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Kirchner, Leon

KIRCHNER, LEON

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).

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