William Bolcom

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Named 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America, and honored with multiple Grammy Awards for his ground-breaking setting of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, William Bolcom is a composer of cabaret songs, concertos, sonatas, operas, symphonies, and much more.  He was awarded the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music for hisTwelve New Etudes for piano.

As a pianist he has recorded for Advance, Jazzology, Musical Heritage, Nonesuch, Vox, and Omega. With his wife, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris, he has performed in concert for 40 years throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad.
Premieres in 2012:  Second Piano Quintet by the Pro Arte Quartet and pianist Christopher Taylor in Madison, Wis.;Chestnuts [4 songs] by Emalie Savoy, soprano, Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano, Dimitri Pittas, tenor, Joshua Hopkins, baritone, and Warren Jones, piano in Carnegie Hall/New York; Gettysburg, July 1, 1853 by Nathan Wyatt, baritone and Lucas Wong, piano in Los Angeles, CA; Ninth Symphony by Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra [Rice University], Larry Rachleff, conductor in Houston, TX; and The Jersey Side by soprano Christine Brewer and pianist Roger Vignoles in wigmore Hall/London.

Premieres in 2010:  Romanza by violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with the New Century Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco; La fantome du Clavecin by harpsichordist Andreas Skouras in London; The Hawthorn Tree by mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle and members of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York; and Prometheusby the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Pacific Chorale, pianist Jeffrey Biegel, and conductor Carl St. Clair in Costa Mesa, CA.  The latter work has also been performed by the other 8 commissioning orchestras.

2009 saw the premieres of First Symphony for Band in February by the University of Michigan Symphony Band in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Shakyamuni in February by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for the reopening of Alice Tully Hall; and in May, Introduzione e Rondo:  HAYDN GO SEEK by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt in Eisenstadt, Austria and Lady Liberty by The Master Singers of Lexington [Mass.] and The Ann Arbor Vocal Arts Ensemble.

In February 2008 his Eighth Symphony was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus conducted by James Levine in Boston, MA and Carnegie Hall/New York. Within the same month the Guarneri and Johannes String Quartets premiered Bolcom’s Octet:  Double Quartet.  Other 2008 premieres: Ballade in January 2008 by pianist Ursula Oppens; Lucrezia, a one-act comic opera for 5 singers and 2 pianists, in March 2008 by New York Festival of Song; Four Piedmont Choruses in May 2008 by the Piedmont Chamber Singers; A Song for St. Cecilia’s Dayin June 2008 at the University of Chicago.

In 2007 Bolcom was feted in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, with a two and a half-week festival of his music, including master classes, recitals, and concerts of his organ and chamber music. Titled Illuminating Bolcom, the festival was highlighted by two performances of Songs of Innocence and of Experience accompanied by animated projections of Blake’s illuminations. The animations were commissioned by VocalEssence and created by projection designer Wendall K. Harrington.

In September 2006 Bolcom’s Canciones de Lorca with tenor Placido Domingo, the Pacific Symphony, and conductor Carl St. Clair, was premiered at the gala opening concert of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa, CA.

Bolcom taught composition at the University of Michigan from 1973-2008. Named a full professor in 1983, he was Chairman of the Composition Department from 1998 to 2003 and was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition in the fall of 1994.  He retired from teaching in 2008.

In addition to their performances, Bolcom and Morris have recorded over two dozen albums together. Their first one, After the Ball, garnered a Grammy nomination for Joan Morris. Recent recordings include:  two albums of songs by lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and Gus Kahn on Original Cast Records; Bolcom’s complete Cabaret Songs, written with lyricist Arnold Weinstein, on Centaur; and Someone Talked!  Memories of World War Ii with tenor Robert White and narrator Hazen Schumacher.

Recent recordings of his works include:  From the Diary of Sally Hemings, written with playwright Sandra Seaton, performed by soprano Alyson Cambridge and pianist Lydia Brown, and available on White Pine Records; Little Suite of Four Dances and Concert-Piece with clarinetist Maureen Hurd and available on MSR Recordings. 

Photo credit: Katryn Conlin