Lukas Foss

  • A true Renaissance man, Lukas Foss (born August 12, 1922, Berlin, Germany) was that rare breed of musician, equally renowned as a composer, conductor, pianist, educator and spokesman for his art. The many prestigious honors and awards he received testify to his importance as one of the most brilliant and respected figures in American music. As a composer, Mr. Foss eagerly embraced the musical languages of his time, producing a body of over one hundred works that Aaron Copland described as including “among the most original and stimulating compositions in American Music.” As Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic and Milwaukee Symphony, Foss was an effective champion of living composers of every stripe and has brought new life to the standard repertoire. His legendary performances as a piano soloist, in repertory ranging from J. S. Bach’s D Minor Concerto to Leonard Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety, have earned him a place among the elite keyboard artists of our time.

    As a conductor, Mr. Foss has been hailed for the adventurous mix of traditional and contemporary music that he programs, and he appeared with the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Boston, Chicago, London and Leningrad Symphonies, the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, and the New York, Berlin, Los Angeles and Tokyo Philharmonics.

    In 1937, as a fifteen-year old prodigy, Lukas Foss came to America to study at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. By that time, he had already been composing for eight years, starting under the guidance of his first piano teacher, Julius Herford, in Berlin, the city of his birth. He also studied in Paris with Lazare Levy, Noel Gallon, Felix Wolfes and Louis Moyse, after his family fled Nazi Germany in 1933. At Curtis, his teachers included Fritz Reiner (conducting) and Isabelle Vengerova (piano). By age 18, the young musician had graduated with honors from Curtis, and was headed for advanced study in conducting with Serge Koussevitsky at the Berkshire Music Center, Tanglewood and in composition with Paul Hindemith at Tanglewood and Yale University. From 1944 to 1950, Foss was the pianist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra and in 1945 he was the youngest composer ever to receive a Guggenheim fellowship.

    When Foss succeeded Arnold Schoenberg as Professor of Composition at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1953, the University probably thought it was replacing a man who made traditions with one who conserved them. But that was not how things turned out. In 1957, seeking the spontaneous expression that lies at the root of all music, he founded the Improvisational Chamber Ensemble, a foursome that improvised music in concert, working not from a score, but from Foss’ ideas and visions. The effects of these experiments soon showed in his composed works, where Foss began probing and questioning the ideas of tonality, notation and fixed form. Even time itself came up for scrutiny in his pioneering work, Time Cycle, which received the New York Music Critic’s Circle Award in 1961, and was recorded on the CBS label. At its world premiere (for which the Improvisational Chamber Ensemble provided improvised interludes, between the movements), Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic performed the entire work twice in the same evening, in an unprecedented gesture of respect.

    Lukas Foss’ compositions of the last fifty years prove that a love for the music of the past can be reconciled with all sorts of innovations. Whether the musical language is serial, aleatoric, neoclassical or minimalist, the “real” Lukas Foss is always present. The essential feature of his music is the tension, so typical of the 20th Century, between tradition and new modes of musical expression. Many of his works – Time Cycle (1960) for soprano and orchestra, Baroque Variations (1960) for orchestra, 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (1978) for soprano and small ensemble, Tashi (1986), for piano, clarinet and string quartet, and Renaissance Concerto (1985), for flute and orchestra – are landmarks of the 20th Century repertoire.

    His ideas – and his compelling way of expressing them – garnered considerable respect for Foss as an educator as well. He taught at Tanglewood, and has been composer-in-residence at Harvard, the Manhattan School of Music, Carnegie Melon University, Yale University and Boston University. In 1983 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in May, 2000 received the Academy’s Gold Medal in honor of his distinguished career in music. The holder of eight honorary doctorates (including a 1991 Doctor of Music degree from Yale), he was in constant demand as a lecturer, and delivered the prestigious Mellon Lectures (1986) at Washington’s National Gallery of Art.

    Still an active musician into his 80s, Foss continued to teach, conduct and compose. Recent works include two new string quartets (No. 4 – 1999; No. 5 – 2000), a Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Orchestra (1993), Toccata: Solo Transformed (2000) for Piano and Orchestra, Symphonic Fantasy for Orchestra (2002), Concertino: Baroque Meditations (2003) for Orchestra, For Aaron for Chamber Ensemble or Chamber Orchestra (2002) and a Concerto for Band (2002), written for a consortium of independent secondary schools and private colleges.

    Lukas Foss, a long time resident, of New York City, died there at home on February 1, 2009. He is survived by his wife Cornelia, a noted painter, two children, a grown son and daughter, and three grandchildren.


  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    Solo and Duo
    CY3234 Anne Frank
    violonCello, Piano
    O5043 Capriccio
    Cello, Piano
    O4193 Introductions and Good-Byes
    Piano, Voice
    PCB126 Renaissance Concerto
    Piano, Flute solo
    PCB122 Solo for Piano
    Piano
    O3720 The Jumping Frog
    Piano, Voice
    O5186 Three American Pieces
    Violin, Piano
    O5192 Three American Pieces
    Flute, Piano
    O5430 Valentines
    Flute, Piano
    Chamber Ensemble
    O4760 Baroque Variations
    Mixed Ensemble
    CY1800 Brass Quintet
    full score and parts
    O4450 Echoi
    For Clarinet In Bb, Violoncello, Percussion and Piano
    full score, Clarinet in Bb, ViolonCello, Percussion, Piano
    20344 Elytres
    10:00 Solo flute, violin (2); vln.(3); perc.(3), pno.(2), hp.
    O4633 Elytres
    20348 For Toru
    10′ Solo flute; string quintet or string orchestra
    PCB134 For Toru
    10:00 String Ensemble
    20357 MAP
    A musical game for four virtuoso performers plus tapes
    45:00 – 090:00 unspecified instrumentalists or vocalists (4); referee; tape recorder (and operator)
    CY955 Paradigm
    percussionst/conductor, electric guitar or electric sitar, instrument 1 (range G3 to G6), instrument 2 (range (D3) E3 to E6), instrument 3 (range (C2) D2 to Ab5)
    O4861 Paradigm
    Percussionist/Conductor (one man), Electric Guitar or Electric Sitar, Three other instruments capable of sustaining a sound, Instrument 1 (range G3 to G6), Instrument 2 (range (D3) E3 to E6), Instrument 3 (range (C2) D2 to Ab5), Percussion Instruments: Mu
    PCB123 Round A Common Center
    24:00 Chamber Ensemble
    MXE45 Solo Observed
    Mixed Ensemble
    O4242 String Quartet In G
    String Quartet
    PCB138 String Quartet No. 4
    15:00 String Quartet
    PCB143 String Quartet No. 5
    18:00 String Quartet
    PCB130 Tashi
    For Clarinet In Bb, Piano and String Quartet
    18:00 Clarinet, Violin I, Cello, Piano, Violin II, Viola
    O4282 Time Cycle
    Chamber Ensemble
    Orchestra
    20327 American Fanfare
    for Orchestra
    4:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno.(opt. Org.) Hp. Str.
    20332 Baroque Variations (Complete)
    25:00 3 2 3 1 – 3 3 2 2; 4Perc. Elec.Pno. Cel. Elec.Org. Hpschd. Elec.Gtr. Str.
    20329 Baroque Variations No. 1: On a Handel Larghetto
    8:00 3 2 3 1, A.Sax.(opt.) – 3 3 0 0; Perc. Elec.Pno. Elec.Org. Elec.Gtr. Str.
    20330 Baroque Variations No. 2: On a Scarlatti Sonata
    7:00 2 2(opt. Recorder) 0 0 – 2 2 0 0; 3Perc. Cel. Hpschd. Str.
    20331 Baroque Variations No. 3: On a Bach Prelude (Phorion)
    10:00 3 2 3 1, A.Sax. – 3 3 1 1; 4Perc. Elec.Pno. Elec.Org. Elec.Gtr. Str.
    20337 Concertino – Baroque Meditations
    13:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno./Cel. Str.
    20343 Elegy for Anne Frank (from Symphony No. 3)
    7:00 2(Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; 3Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
    20345 Exeunt
    18:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Elec.Gtr. Str..
    20347 For Aaron
    13:00 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; Perc.(opt.) Str.(solo or ensemble)
    20350 Geod
    25:00 – 075:00 SATB chorus (opt.); 1/a. fl./0/eng.hn./2/b.cl./3; 4/2/3/0; perc.(4), hp., org.; str.; folk instruments selected according to country of peformance
    20353 Griffelkin: Parade
    3:00 2(Picc.) 2 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 2 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    20354 Griffelkin: Suite
    25:00 3(Picc.) 2 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 2 2 1 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    20359 Ode
    10:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    20362 Phorion: from Baroque Variations
    (fully realized/non-aleatoric version)
    10:00 3(Picc.) 2 2(Cl.2 dbl. Eb Cl.[opt.]) 1 – 2 2 1(or t.) 0; 3Perc. Elec.Pno., Elec.Org., Elec.Gtr., Str.
    20365 Quintets for Orchestra
    15:00 2 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 3 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Elec.Org. Str.
    20370 Song of Anguish
    19:00 Solo baritone voice; 3(Picc.) 2 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str.
    20371 Song of Songs
    for Voice and Orchestra
    31:00 Solo soprano voice; 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 2 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    20372 Symphonic Fantasy in 2 Movements
    12:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.CL.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno.(dbl. Cel.) Hp. Str.
    20373 Symphony No. 3 (“Symphony of Sorrows”)
    28:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(or Cel.; 1 or 2 players) Org. Hp. Str.
    20374 Symphony No. 4 (“Window to the Past”)
    30:00 2(dbl. Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Pno. Hp. Harmonica or Accordian (opt.) Str.
    20375 Symphony of Chorales
    31:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Mandolin Str.
    20381 With Music Strong
    28:00 SATB chorus; 2 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 3 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Org. Str.
    Orchestra w/ Soloist(s)
    20328 American Landscapes
    for Guitar and Chamber Orchestra
    26:00 Solo guitar; 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    20333 Capriccio for Cello and Orchestra
    14:00 Solo Vcl.; 1 0 2(dbl. B.Cl.) 1 – 1 2 2 0; Perc. Pno. Str.
    20334 Celebration
    16:00 Brass quintet; 1 1 1 1 – 2 0 0 0; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
    20335 Cello Concert for Cello and Orchestra
    28:00 Solo Vcl; 0 0 0 0 – 2 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Org. Str.
    20336 Composer’s Holiday
    3:00 Solo violin, or flute; 1 0 1 1 – 1 1 0 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    20339 Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra
    20:00 Solo Cl.; 1 1 1 0 – 1 1 1 0; Perc.(1 or 2) Pno. Str.(or str. quintet)
    20340 Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra
    34:00 Solo Pno.; 3 2 3 3. Ten.Sax. – 4 3 1 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    20342 Elegy for Anne Frank
    5:00 Solo Pno.; Narrator (opt.); 0 0 2 2 – 1 1 1 1; Perc. Str.)
    20358 Night Music for John Lennon
    (Prelude, Fugue, and Chorale)
    15:00 Solo brass quintet; 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Elec.Gtr. Str.
    20360 A Parable of Death
    32:00 Solo tenor voice; narrator; SATB chorus; 3(Picc.) 2 2 2 – 2 2 1 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    20363 Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
    24:00 Solo Pno.; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 0; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    20366 Renaissance Concerto
    for Flute and Orchestra
    20:00 Solo flute; 1 1 1 1 – 1 2 1 0; Timp. Perc. Hpschd.(opt.) Hp. Str.
    20368 Sanctus
    10:00 SATB chorus; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 1 0; 2Perc. Str.
    20369 Solo Observed
    16:00 Solo Pno.; 1 0 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; Str.
    20378 Three American Pieces
    for Solo Violin, or Flute and Orchestra
    13:00 Solo violin, or flute; 1 0 1 1 – 1 1 0 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    20379 Time Cycle
    22:00 Solo soprano voice; 2 0 2 0 – 2 2 1 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    20380 Toccata: Solo Transformed
    16:00 Solo Pno.; 2 1 2 1 – 1 2 0 0; Perc.(1 or 2 players) Str.
    Opera
    O5156 Griffelkin
    SATB, Piano
    20351 Griffelkin
    Opera in three acts
    2:00:00 Solo soprano (13), mezzo-soprano (4), alto, tenor, baritone (2), bass (2) voices; SATB chorus; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 1 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Cel. Str.
    20355 Introductions and Goodbyes
    Opera in one act
    9:00 Solo baritone voice; SATB chorus; fl., cl., bsn.; hn.; pno., hp.(optional); str.
    20356 The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
    Opera in one act
    45:00 Solo mezzo-soprano, tenor (2), baritone (2), bass (2) voices; SATBB Chorus; 1 1 2 1 – 1 2 1 1; Perc. Pno. Str.
    Vocal / Choral
    PCB114 13 Ways Looking Blackbird
    Vocal Ensemble
    20325 American Cantata
    In Five Parts
    37:00 Solo Soprano Voice, Solo Tenor Voice, Double Mixed Chorus; 1(dbl. Picc.) 1(dbl.E.H.) 1(dbl.B.Cl.) 1- 0 2 2 0; 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Elec.Org. Hp. 2Elec.Gtr., 2Banjos(Gtr.) Str.(solo or orchestra)
    352-00384 Behold, I Build An House
    Biblical Cantata for Chorus and Organ (Or Piano)
    SATB
    20341 De Profundis
    12:00 SATB chorus, a cappella
    20349 The Fragments of Archilochos
    10:00 Solo contertenor voice; male and female speakers; 4 small choruses; SATB chorus (opt.); mandolin, gtr., perc.(3)
    O3835 A Parable Of Death
    SATB
    20361 A Parable of Death (Chamber version)
    (Chamber Version)
    32:00 Solo tenor voice; narrator; SATB chorus; Perc. Pno. Org. Str.
    O4034 Psalms
    SATB
    20364 Psalms
    13:00 SATB chorus; 0 0 0 0 – 2 1 1 0; Timp. 2Pno. Org. Hp. Str.
    -or-
    SATB chorus; 2 0 2 1 – 2 1 1 0; Timp. 2Pno. Hp. Str.
    20367 Round a Common Center
    for Chamber Ensemble
    13:00 Solo mezzo-soprano voice (opt.); narrator (opt.); pno.; vln.(1 or 2), vla., vcl.
    V2502 ‘Then the Rocks on the Mountain Began to Shout’
    for 5 mixed voices or a cappella chorus
    Vocal Ensemble
    Band / Wind Ensemble
    20326 American Fanfare
    Band Version
    5:00 fl.(2 or 4), ob.(2 or 4), cl.(2 or 4), bsn.(2 or 4); hn.(4), tpt.(3), tbn.(3), tba.; cb., Timp. perc.(3), amp. pno., synth.(or elec. org), elec. gtr.(or amp. hp.)
    J746 Concerto for Band
    Concert Band
    20346 For 24 Winds
    12:00 fl.(2), a. fl., ob.(2), eng.hn., cl.(2) (opt. Eb cl.), b.cl., bsn.(2), cbsn., a.sax., t.sax., b. sax (opt. sub. w/ 3 hn.); hn.(2), tpt.(3), tbn.(3), tba.
    20352 Griffelkin: March
    4′ picc., fl.(2), ob.(2), eng.hn., cl.(2), b.cl., bsn.(2), cbsn., hn.(4), tpt.(3), tbn.(3), tba.; timp., perc.
    J731 March From Griffelkin
    Concert Band
    19664 Military Marches
    (arr.)
    10:00 picc., fl.(2), ob.(2), Eb cl., cl.(2), bsn.(2), cbsn.; hn.(4), tpt.(4), tbn., b. tbn., tba.; perc.

  • RENAISSANCE CONCERTO
    for Flute and Orchestra
    Using melodies and forms from Renaissance composers, Foss has constructed a true virtuoso work, morphing these older forms and tunes into much more modern styles, using just about every playing skill in the flutist’s vocabulary.

    …a true classic for the instrument…
    –Edward Alley, YourObserver.com

  • The American Album THE AMERICAN ALBUM
    Centaur Records (CRC3525); November 11, 2016
    Performer(s): Patricia Surman, flute, Kostas Chardas, piano
    Work(s): Three American Pieces
    Pieces of Genius PIECES OF GENIUS
    Albany Records (TROY1644); October 1, 2016
    Performer(s): Jean Kopperud, clarinet; Stephen Gosling, piano; Linda Quan, violin; Deborah Wang, violin; Lois Martin, viola; Christopher Finckel, cello; Daniel Druckman, percussion; David Broome, electric organ
    Work(s): Echoi
    Solo Observed
    Tashi
    Lukas Foss: Complete Symphonies LUKAS FOSS: COMPLETE SYMPHONIES
    BMOP/sound (1043); August 1, 2015
    Performer(s): Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor
    Work(s): Symphony No. 2 “Symphony of Chorales”
    Symphony No. 3 “Symphony of Sorrows”
    Symphony No. 4 “Window to the Past”

  • American Cantata
    In Five Parts
    Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra
    Elegy for Anne Frank
    for Piano and Orchestra
    Symphony No. 4 (“Window to the Past”)
    for Orchestra
    Symphony of Chorales
    for Orchestra
    Three American Pieces
    for Violin, or Flute and Orchestra

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