1957); Divertimento for 2 Violins (1958–66); Suite for Viola and Piano (1959); Bass Tuba Sonatina (1960); 12 Slovakian Folk Songs for 2 Violins (1962); Cello Sonata (1965); Oboe Sonata (1971); Quintetto “Serbelloni”; for Woodwinds (1972); also works for solo instruments. Piano: 3 sonatas (1933–48); Partita (1954); 6 preludes (1956); Ritratti (1960); Fantasia (1961); numerous other pieces. VOCAL : The Ballad of William Sycamore for Chorus and Orch. (Los Angeles, Oct. 6, 1955); 2 Shakespeare Songs for Voice, Flute, and Clarinet (1959); A Testament of Life for Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (1959); 4 Canciones for Voice and Piano (1961); Magnificat for Chorus and String Orch. (1962); 7 Canciones for Voice and Piano (1964); Campion Suite for Chorus (1967); Te Deum for Chorus, Brass Septet, Organ, and Timpani (1967); Chansons courtoises for Chorus (1967); Songs from the Paiute for Chorus, 4 Flutes, and Timpani (1976).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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