Kirchner, Leon

Alternative names
Birth 1919-01-24
Death 2009-09-17

Biographical notes:

Leon Kirchner (1919 - 2009) was an American composer, pianist and conductor. Born in Brooklyn, NY, to Russian Jewish immigrants, his family moved to Los Angeles when he was nine years old. He studied with Ernst Bloch while attending the University of California at Berkeley. Bloch recommended Kirchner to Arnold Schoenberg, who became Kirchner's primary mentor and influence; he also studied with Roger Sessions. Kirchner was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1948, after which he taught at the University of Southern California until 1954, when he was awarded a professorship at Mills College. In 1961 he was recruited by Harvard University, where he remained until his retirement in 1989. There, he founded and conducted the Harvard Chamber Orchestra, which grew out of a course Kirchner taught combining musical analysis with performance. Kirchner was an annual participant for many years in the Marlboro Music Festival.

Among his works are two piano concertos; three piano sonatas; four string quartets; two trios for piano, violin and cello; an opera, Lily, based on Saul Bellow's Henderson, the Rain King ; and several pieces for orchestra including Music for Orchestra, N.Y. Connotations, Music for Cello and Orchestra, and Music for Flute and Orchestra. Kirchner's String Quartet No. 3 was the first composition with electronics to win the Pulitzer Prize. He continued composing until his death at home in New York City.


Alexander L. Ringer. "Kirchner, Leon." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 3, 2011).

Griffiths, Paul and Alison Latham. "Kirchner, Leon." In The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 3, 2011).

From the guide to the Leon Kirchner papers, 1939-2009, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)


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