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Leon Kirchner was born on January 24, 1919 of Russian parents in Brooklyn, grew up in Los Angeles, and studied with Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions, and Ernest Bloch. Stylistically, Kirchner remained remarkably individual; earlier influences of Hindemith, Bartók, and Stravinsky soon yielded to a wholehearted identification with the aesthetics, if not necessarily the specific procedures, of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern.
Extraordinarily gifted as both a pianist and a conductor, Kirchner was first and foremost a composer. A member of the American Academies of Arts and Letters and of Arts and Sciences, he was honored twice by the New York Music Critics’ Circle
(String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2)
, and received the Naumburg Award
(Piano Concerto No. 1)
, the Pulitzer Prize
(String Quartet No. 3)
, the Friedheim Award
(Music for Cello and Orchestra)
, and commissions from, among others, the Ford, Fromm, and Koussevitzky Foundations, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festivals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. He also conducted at a number of leading music festivals around the world, most recently at Ravinia. He taught for many years at Harvard University.
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