Leon Kirchner (1919 - 2009)
18th September 2009
Leon Kirchner has made an indelible mark on contemporary music through his own remarkable style — in his words, "an artist must create a personal cosmos, a verdant world...powered by conviction and necessity." Like Arnold Schoenberg, his mentor, Kirchner weaved the past and the present, creating music that masterfully conveys our contemporary world.
We join Leon Kirchner's family and the entire musical community in celebration of his remarkable life and illustrious career.
Leon Kirchner: composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher
For Leon Kirchner (1919 - 2009), music was his motivation. His remarkable life and illustrious career as an influential composer, a renowned pianist, an esteemed conductor, and a beloved teacher is celebrated by all who came to know and love the man and the artist. Kirchner's music continues to be performed by generations of musicians. Most recently The Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered his final work The Forbidden in October 2008, and in January 2009 New York City’s Miller Theatre, in honor of Kirchner's 90th birthday, presented a retrospective concert of his work. Kirchner's first published work was Duo in 1947.
To pianist Joel Fan, an alumni of Kirchner’s courses at Harvard University, his music is of "pure artistic integrity, revealing the highest ideals for which music stands.” As described by Daniel Phillips of the Orion String Quartet, Kirchner’s music has a "deep authenticity. Every note is supercharged with an expressive atmosphere. Even when it is quiet, it is intense. Most importantly, Kirchner has never lost touch with what sounds beautiful.”
Click here to listen to an interview with Leon Kirchner as he discusses studying with Arnold Schoenberg. Also hear about the genesis of "The Forbidden" triptych: Piano Sonata No. 3, String Quartet No. 4, and the premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Click here to Look and Listen to audio and score samples to explore the similarities and the differences between the three Forbidden worksKirchner's final work, The Forbidden, a 15 minute, one movement work for orchestra, is the last in a triptych begun in 2006 with the Piano Sonata No. 3 and the String Quartet No. 4, written for Joel Fan and the Orion String Quartet, respectively. Each work in this triptych shares similarities in their overall structure, melodic content, and harmonic consistency; however, each of the three works, like triplet children, have their own personalities.
Taken from a quote in the novel Dr. Faustus by Thomas Mann, the title of the triptych, The Forbidden, references a warning by the Devil to the novel's protagonist, who has sold his soul in exchange for twenty-four years as a great composer: "Every better composer bears within him a canon of what is forbidden, of what forbids itself, which by now embraces the very means of tonality, and thus all traditional music.”
This diabolic advice to avoid the past became a challenge to Kirchner and is a mark of his personal, "verdant” world. To him, "it was a seductive idea, one that I have been pursuing of late, to possibly reveal the necessary intimacies between the past and present, which keep the art of music alive and well.”
As evidenced by this final chapter in his prolific œuvre, Leon Kirchner's place in the history of music will most certainly endure. His passionate artistry, his unfailingly unique musical voice, and his profound influence will forever shape the future of music and the lives of those who have come to know him.