Mamlok, Ursula (1928—)

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Mamlok, Ursula (1928—)

German-born American composer . Born in Berlin, Germany, on February 1, 1928; only child of Dorothy Lewis and John Lewis; married Dwight Mamlok, in 1949.

Escaped from Nazi Germany to Ecuador (1939); based on her compositions, received a full scholarship at the Mannes School of Music where she studied with George Szell; studied with Roger Sessions for a year; received a scholarship to study at the Manhattan School of Music; Mamlok's String Quartet (written 1962) gained her considerable attention; composed Sonar Trajectory (1966), an electronic composition which was not performed until 1984; continued her work with the help of many commissions as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the CUNY Faculty Research Foundation, and a Martha Baird Rockefeller Recording Grant.

Over half a dozen recordings attest to the success of Ursula Mamlok's compositions, which encompass orchestral, chamber, and piano solo works. When her Variations for Solo Flute premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1961, one reviewer called it a "landmark of difficult 20th-century pieces." This assessment proved erroneous, as many people have since performed this work. Some of Mamlok's compositions include an odd assortment of instruments; for example, her Variations and Interludes was written for xylophone, timpani, snare drum, temple blocks, triangle, glockenspiel, tom-tom, suspended cowbells, vibraphone, marimba, chime bongos, and suspended cymbals. The piece requires over 60 percussion instruments, and melody does not intrude. In 1981, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters granted Mamlok its annual award, citing her for creating "an elegantly crafted, eloquently expressive body of chamber music, which, while making no effort to be timely, is as distinctively of its own time as it is distinguished by its persuasive claims to musical permanence." Mamlok has also composed extensively for children, believing it was important for them to have interesting music to play.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia