Composer, conductor and pianist Lukas Foss dies at 86
Last Updated: Monday, February 2, 2009 | 4:14 PM ET
Lukas Foss, an American pianist and composer of contemporary music, has died. He was 86.
The German-born composer died Sunday at his home in New York, according to his wife, the artist Cornelia Foss.
Foss also had a career as a conductor, working with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Jerusalem Symphony and the Milwaukee Symphony.
His works include solo pieces for piano, choral and chamber music and many orchestral works in styles ranging from neo-classical to contemporary.
Born Lukas Fuchs in Berlin Aug. 15, 1922, he studied piano and music theory and composed music from an early age.
He moved to Paris to study piano with Lazare Lévy in Paris in 1933. In 1937, he left for the U.S., where he studied composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale and conducting with Sergey Koussevitzky at Tanglewood.
He made his conducting debut in 1939 and was an accomplished pianist, playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1944-50. He later founded the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble, a Los Angeles quartet, in 1957.
He taught composition and conducting at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1953-62 and later taught at Tanglewood and Boston University.
Foss's early compositions use the 12-tone technique and improvisation but his later works are a mix of styles.
He received the New York Music Critics' Circle Award three times, for The Prairie in 1945, for Concerto No. 2 [piano] in 1954 and for Time Cycle in 1961.
Foss also composed operatic and stage works, including The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, based on a Mark Twain short story, and Introductions and Goodbyes, a nine-minute opera.
In 1989, he composed Elegy for Anne Frank to commemorate the 60th birthday of the Jewish girl who wrote a diary while hiding from the Nazis.
A recording of Foss's piano works was released in 2002 in honour of his 80th birthday.
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