Roger Nixon

Roger Nixon (1921 – 2009) was an American composer, musician, and professor of music. He wrote over 60 compositions for orchestra, band, choir and opera. Nixon received multiple awards and honors for his works, many of which contain a feel of the rhythms and dances of the early settlers of his native state of California.

Composer full Name: Roger Alfred Nixon
Date of Birth: August 8, 1921
Date of Death: October 13, 2009
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: The 20th century
Biography: Nixon was born and raised in California’s Central Valley towns of Tulare and Modesto. Nixon attended Modesto Junior College from 1938–1940 where he studied clarinet with Frank Mancini, formerly of John Philip Sousa’s band. He continued his studies at UC Berkeley, majoring in composition and receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941. His studies were then interrupted by almost four years of active duty in the Navy during World War II, serving as the commanding officer of an LCMR in the Atlantic.

Following the war Nixon returned to UC Berkeley, first receiving a M.A. degree and later a Ph.D. His primary teacher was Roger Sessions. He also studied with Arthur Bliss, Ernest Bloch, Charles Cushing, and Frederick Jacobi. In the summer of 1948, he studied privately with Arnold Schoenberg.

From 1951 to 1959, Nixon was on the music faculty at Modesto Junior College. He was then appointed to the faculty at San Francisco State College, now San Francisco State University, in 1960 and began a long association with the Symphonic Band, which premiered many of his works. Most of Nixon’s works are for band, but he has also composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo piano, choral ensembles, as well as song cycles and an opera. His most popular and most-performed work is Fiesta del Pacifico, a piece for concert band.

Nixon received several awards including a Phelan Award, the Neil A. Kjos Memorial Award, and five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was elected to the American Bandmasters Association in 1973, the same year he won the association’s Ostwald Award for his composition Festival Fanfare March. In 1997, Nixon was honored by the Texas Bandmasters Association as a Heritage American Composer. At his death, he was Professor Emeritus of Music at San Francisco State University.

His students at San Francisco State University include Kent Nagano.

Nixon died on October 13, 2009, from complications from leukemia at Mills Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame, California.




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Concert Band Works
Concertante Works





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Arthur Bliss

Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) was an English composer and conductor.

Composer full Name: Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss
Date of Birth: 02 August 1891
Date of Death: 27 March 1975
Nationality: ??????? English
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century

Bliss’s musical training was cut short by the First World War, in which he served with distinction in the army. In the post-war years he quickly became known as an unconventional and modernist composer, but within the decade he began to display a more traditional and romantic side in his music. In the 1920s and 1930s he composed extensively not only for the concert hall, but also for films and ballet.

In the Second World War, Bliss returned to England from the US to work for the BBC and became its director of music. After the war he resumed his work as a composer, and was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music.

In Bliss’s later years, his work was respected but was thought old-fashioned, and it was eclipsed by the music of younger colleagues such as William Walton and Benjamin Britten. Since his death, his compositions have been well represented on record, and many of his better-known works remain in the repertoire of British orchestras.

BiographyEarly years: Bliss was born in Barnes, a London suburb, the eldest of three sons of Francis Edward Bliss (1847–1930), a businessman from Massachusetts, and his second wife, Agnes Kennard née Davis (1858–1895). Agnes Bliss died in 1895, and the boys were brought up by their father, who instilled in them a love for the arts. Bliss was educated at Bilton Grange preparatory school, Rugby and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied classics, but also took lessons in music from Charles Wood. Other influences on him during his Cambridge days were Edward Elgar, whose music made a lasting impression on him, and E.J. Dent.

Bliss graduated in classics and music in 1913 and then studied at the Royal College of Music in London for a year. At the RCM he found his composition tutor, Sir Charles Stanford, of little help to him, but found inspiration from Ralph Vaughan Williamsand Gustav Holst and his fellow-students, Herbert Howells, Eugene Goossens and Arthur Benjamin. In his brief time at the college he got to know the music of the Second Viennese School and the repertory of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with music by modern composers such as Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky.

When the First World War broke out, Bliss joined the army, and fought in France as an officer in the Royal Fusiliers until 1917 and then in the Grenadier Guards for the rest of the war. His bravery earned him a mention in despatches, and he was twice wounded and once gassed.

His younger brother Kennard was killed in the war, and his death affected Bliss deeply. The music scholar Byron Adams writes, “Despite the apparent heartiness and equilibrium of the composer’s public persona, the emotional wounds inflicted by the war were deep and lasting.” In 1918, Bliss converted to Roman Catholicism.

Early compositions   |   1940s   |   Later years




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Piano Works
Chamber Works
Orchestral Works
Concertante
Vocal, Choral & Opera Works
Ballet & Incidental Music
Soundtrack / Film Music
Fanfares & Brass Ensambles





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Ernest Bloch

Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was a Swiss-born American composer. Bloch was a pre-eminent artist in his day and left a lasting legacy. He is recognised as one of the greatest Swiss composers in history. As well as producing musical scores, Bloch had an academic career that culminated in his recognition as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952.

Composer full Name: Ernest Bloch
Date of Birth: July 24, 1880
Date of Death: July 15, 1959
Nationality: American (Swiss-born)
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century Biography: Bloch was born in Geneva on July 24, 1880 to Jewish parents. He began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon after. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. He then travelled around Europe, moving to Germany (where he studied composition from 1900–1901 with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt), on to Paris in 1903 and back to Geneva before settling in the United States in 1916, taking US citizenship in 1924. He held several teaching appointments in the USA with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Quincy Porter, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils. See: List of music students by teacher: A to BErnest Bloch.

In 1917, Bloch became the first teacher of composition at Mannes School of Music, a post he held for three years. In December 1920 he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. Following this he was director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music until 1930. He spent most of the following decade in Switzerland where he composed his Avodath Hakodesh (“Sacred Service”) before returning to the USA in 1939.

In 1941, Bloch moved to the small coastal community of Agate Beach, Oregon and lived there the rest of his life. He taught and lectured (mostly summers) at the University of California, Berkeley until 1951. In 1952 he is named “Professeur Eméritus de l’Université de Berkeley,” even though he was not a full-time professor.

He died on July 15, 1959 in Portland, Oregon, of cancer at the age of 78. In keeping with a special tradition, Lucienne Bloch and her husband, Steve Dimitroff, prepared several death masks of Ernest Bloch. This once-common practice was usually undertaken to create a memento or portrait of the deceased, but it is unusual for an immediate family member to make the death mask. The Center for Creative Photography and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music each have a copy of Bloch’s death mask. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered near his home in Agate Beach.

     Family   Photography   Legacy




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Chamber Works
Piano Works
Vocal/Choral Works





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Ottorino Respighi

Ottorino Respighi (9 July 1879 – 18 April 1936) was an Italian violinist, composer and musicologist, best known for his three orchestral tone poems Fountains of Rome (1916), Pines of Rome (1924), and Roman Festivals (1928). His musicological interest in 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century music led him to compose pieces based on the music of these periods. He also wrote several operas, the most famous being La fiamma.

Respighi’s Career

Composer full Name: Ottorino Respighi
Date of Birth: 09 July 1879
Date of Death: 18 April 1936
Nationality: Italian
Period/Era/Style: 20th century, impressionism
Biography: Early life: Ottorino Respighi was born on 9 July 1879 in an apartment inside Palazzo Fantuzzi on Via Guido Reni in Bologna, Italy, into a musical family. His father, a local piano teacher, encouraged his son’s musical inclinations and taught him basic piano and violin at an early age. Not long into his violin lessons, however, Respighi suddenly quit after his teacher whacked him on the hand with a ruler when he had played a passage incorrectly. He resumed lessons several weeks later with a more patient teacher. His piano skills too, were a hit and miss affair, but his father arrived home one day surprised to find his son reciting Symphonic Studies by Robert Schumannon the family piano, revealing that he had learned it by himself in secret.

Respighi studied the violin and viola with Federico Sarti at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, composition with Giuseppe Martucci, and historical studies with Luigi Torchi, a scholar of early music. Respighi passed his exams and received a diploma in the violin, in 1899. By the time his studies had finished, he had acquired a large book collection, the majority of which were atlases and dictionaries due to his interest in languages.




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Orchestral Works
Concertante
Ballet Music
Chamber Works
Piano Works
Vocal & Choral Works





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Percy Grainger

Percy Grainger (08 July 1882 – 20 February 1961) was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. In the course of a long and innovative career, he played a prominent role in the revival of interest in British folk music in the early years of the 20th century. Although much of his work was experimental and unusual, the piece with which he is most generally associated is his piano arrangement of the folk-dance tune “Country Gardens”.

Grainger left Australia at the age of 13 to attend the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. Between 1901 and 1914 he was based in London, where he established himself first as a society pianist and later as a concert performer, composer and collector of original folk melodies. As his reputation grew he met many of the significant figures in European music, forming important friendships with Frederick Delius and Edvard Grieg. He became a champion of Nordic music and culture, his enthusiasm for which he often expressed in private letters, sometimes in crudely racial or anti-Semitic terms.

In 1914, Grainger moved to the United States, where he lived for the rest of his life, though he travelled widely in Europe and in Australia. He served briefly as a bandsman in the United States Army during 1917–18, and took American citizenship in 1918. After his mother’s suicide in 1922 he became increasingly involved in educational work. He also experimented with music machines that he hoped would supersede human interpretation. In the 1930s he set up the Grainger Museum in Melbourne, his birthplace, as a monument to his life and works and as a future research archive. As he grew older he continued to give concerts and to revise and rearrange his own compositions, while writing little new music. After the Second World War, ill health reduced his levels of activity, and he considered his career a failure. He gave his last concert in 1960, less than a year before his death

Composer full Name: George Percy Aldridge Grainger
Date of Birth: 08 July 1882
Date of Death: 20 February 1961
Nationality: Australian/American in 1918
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Biography: Early life: Family background   |   Childhood   |   Frankfurt
London years: Concert pianist   |   Emergent composer
Career maturity:   Departure for America   |   Career zenith
Inter-war years:   Traveller   |   Educator   |   Innovator
Later career:   Second World War   |   Postwar decline   |   Last years




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Band Music
Choral Works
Piano Works





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Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.

Composer full Name: Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky
Date of Birth: 17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882
Date of Death: 06 April 1971
Nationality: Russian-born, Naturalized American in 1945
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Contribution(s): Stravinsky’s compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Serge Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: The Firebird(1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The last of these transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky’s enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical design. His “Russian phase” which continued with works such as Renard, the Soldier’s Tale and Les Noces, was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassical music. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue and symphony), drawing on earlier styles, especially from the 18th century. In the 1950s, Stravinsky adopted serial procedures. His compositions of this period shared traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells and clarity of form, and of instrumentation.

 

Biography: Early life in the Russian Empire   |   Stravinsky and Ukraine   |   Life in Switzerland   |   Life in France   |   Life in the United States   |   Innovation and influence   |   Personality   |   Religion   |   Reception   |   Awards   |   Recordings and publications

Music: Russian period (c. 1907–1919)   |   Neoclassical period (c. 1920–1954)   |   Serial period (1954–1968)




Playlists: 


Orchestral Works
Ballet
Concertante
Piano Works
Chamber Works
Choral & Vocal Works
Opera & Overtures
The Best of Stravinsky





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Aram Khachaturian

Composer full Name: Aram Il’yich Khachaturian
Date of Birth: Soviet Armenian
Date of Death: 06 June [O.S. 24 May] 1903
Nationality: 01 May 1978
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Contribution(s): Khachaturian was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor. He is considered to have been one of the leading Soviet composers.

Born and raised in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, Khachaturian moved to Moscow in 1921 following the Sovietization of the Caucasus. Without prior music training, he enrolled in the Gnessin Musical Institute, subsequently studying at the Moscow Conservatory in the class of Nikolai Myaskovsky, among others. His first major work, the Piano Concerto (1936), popularized his name within and outside the Soviet Union. It was followed by the Violin Concerto (1940) and the Cello Concerto (1946). His other significant compositions include the Masquerade Suite (1941), the Anthem of the Armenian SSR (1944), three symphonies (1935, 1943, 1947), and around 25 film scores. Khachaturian is best known for his ballet music—Gayane (1942) and Spartacus (1954). His most popular piece, the “Sabre Dance” from Gayane, has been used extensively in popular culture and has been covered by a number of musicians worldwide. His style is “characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies”.

During most of his career, Khachaturian was approved by the Soviet government and held several high posts in the Union of Soviet Composers from the late 1930s, although he joined the Communist Party only in 1943. Along with Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich, he was officially denounced as a “formalist”, and his music dubbed “anti-people” in 1948, but was restored later that year. After 1950 he taught at the Gnessin Institute and the Moscow Conservatory, and turned to conducting. He traveled to Europe, Latin America and the United States with concerts of his own works. In 1957 Khachaturian became the Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers, a position he held until his death.

Khachaturian, who created the first Armenian ballet music, symphony, concerto, and film score, is considered the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century. While following the established musical traditions of Russia, he broadly used Armenian and, to lesser extent, Caucasian, Eastern and Central European, and Middle Eastern peoples’ folk music in his works. He is highly regarded in Armenia, where he is considered a “national treasure”.

Biography: Background and early life (1903–21)   |   Education (1922–36)   |   Early career (1936–48)   |   Denunciation and restoration (1948)   |   Later life (1950–78)




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Anniversary Album
Orchestral Works
Choral Works
Chamber Works





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Randall Thompson

Composer full Name: Randall Thompson
Date of Birth: April 21, 1899
Date of Death: July 9, 1984
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: 20th-century
Contribution(s): Thompson was an American composer, particularly noted for his choral works.

Biography: Randall attended The Lawrenceville School, where his father was an English teacher. He then attended Harvard University, became assistant professor of music and choir director at Wellesley College, and received a doctorate in music from the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. He went on to teach at the Curtis Institute of Music (serving as its Director 1941/1942), at the University of Virginia, and at Harvard University. He is particularly noted for his choral works. He was an honorary member of the Rho Tau chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity at Appalachian State University.

Thompson composed three symphonies and numerous vocal works including AmericanaThe Testament of FreedomFrostiana, and The Peaceable Kingdom, inspired by Edward Hicks’s painting. His most popular and recognizable choral work is his anthem, Alleluia, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky for the opening of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. He also wrote the operas Solomon and Balkis and The Nativity According to St. Luke.

Americana, a song cycle, is written in a 20th-century musical art style known as “News Items”—compositions that parody newspaper layout and content, or whose lyrics are lifted from media of the day. The lyrics are lifted from the “Americana” section of H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury magazine, which would reprint quotes and stories from U.S. publications. The song cycle’s texts come from such publications as the Seattle, Washington, Post-Intelligencer, the Little Rock, Arkansas, Gazette, and a leaflet issued by the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Leonard Bernstein was one of Thompson’s students both at Harvard and at Curtis, according to his own testimony in a speech he gave at Curtis Institute’s 75th Anniversary Banquet. Thompson’s other notable students include Samuel Adler, Leo Kraft, Juan Orrego-Salas, John Davison, Thomas Beveridge, Charles Edward Hamm, George Lynn, William P. Perry, Christopher King, Joel Cohen, Frederic Rzewski, Richard Edward Wilson and David Borden.

In honor of Thompson’s vast influence on male choral music, on May 2, 1964 he became the first recipient of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit. Established in 1964, this award sought “to bring a declaration of appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may find valid expression.” He was also a recipient of Yale University’s Sanford Medal.




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Samuel Barber

Composer full name: Samuel Osborne Barber II
Date of Birth: March 9, 1910
Date of Death: January 23, 1981
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century
Contribution(s): Barber was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. He is one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century: music critic Donal Henahan stated that “Probably no other American composer has ever enjoyed such early, such persistent and such long-lasting acclaim.”

His Adagio for Strings (1936) has earned a permanent place in the concert repertory of orchestras. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice: for his opera Vanessa (1956–57) and for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1962). Also widely performed is his Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947), a setting for soprano and orchestra of a prose text by James Agee. At the time of his death, nearly all of his compositions had been recorded.

Biography:   Early years   |   Middle years   |   Later years   |   Achievements and awards




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Quincy Porter

Composer: Quincy Porter
Date of Birth: February 7, 1897
Date of Death: November 12, 1966
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century
Contribution(s): Porter was an American composer and teacher of classical music.

Biography: Born in New Haven, Connecticut, he went to Yale University where his teachers included Horatio Parker and David Stanley Smith. Porter received two awards while studying music at Yale: the Osborne Prize for Fugue, and the Steinert Prize for orchestral composition. He performed the winning composition, a violin concerto, at graduation. Porter earned two degrees at Yale, an A.B. from Yale College and a Mus. B from the music school.

After graduation, he spent a year in Paris, studying at Schola Cantorum, then went to New York where he studied with Ernest Bloch and Vincent d’Indy. In 1923 Porter joined the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music where he was later appointed head of the Theory Department. He remained there until 1928 when he resigned to focus on composition. Returning to Paris on a Guggenheim Fellowship Porter began composing in earnest. During his 3 years in Paris, he composed Blues Lointains (1928), the Suite for Viola Alone (1930), his 3rd String Quartet (1930), 4th String Quartet (1931), his 2nd Violin Sonata (1929), and his Piano Sonata (1930). During the first trip, his daughter, Helen, was born.

In 1931 Porter returned to the United States, first rejoining the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music, then teaching at Vassar, where he was appointed a professor in 1932. In 1954, Porter’s 1953 Concerto Concertante, a concerto for two pianos and orchestra, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Tawa calls the piece, “affectively compelling, orchestrally luminous, and contrapuntally active”; cooperative rather than competitive. In 1938 later Porter became dean (1938–42) and then director (1942–46) of the New England Conservatory of Music, and in 1946 returned to Yale, as professor, to teach until 1965. Porter also served, from 1958 until his death, as chairman of the board of directors of the American Music Center, which he had founded with Howard Hanson and Aaron Copland in 1939. He died in Bethany, Connecticut.

He wrote a substantial amount in the “absolute (established) forms”, including nine string quartets (1923–1953), several concertos (including one for harpsichord, one for viola, and one for two pianos, the latter work receiving the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for Music), and two symphonies. His later music—while tonal—is harmonicallyacerbic and dissonant.

 
Playlist 1:
  • Symphony No. 1 (1934)
  • Symphony No. 2 (1962)
  • Poem and Dance (1932)
  • Viola Concerto (1948)
  • Ukrainian Suite – complete
  • Concerto for 2 pianos & orchestra (“Concerto concertante”)
  • In Monasterio, for string quartet
  • Our Lady Of Potchaiv (1923), for string quartet
  • Scherzo for String Quartet
  • Fugue for String Quartet
  • Suite for Viola Solo
Playlist 2:
  • String Quartet No. 1 in E minor (1923)
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1925)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1930)
  • String Quartet No. 4 (1931)
  • String Quartet No. 5 (1935)
  • String Quartet No. 6 (1937)
  • String Quartet No. 7 (1943)
  • String Quartet No. 8 (1950) – complete
  • String Quartet No. 9 (1958)

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