Kirchner, Leon

views updated May 14 2018

Kirchner, Leon

Kirchner, Leon, distinguished American composer, pedagogue, conductor, and pianist, b. N.Y., Jan. 24, 1919. He began piano lessons when he was 4. In 1928 the family moved to Los Angeles, where he continued his piano training. While attending Los Angeles City Coll., he began to compose. He studied composition with Schoenberg at the Univ. of Calif, at Los Angeles (1938–39), and then theory with Albert Elkus and Edward Strickland at the Univ. of Calif, at Berkeley (B.A., 1940). In 1942 he had private lessons with Sessions in N.Y. Following service in the U.S. Army (1943–46), he pursued postgraduate studies with Bloch and Sessions at the Univ. of Calif, at Berkeley (1946; M.A., 1949). In 1946-47 he taught there. He also taught at the San Francisco Cons, of Music. From 1950 to 1954 he was on the faculty of the Univ. of Southern Calif, at Los Angeles. In 1954 he became the first Luther Brusie Marchant Prof, at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. In 1961 he joined the faculty of Harvard Univ., where he served as the Walter Bigelow Rosen Prof, of Music from 1966 until his retirement in 1989. He also conducted the Harvard Chamber Players (from 1973) and the Harvard Chamber Orch. (from 1978), and was engaged as a guest conductor and as a pianist with orchs. in the U.S. and overseas. Kirchner received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1948-9, and again in 1949-50. He won the N.Y. Music Critics Circle Award for his 1st (1950) and 2nd(1960) string quartets, and the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his 3rd string quartet (1967). In 1962 he was made a member of both the National Inst. of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1994 he received a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. Kirchner has followed a thoroughly contemporary but independent course as a composer. His finely crafted scores are notable for their linear chromaticism, asymmetric rhythms, and lyricism.


dramatic:Opera: Lily (1973-76; N.Y., April 14, 1977, composer conducting; also as Lily for Soprano, Chamber Orch., and Tape, N.Y., March 11, 1973). orchPiece for Piano and Orch. (1946); Sinfonia (1951; N.Y., Jan. 31, 1952); 2 piano concertos: No. 1 (1953; N.Y., Feb. 23, 1956, composer soloist) and No. 2 (Seattle, Oct. 28, 1963, composer conducting); Toccata for Strings, Solo Winds, and Percussion (1955; San Francisco, Feb. 16, 1956); Concerto for Violin, Cello, 10 Winds, and Percussion (Baltimore, Oct. 16, 1960, composer conducting); Music (N.Y., Oct. 16, 1969, composer conducting); Music for Flute and Orch. (Indianapolis, Oct. 20, 1978); Music II (1990); Music for Cello and Orch. (Philadelphia, Oct. 16, 1992). chamber: Duo for Violin and Piano (1947); 3 string quartets: No. 1 (1949; N.Y., March 1950), No. 2 (1958), and No. 3, with Tape (1966; N.Y., Jan. 27, 1967); Sonata Concertante for Violin and Piano (N.Y., Nov. 30, 1952); 2 trios for Violin, Cello, and Piano: No. 1 (Pasadena, Calif., Nov. 30, 1954) and No. 2 (N.Y., Dec. 14, 1993); Fanfare for Brass Trio (1965; also for Flute and Optional Percussion, 1977, and as Fanfare II for 7 Instruments, 1985); Flutings for Paula for Flute and Optional Percussion (1973; rev. 1977); Music for 12 for Chamber Ensemble (Boston, Feb. 17, 1985, composer conducting); Illuminations, fanfare for 9 Instruments for the 350th anniversary of Harvard Univ. (Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 4, 1986); For Cello Solo (1986; Charleston, S.C., May 28, 1988); 2 pieces for Violin: No. 1 (Indianapolis, Sept. 13, 1986) and No. 2 (1988; Washington, D.C., Jan. 22, 1989); 2 Duos for Violin and Cello (1988); Triptych for Violin and Cello (Tanglewood, Aug. 17, 1988; comprised of For Cello Solo and 2 Duos for Violin and Cello). Piano: Sonata (1948; N.Y., March 1949); Litte Suite (1949); A Moment for Roger (1978); 5 Pieces (Boston, March 7, 1987); Interlude (N.Y., Nov. 11, 1989); For the Left Hand (N.Y., Dec. 6, 1995). vocal:Dawn for Chorus and Organ (1943-46; N.Y., Feb. 1946); Words from Wordsworth for Chorus (1966); Lily for Soprano, Chamber Orch., and Tape (N.Y., March 11, 1973; based on the opera); The Twilight Stood, song cycle for Soprano and Piano (Charleston, S.C., June 1, 1982); Of Things Exactly As They Are for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Boston, Sept. 26, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Kirchner, Leon

views updated Jun 11 2018


KIRCHNER, LEON (1919– ), U.S. composer, and pianist. Born in Brooklyn, Kirchner studied piano and began to compose at an early age. When he was nine, the family moved to Los Angeles, where he studied under Ernst *Toch, and later Arnold *Schoenberg. In 1938–39 he studied at Berkeley with Elkus and Strickland. After a year of graduate work at the University of California in Los Angeles, he returned to Berkeley, where he came under the influence of Ernest *Bloch. In 1942 he studied with Roger Sessions in New York and was awarded the George Ladd Prix de Paris. After his military service (1943–46), he was appointed lecturer in music at Berkeley. In 1954 he became professor of music at Mills College in Oakland and in 1961 was appointed to the Walter Bigelow Rosen Chair of Music at Harvard (until 1989). Kirchner was a distinguished pianist who gave the first performances of many of his own works, notably the First Piano Concerto in 1953, when it won the Naumberg Foundation Award. Other prize-winning works include the First and Second String Quartets (New York Music Critics' Circle Award for Chamber Music), the Third String Quartet (Pulitzer Prize, 1967), and Music for Cello and Orchestra (the Friedheim Award, 1992). He received awards from institutions such as the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1962), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1963), and the Center for Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences (1974). His music, complex in idiom, is nevertheless strongly passionate, even romantic, in feeling and always crafted with masterly technical skill. His other works include, Sinfonia for orchestra (1951); Toccata for strings, wind, and percussion (1955); the Second Piano Concerto (first performance 1963, soloist Leon *Fleisher); Musicfor Orchestra (1969); Piano Sonata (1948); Little Suite for piano (1949); the opera Lily (1973–76); Music for Flute and Orchestra (1978); 5 Pieces for Piano (1984); Music for Orchestra ii (1989); Trio for violin, cello, and piano (1993); Of Things Exactly as They Are, for soprano, bass, chorus and orchestra (1997); Interlude ii for piano (2003).

add. bibliography:

Grove online; mgg2.

[Max Loppert /

Israela Stein (2nd ed.)]

Kirchner, Leon

views updated May 11 2018

Kirchner, Leon (b Brooklyn, NY, 1919). Amer. composer, pianist, and conductor. Taught at Univ. of S. Calif., Los Angeles 1951–4, Mills Coll., Oakland, 1954–61, and Harvard Univ. from 1961 (prof. of mus. from 1966). Comp., in idiom of Berg and Schoenberg but not 12-note, incl.: opera Lily (1973–6); Sinfonia; 2 pf. concs.; 3 str. qts.; conc. for vn. vc., 10 winds, perc.; pf. sonata; choral mus.; etc.