Blitzstein, Marc

Blitzstein, Marc

(1905–64) composer; born in Philadelphia. A pianist and composer as a youth, in 1924 he enrolled in the newly established Curtis Institute to study composition. He went on to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Schoenberg in Berlin, where he encountered the socially-conscious works of Brecht and Weill. In 1928, he gave his first major performance in New York as composer-pianist (his Sonata for Piano), but in the 1930s he became even more attracted to writing music with explicit social themes and began to focus his efforts on writing for the musical theater. His best known work, The Cradle Will Rock (1937), fulfilled this aim and he became a member of the Communist Party (1938–49). After serving in the U.S. Air Force in World War II—which inspired his Airborne Symphony (1946)—he returned to writing works for the musical stage; the most ambitious of these was Regina (1949), but none of them achieved the success of his adaptation of the Brecht/Weill Threepenny Opera. At the time of his death—he was murdered while on holiday in Martinique—he was working on a commission from the Metropolitan Opera, his Sacco and Vanzetti (begun in the early 1930s).