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Benjamin Lees

 b.8 January 1924, Harbin, Manchuria
d.31 May 2010, New YorkBenjamin Lees Photo: Bob Trogman/Boosey & Hawkes

Biography


English    


Short Biography:

Benjamin Lees was born January 8,1924 and spent his early years in San Francisco, moving to Los Angeles with his family in 1939. Following military service in WWII he attended the University of Southern California. Later he began four years of intensive study, privately, with the composer George Antheil . A Fromm Foundation Award in 1953 and the first of two Guggenheim Fellowships took him to Europe, where he remained for seven years. He taught at the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore, holding the W.Alton Jones Chair of Composition, the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, and Queens College, New York.

His works have been performed by major orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo;  Major soloists have included pianists  Ian Hobson, Emanuel Ax, and Gary Graffman; violinists  Henryk Szeryng and  Elmar Oliveira; contralto Maureen Forrester;  Tokyo String Quartet, Juilliard String Quartet, Budapest String Quartet and Cypress String Quartet.  

Long Biography:

Benjamin Lees was born January 8, 1924 and spent his early years in San Francisco, moving to Los Angeles with his family in 1939. Following military service in WWII he attended the University of Southern California. Later he began four years of intensive study, privately, with the composer George Antheil . A Fromm Foundation Award in 1953 and the first of two Guggenheim Fellowships took him to Europe, where he remained for seven years. He taught at the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore, holding the W.Alton Jones Chair of Composition, the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, and Queens College, New York. His works have been performed by major orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo;  Major soloists have included pianists  Ian Hobson, Emanuel Ax, and Gary Graffman; violinists  Henryk Szeryng and  Elmar Oliveira; contralto Maureen Forrester;  Tokyo String Quartet, Juilliard String Quartet, Budapest String Quartet and Cypress String Quartet.

His recorded works include the Concerto for French Horn and Orchestra, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Lorin Maazel; Passacaglia for Orchestra with the Oregon Symphony under James DePreist;  theViolin Sonatas 1,2 & 3 with soloist Ellen Orner; Piano Sonata #4, Mirrors, and Fantasy Variations are on Albany Records featuring pianist Ian Hobson; the Piano Concerto #2 with pianist Ian Hobson and the Albany Symphony Orchestra under Alan David Miller; the two-CD album containing the Symphony nos. 2,3 & 5 with the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz led by Stephen Gunzenhauser; the Symphony "Memorial Candles” is on the Naxos label with the Orchestra of the Ukraine and mezzo Kimball Wheeler while the Violin Concerto has been recorded by Elmar Oliveira and the Orchestra of the Ukraine on the Artek label. The Toccata Classics label with pianist Mirian Conti features a retrospective of the composer’s piano works from 1947 - 2005 which includes the Six Ornamental Etudes, Toccata, Three Preludes, Sonata Breve, and Odyssey nos.1.2 & 3.
 
His honors include two Guggenheim Fellowships, Sir Arnold Bax Medal,(London), Fulbright Fellowship,(Finland)  Copley Foundation Award, and the Composer’s Award from the Lancaster (PA) Symphony. He was the first recipient of the Fromm Foundation Award in 1952, and was invited as a guest of the Union of Soviet Composers in 1967. He received a Grammy Nomination in 2004 for his Symphony No.5 in the category Best Classical Composition.

Yale University has recently acquired the complete music archive of Benjamin Lees. Manuscripts, sketches, published scores, letters, photographs, articles, commercial and performance CD recordings, and posters and will reside in the Yale Music Library.

- April 2010

This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with the following credit: Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes

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