Robert Beaser has emerged as one of the most accomplished creative musicians of his generation. Since 1982, when the New York Times wrote that he possessed a “lyrical gift comparable to that of the late Samuel Barber,” his music has won international acclaim for its balance between dramatic sweep and architectural clarity. The Baltimore Sun writes “Beaser is one of this country’s huge composing talents, with a gift for vocal writing that is perhaps unequaled.” His opera The Food of Love, with a libretto by Terrence McNally, is part of the Central Park trilogy, which opened to worldwide critical accolades at Glimmerglass and New York City Opera. Televised nationally on PBS Great Performances, it received an Emmy nomination in 2000.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Beaser studied literature, political philosophy and music at Yale College in 1976. He went on to earn his Master of Music, M.M.A. and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Yale School of Music. From 1978-1990 he served as co-Music Director and Conductor of the chamber ensemble Musical Elements at the 92nd Street Y, bringing premieres of over two hundred works to Manhattan. From 1988-1993 he was the Meet the Composer/Composer-in-Residence with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and has since served as the ACO’s artistic advisor until January 2001, when he assumed the role of Artistic Director. Since 1993, he has been Professor and Chairman of the Composition Department at the Juilliard School in New York.
Beaser’s compositions have earned him numerous awards and honors. In 1977 he became the youngest composer to win the Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome. In 1986, Beaser’s widely heardMountain Songs was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Composition. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Fulbright Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Charles Ives Scholarship, an ASCAP Composers Award, a Nonesuch Commission Award and a Barlow Commission. In 1995 the American Academy of Arts and Letters honoured him with their lifetime achievement award, the Academy Award in music.
Beaser has received major commissions from the New York Philharmonic (150th Anniversary Commission), the Chicago Symphony (Centennial Commission), the Saint Louis Symphony, The American Composers Orchestra, The Baltimore Symphony and Dawn Upshaw, The Minnesota Orchestra, Chanticleer, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, and WNET/Great Performances among others. Recent major orchestral performances have come from the Chicago, Saint Louis and Baltimore Symphonies, The Minnesota Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the Vienna Radio Orchestra, the Dutch Radio Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic with James Galway. His music has been performed, recorded and commissioned by artists such as Leonard Slatkin, Richard Stoltzman, Eliot Fisk, James Galway, Lauren Flanigan, Dawn Upshaw, David Zinman, Dennis Russel Davies, Renée Fleming, Lukas Foss, Paul Sperry, Stewart Robertson, and Big Bird. His principal recorded works include The Seven Deadly Sins, Chorale Variations, and Piano Concerto (London/Argo), The Heavenly Feast (Milken Archives), Song of the Bells (New World Records), Notes on a Southern Sky (EMI-Electrola), Mountain Songs (Musicmasters, Koch, Gajo, Siemens, HM Records Venezuela), and Landscape With Bells (Innova).