Foss, Lukas

Foss, Lukas

(fôs), 1922–2009, American composer, pianist, and conductor, b. Berlin as Lukas Fuchs. He came to the United States in 1937, attended the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, studied conducting with Serge KoussevitzkyKoussevitzky, Serge
(Sergei Aleksandrovich Koussevitzky) , 1874–1951, Russian-American conductor, studied in Moscow. He began his career as a double bass player. In 1908 he made his debut as a conductor in Berlin.
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 and composition with Paul HindemithHindemith, Paul
, 1895–1963, German-American composer and violist, b. Hanau, Germany. Hindemith combined experimental and traditional techniques into a distinctively modern style. After studying at the Frankfurt Conservatory, he began his career as a viola player.
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 at Yale, and became a citizen in 1942. His composition Four Inventions, for piano, was published when he was 15. In 1957, while a professor of composition at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles, he founded the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble, which performed many of his experimental works. From 1963 to 1970 he was music director and conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, where he became noted for performing avant-garde compositions. Teaching at the State Univ. of New York at Buffalo during this period, he also founded (1963) its Center for Creative and Performing Arts. In 1971 he was named music director of what became the Brooklyn Philharmonic, transforming a community ensemble into a significant New York orchestra; he remained in the post until 1990. He also directed the Jerusalem Symphony (1972–76) and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (1980–86).

As a composer, Foss created a wide variety of works in a great many musical forms. He was initially influenced by American composers, notably Aaron CoplandCopland, Aaron
, 1900–1990, American composer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Copland was a pupil of Rubin Goldmark and of Nadia Boulanger, who introduced his work to the United States when she conducted his Symphony for Organ and Orchestra in 1925.
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, and produced traditional works such as The Tempest (1942), an orchestral suite; The Prairie (1944), a cantata based on Carl SandburgSandburg, Carl,
1878–1967, American poet, journalist, and biographer, b. Galesburg, Ill. The son of poor Swedish immigrants, he left school at the age of 13 and became a day laborer.
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's poem; and Griffelkin (1955), an opera. His later interest in improvisational techniques and aleatory musicaleatory music
[Lat. alea=dice game], music in which elements traditionally determined by the composer are determined either by a process of random selection chosen by the composer or by the exercise of choice by the performer(s).
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 is reflected in such works as his chamber piece Elytres (1964). Still later, he turned to minimalismminimalism,
schools of contemporary art and music, with their origins in the 1960s, that have emphasized simplicity and objectivity. Minimalism in the Visual Arts
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 and a postmodern eclecticism, as in his Renaissance Concerto (1986).

Bibliography

See K. L. Perone, Lukas Foss: A Bio-Bibliography (1991).

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