Composer Steven Stucky


Steven Stucky
Photo © Hoebermann Studio

  • Interview with Steven Stucky
    about Silent Spring
    (Pittsburgh Tribune)

  • Video about August 4, 1964

  • Steven Stucky is one of America’s most highly regarded and frequently performed living composers. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his Second Concerto for Orchestra, he is a trustee of the American Academy in Rome, a director of New Music USA, a board member of the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also active as a conductor, writer, lecturer, and teacher.

    The 2014-15 season brings a number of important Stucky premieres and performances. Led by Artistic Director Steven Sametz, the Princeton Singers kick off the season with the world premiere of Winter Stars, a setting of Sara Teasdale’s poem of the same name, in a special concert celebrating the chamber choir’s 30th anniversary. The Pittsburgh Symphony, under conductor Manfred Honeck, performs Silent Spring at Carolina Performing Arts in Chapel Hill, NC. The work, a one-movement orchestral tone poem in four sections, was commissioned during Stucky’s tenure as the orchestra’s 2011 Composer of the Year. His Piano Sonata receives its world premiere by Gloria Cheng in the “Piano Spheres” series at Los Angeles’s Zipper Hall. And New York-based orchestral collective The Knights joins vocal soloists at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall for the New York premiere of The Classical Style, a new opera—Stucky’s first—composed to a libretto by MacArthur Fellow Jeremy Denk. The opera triumphed at its 2014 Ojai Music Festival debut, when it inspired a wealth of glowing praise.

    Last season saw the Choral Arts Society of Washington DC host the East Coast premiere of Take Him, Earth (2012), Stucky’s choral composition commemorating the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, while Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music premiered the chamber version of Stucky’s song cycle The Stars and the Roses (2012-13) to critical acclaim. Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin and pianist Jon Kimura Parker performed the Violin Sonata (2013) at La Jolla SummerFest, the Kansas City Symphony undertook the Pulitzer Prize-winning Second Concerto for Orchestra (2003), and in Boston and at Carnegie Hall, Bernard Haitink led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Funeral Music for Queen Mary (1992), an evocative re-orchestration of three 17th-century masterpieces by Henry Purcell.

    Notable world premieres in recent seasons include Symphony (2012) at the Los Angeles Philharmonic; The Stars and the Roses at the Berkeley Symphony; Say Thou Dost Love Me (2012) for a cappella chorus with the New York Virtuoso Singers; Take Him, Earth at the American Choral Directors Association national conference; Rhapsodies (2008) by the New York Philharmonic at London’s BBC Proms; August 4, 1964 (2007-08) by the Dallas Symphony; the Chamber Concerto (2010) by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; and the Piano Quintet (2009-10) at Portland’s Chamber Music Northwest festival. Other past highlights include high-profile repeat performances of Silent Spring (2011), which the Pittsburgh Symphony toured to seven key European cities; Andantino quasi Allegretto (Schubert Dream) by pianists Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (2011); the Chamber Concerto (2010) by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under conductor Roberto Abbado; the Elegy from August 4, 1964, which the Dallas Symphony reprised at home and in Germany; and Radical Light (2006-07), which London’s Philharmonia Orchestra revived in Bonn. Stucky’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Second Concerto for Orchestra was commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2004.

    For more than 20 years, Stucky enjoyed the longest relationship on record between a composer and an American orchestra: in 1988 André Previn appointed him Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; later, as the ensemble’s Consulting Composer for New Music, he worked closely with Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen on contemporary programming, the awarding of commissions, and programming for nontraditional audiences. He also founded the orchestra’s Composer Fellowship Program for high school-aged composers. Elsewhere, Stucky hosted the New York Philharmonic’s acclaimed “Hear & Now” pre-concert programs for several seasons, introducing important works and premieres to Philharmonic audiences. Other prominent residencies were with the American Academy in Rome, June in Buffalo, Lehigh University, University of South Carolina, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eastman School of Music, and the University of Georgia. Internationally, Stucky undertook residencies with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia; the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study; the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing; the Shanghai Conservatory of Music; and the Taipei National University of the Arts. In March 2012 he held a residency at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and he served as the Curtis Institute of Music’s 2012-13 Composer-in-Residence, the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Composer-of-the-Year 2011-12, the Music from Angel Fire Festival’s 2012 Composer-in-Residence, and the Berkeley Symphony’s 2012-13 Music Alive Resident Composer.

    Stucky has fulfilled commissions for many major American orchestras, including those of Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Florida West Coast (Sarasota), Minnesota, Philadelphia, St. Louis, St. Paul, MN, and Washington, DC, as well as for Chanticleer, Boston Musica Viva, Camerata Bern, the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Barlow Endowment, the Howard Hanson Institute of American Music, Carnegie Hall, the BBC, the Aspen Music Festival, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and the Percussive Arts Society, and for such celebrated solo artists as pianist Emanuel Ax, recorder virtuoso Michala Petri, guitarist Manuel Barrueco, baritone Sanford Sylvan, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and violinist Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin.

    Stucky’s music has also been performed by the American Youth Symphony, Aspen Festival Orchestra, Aspen Chamber Symphony, Bavarian Radio Symphony, BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, Chicago Chamber Musicians, Cleveland Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Copenhagen Philharmonic, Da Camera of Houston, Danish National Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, the Handel and Haydn Society, Hartford Symphony, Helsinki Radio Symphony, Houston Symphony, London Sinfonietta, London Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, the Nash Ensemble, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Tucson Symphony, West Australian Symphony, and many more.

    Steven Stucky’s Cradle Songs and Whispers were commissioned and recorded by Chanticleer, the San Francisco-based male a cappella choir. The two discs were Billboard-charting bestsellers, and both won Grammy awards. Stucky’s extensive discography also contains Ad Parnassum; Boston Fancies; Dialoghi; Fanfares and Arias; Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (after Purcell); Music for Saxophones and Strings; Nell’ombra, nella luce; Partita-Pastorale, after J.S. Bach; Pinturas de Tamayo; Sappho Fragments; Second Concerto for Orchestra; Serenade for Wind Quintet; Son et lumière; Spirit Voices; Threnos; Three New Motets; and Voyages. He scored his first Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition last season, for his concert drama August 4, 1964, written with librettist Gene Scheer and recorded live by the Dallas Symphony for its DSO Live label.

    An active teacher and mentor to young composers, Stucky has served on the Warsaw jury of the Witold Lutoslawski Competition for Composers. His highly-esteemed expertise on the late composer’s music has been recognized with the Lutoslawski Society’s medal and an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his critical biography, Lutoslawski and His Music (1981). He is consultant to the Philharmonia Orchestra’s 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer in London.

    As conductor, Stucky has frequently led the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group and Ensemble X, a contemporary music group he founded in 1997. With the former, he led soloist Michala Petri in the US premiere of his recorder concerto, Etudes (2002), and conducted world and regional premieres of works by many of his contemporaries, such as Donald Crockett, Jacob Druckman, William Kraft, Witold Lutoslawski, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Phibbs, and Judith Weir.

    Stucky is permanently employed as Composer-in-Residence of the Aspen Music Festival and School, having previously held that post in 2001 and 2010, in addition to serving as director of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble in 2005. He was appointed as the first Barr Institute Composer Laureate at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Among his other honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bogliasco Fellowship, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the ASCAP Victor Herbert Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His first Concerto for Orchestra was one of two finalists for the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Stucky taught at Cornell University from 1980 to 2014, chairing the Music Department from 1992 to 1997, and now serves as Cornell's Given Foundation Professor of Composition, Emeritus. He has been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music and Temple University, and Ernest Bloch Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Stucky joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2014.

    Born on November 7, 1949 in Hutchinson, Kansas, Stucky was raised in Kansas and Texas. He studied at Baylor and Cornell Universities with Richard Willis, Robert Palmer, Karel Husa, and Burrill Phillips.

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    Much additional information about Steven Stucky’s compositions can be found on the Works page and at Theodore Presser Company.

    21C Media Group, September 2012

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