American composer, conductor and educator, Lukas Foss, has contributed profoundly to the circulation and appreciation of music from the 20th century. He began his musical studies in Berlin, where he studied piano and theory with Julius Goldstein (Herford). Goldstein introduced Foss to the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, which proved to have a profound effect on Foss's musical development. In 1933, Foss went to Paris, where he studied piano with Lazare Levy, as well as composition with Noel Gallon, orchestration with Felix Wolfes and flute with Marcel Moyse. Foss remained in Paris until 1937, when he moved, with his family, to the United States, where he continued his musical instruction at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In addition to his Curtis studies, Foss studied conducting with Koussevitzky during the summers from 1939 to 1943 at the Berkshire Music Center. He also studied composition with Paul Hindemith as a special student at Yale from 1939 to 1940.
Foss began to compose at the age of 15, and at the age of 22, won the New York Music Critic's Award for his cantata, Prairie, which was premiered by the Collegiate Chorale, under the direction of Robert Shaw. From 1944-50, Foss served as the pianist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1945, he was the youngest composer ever to receive a Guggenheim fellowship. From 1950-51, he was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome, and received a Fulbright grant for 1950-52.
In February of 1953, Foss received an appointment as professor of music at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he taught composition and conducting. While at UCLA, Foss founded the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble. He served from 1963-1970 as music director and conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1963, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Foss founded, and became the director of, the Center for Creative and Performing Arts. He has also traveled widely, appearing as a guest conductor with many American and European Orchestras, and lecturing at many North American colleges and universities.
In 1971, Foss became the conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, a position which he held until 1990, when he was named Conductor-Laureate. In 1972, he was appointed conductor of the Kol Israel Orchestra of Jerusalem. From 1972-3, Foss served as composer-in-residence at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, and from 1981-86, was conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony.
Foss is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and, from 1989-90, served as composer in residence at the Tanglewood Music Center. Foss became Professor of Music at the School for the Arts at Boston University in 1991.
The compositions of Lukas Foss illustrate two main periods in his artistic development, separated by a transitional phase, which is characterized by controlled improvisation. The works of the first period are predominantly neo-classic and eclectic in style, which he infused with elements of American popularism. The transitional period began in 1956 when he began to formulate what he referred to as "system and chance music" for his work with the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble. This led to an abandonment of tonality and the classical fixed forms in favor of serialism, indeterminacy and graphic notation. ~ Stephen Kingsbury, Rovi
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