Sessions, Roger

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Sessions, Roger,

1896–1985, American composer and teacher, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Sessions was a pupil of Horatio Parker at Yale and of Ernest Bloch. He taught (1917–21) at Smith, leaving to teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music as Bloch's assistant. With Aaron Copland he organized (1928) the Copland-Sessions Concerts for contemporary music. In 1935, after years abroad, Sessions joined the faculty of Princeton. He was professor of music at the Univ. of California from 1944 to 1952, when he returned to Princeton. His first major work was his incidental music (1923) for Leonid Andreyev's Black Maskers. Other important works are chorale preludes for organ; eight symphonies (1927, 1946, 1957, 1958, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968); a violin concerto (1935); a piano concerto (1956); and two string quartets (1936, 1950). Sessions's music, at first romantic and harmonic, became austere, complex, and highly individual. He wrote two operas (1947, 1963), a harmony textbook (1951), and several essays.


See his The Musical Experience (1950), Questions about Music (1970); studies by Cone (1979) and Olmstead (1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sessions, Roger


Born Dec. 28, 1896, in Brooklyn, N.Y. American composer.

Sessions studied under H. Parker and E. Bloch. Between 1925 and 1933 he worked intermittently in Florence, Rome, and Berlin. Together with A. Copland, he organized the Copland-Sessions Concerts (1928–31), which made an important contribution to the popularization of contemporary American music. From 1934 to 1942 he headed the International Society for Contemporary Music; he was elected the society’s vice-president in 1953. In 1933, Sessions embarked on a teaching career, lecturing on composition at various universities and conservatories in the USA, as well as in European countries. He visited the USSR in 1958.

Sessions’ musical style is significant in the history of composition and is characterized by an intellectual profundity, expressiveness, and taut counterpoint. His works include the operas The Trial of Lucullus (after B. Brecht, 1947) and Montezuma (1964, West Berlin), Idyll of Theocritus for voice and orchestra (1954), eight symphonies, an orchestral suite for L. N. An-dreev’s play The Black Maskers (1923), a concerto for violin and orchestra (1935), a concerto for piano and orchestra (1956), and instrumental chamber music, including ensemble works. Sessions has also composed choral works and works for piano. Sessions has written textbooks on harmony and works on the aesthetics and theory of music.


The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener. Princeton, N.J., 1950.
Questions About Music. Cambridge, Mass., 1970.


Schubart. M. A. “Roger Sessions.” Musical Quarterly, 1946, vol. 32, no. 2.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sessions, Roger (Huntington)

(1896–1985) composer; born in Brooklyn, N.Y. After studies at Harvard, Yale, and privately with Ernest Bloch, he taught for a while, then spent some years in Europe, meanwhile contributing to the historic Copland-Sessions new-music concerts of 1928 to 1931. Back in the U.S.A. from 1933, he taught at a series of schools including Princeton and Juilliard (from 1965). His early works were neoclassic and later ones 12-tone, all marked by high craft and seriousness; they include the opera Montezuma (1959–63) and the Concerto for Orchestra, which won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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