Words and music are inextricably linked for Ned Rorem. Time Magazine
has called him "the world's best composer of art songs,"
yet his musical and literary ventures extend far beyond this specialized
Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos and an array
of other orchestral works, music for numerous combinations of chamber
forces, six operas, choral works of every description, ballets and
other music for the theater, and literally hundreds of songs and cycles.
He is the author of fourteen books, including five volumes of diaries
and collections of lectures and criticism. Rorem was born in Richmond,
Indiana on October 23, 1923. As a child he moved to Chicago with his
family; by the age of ten his piano teacher had introduced him to
Debussy and Ravel, an experience which "changed my life forever,"
according to the composer. At seventeen he entered the Music School
of Northwestern University, two years later receiving a scholarship
to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied composition under
Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard, taking his B.A. in 1946 and his M.A.
degree (along with the $1,000 George Gershwin Memorial Prize in composition)
in 1948. In New York he worked as Virgil Thomson's copyist in return
for $20 a week and orchestration lessons. He studied on fellowship
at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood in the summers of 1946
and 1947; in 1948 his song The Lordly Hudson was voted the best published
song of that year by the Music Library Association.
In 1949 Rorem moved to France, and lived there until 1958. His years
as a young composer among the leading figures of the artistic and
social milieu of post-war Europe are absorbingly portrayed in The
Paris Diary and The New York Diary, 1951-1961 (reissued by Da Capo,
1998). He currently lives in New York City and Nantucket.
Ned Rorem has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951),
a Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), and an award from the National Institute
of Arts and Letters (1968). He received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award
in 1971 for his book Critical Affairs, A Composer's Journal, in 1975
for The Final Diary, and in 1992 for an article on American opera
in Opera News. Among his many commissions for new works are those
from the Ford Foundation (for Poems of Love and the Rain, 1962), the
Lincoln Center Foundation (for Sun, 1965); the Koussevitzky Foundation
(for Letters from Paris, 1966); the Atlanta Symphony (for the String
Symphony, 1985); the Chicago Symphony (for Goodbye My Fancy, 1990);
and from Carnegie Hall (for Spring Music, 1991). Among the distinguished
conductors who have performed his music are Bernstein, Masur, Mehta,
Mitropoulos, Ormandy, Previn, Reiner, Slatkin, Steinberg, and Stokowski;
his suite Air Music won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize in music.
The Atlanta Symphony recording of the String Symphony, Sunday Morning,
and Eagles received a GrammyAward for Outstanding Orchestral Recording
Rorem's orchestral scores of the past decade include Piano Concerto
for Left Hand and Orchestra (1991), premiered by soloist Gary Graffman
with André Previn conducting the Symphony Orchestra of the
Curtis Institute of Music; and Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra
(1993), commissioned by the New YorkPhilharmonic in honor of its 150th
anniversary season. Kurt Masur conducted the premiere, with Tom
Stacy as the soloist. His most recent orchestral work is a Double
Concerto for Violin, Cello, and
Orchestra commissioned by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; Raymond
Leppard conducted longtime Rorem advocates Jaime Laredo (violin) and
Sharon Robinson (cello) in the work's premiere in October 1998. One
week after the work's debut in Indianapolis, Leppard and his soloists
traveled to the U.K. to perform the concerto with the Scottish Chamber
Ned Rorem turned 75 on October 23, 1998; leading the birthday-year
celebrations was the premiere of his evening-length song cycle for
four singers and piano, Evidence of Things Not Seen.
Consisting of 36 songs, the three-part cycle represents Rorem's magnum
opus in the medium. The New York Festival of Song premiered the cycle
at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall in January 1998, followed by
a performance in April at the Library of Congress. New York magazine
called Evidence of Things Not Seen "one of the musically richest,
most exquisitely fashioned, most voice-friendly collections of songs
I have ever heard by any American composer;" Chamber Music magazine
deemed it "a masterpiece."
Other Entertainment, Rorem's latest book, is a collection of essays
and short reminiscences, issued by Simon and Schuster in 1996. In
addition, Da Capo has recently issued The Paris Diary and The New
York Diary in a single paperback volume. Rorem has said: "My
music is a diary no less compromising than my prose. A diary nevertheless
differs from a musical composition in that it depicts themoment, the
writer's present mood which, were it inscribed an hour later, could
emerge quite otherwise. I don't believe that composers notate their
moods, they don't tell the music where to go - it leads them....Why
do I write music? Because I want to hear it - it's simple as that.
Others may have more talent, more sense of duty. But I compose just
from necessity, and no one else is making what I need."
Bio taken from the official Ned Rorem Website. For more information
click on www.nedrorem.com.