Corigliano, John


Corigliano, John
▪ 2002

      Premieres during the 2000–01 season of new works by the American composer John Corigliano, including his Symphony No. 2, continued his reputation as a prolific writer whose compositions were regularly heard in concert halls. Corigliano did not write in a particular style but rather drew from eclectic influences that varied from work to work. Many of his compositions were virtuosic, tailored to the performers who commissioned them. His music was generally tonal and accessible and was often highly expressive. He wrote in many forms, including works for orchestra, solo instruments, and chamber groups, as well as operas, choral works, and film scores.

      Corigliano was born on Feb. 16, 1938, in New York City. His father was concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic from 1943 to 1966, and his mother was a well-known piano teacher. He tried many instruments but had only sporadic lessons. In his teens he began analyzing the scores of compositions while listening to recordings, and he demonstrated an ability to transpose and harmonize. He studied at Columbia University, graduating cum laude in 1959, and also studied at the Manhattan School of Music. He then worked for radio stations, assisted Leonard Bernstein in the production of his Young People's Concerts, produced recordings, and did orchestrations for pop albums. In 1964 his Sonata for Violin and Piano won first prize in the chamber music competition at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. It received its premiere two years later at Carnegie Hall, and his career as a composer was launched.

      Among the best known of Corigliano's compositions were Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1977), a favourite that remained in the repertoire; Pied Piper Fantasy (1982), a work for flute and orchestra commissioned by James Galway; and A Dylan Thomas Trilogy (1999), for three male voices with two choruses and orchestras. Symphony No. 1, completed when he was composer in residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1987 to 1990, was a response to the AIDS epidemic. Its recording by the orchestra received two Grammys, as the best new composition and the best orchestral performance. String Quartet (1995), commissioned for the Cleveland Quartet's final tour, also won two Grammys, for best new composition and best performance. It was the first time two recordings of a composer's works had been so honoured. His opera The Ghosts of Versailles, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and premiered in 1991, was performed throughout the world. The Red Violin, his third film score, won an Academy Award in 2000.

      Corigliano taught at institutions in New York City, including the Juilliard School. He received numerous prizes and awards. In 1991 the versatile and prolific composer became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Robert Rauch

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▪ American composer
born Feb. 16, 1938, New York, N.Y., U.S.

      American composer who drew from eclectic influences to create music that was generally tonal, accessible, and often highly expressive. Corigliano, who composed works for orchestra, solo instruments, and chamber groups, as well as operas, choral works, and film scores, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra.

      Corigliano's father was concertmaster (1943–66) of the New York Philharmonic, and his mother was a piano teacher. In his teens he began analyzing the scores of compositions while listening to recordings, and he demonstrated an ability to transpose and harmonize. Corigliano graduated (1959) from Columbia University in New York City and also studied at the Manhattan School of Music. He then worked for radio stations, assisted composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein (Bernstein, Leonard) in the production of his Young People's Concerts, produced recordings, and did orchestrations for pop albums. Corigliano later taught at institutions in New York City, including the Juilliard School (from 1991). In 1991 he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

      In 1964 Corigliano's first major work, Sonata for Violin and Piano, won the chamber music competition at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. It received its premiere two years later at New York City's Carnegie Hall. Among his other compositions are Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1977); Pied Piper Fantasy (1982), a concerto commissioned by flutist James Galway; Symphony No. 1, completed while Corigliano was composer in residence (1987–90) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the opera The Ghosts of Versailles, which was commissioned by New York's Metropolitan Opera and premiered there in 1991; String Quartet (1995); A Dylan Thomas Trilogy (1999); and Circus Maximus, a symphony for three wind bands that had its premiere at the University of Texas in 2005. The Red Violin, his third film score, won an Academy Award in 2000; a piece based in part on the score, The Red Violin Concerto, was recorded by violinist Joshua Bell and the Baltimore Sympony Orchestra in 2007.

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Universalium. 2010.

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