Remembering Lee Hoiby

Remembering Lee Hoiby
© Photo by Marcus Blechman
"What I learned from Schubert came from a long, deep and loving exposure to his songs."
— Lee Hoiby

Lyrical composer and pianist Lee Hoiby was born 90 years ago today in Madison, Wisconsin. An early prodigy on piano, he later studied with the composers Darius Milhaud at Mills College and Gian Carlo Menotti at the Curtis Institute of Music. He worked on the Broadway productions of Menotti's operas The Consul and The Saint of Bleecker Street.

Menotti produced Hoiby's first opera at the Spoleto Festival in 1957 to critical acclaim, launching a full composing career. It included several operas and monodramas — among them, Bon Appétit! on texts of the popular cooking personality Julia Child, and The Tempest, a grand opera in three acts after Shakespeare — over 100 songs, choral works, and solo piano pieces, as well as works for orchestra.

His commissioners included New York City Opera, the Spoleto Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, American Opera Projects, The Washington Cathedral, Choral Arts Society of Washington, The Verdehr Trio, the Dorian Wind Quintet, the Ames Piano Quartet, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, the Richard Tucker Foundation, Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, American Guild of Organists, Mercersburg College, and Cantus.

In 2006, Hoiby spoke about his long life of composing: "For me, composing music bears some likeness to archaeology. It requires patient digging, searching for the treasure; the ability to distinguish between a treasure and the rock next to it and recognizing when you're digging in the wrong place. The archaeologist takes a soft brush and brushes away a half-teaspoon at a time. Musically, that would be a few notes, or a chord. Sometimes the brushing reveals an especially lovely thing, buried there for so long."

Lee Hoiby passed away on March 28, 2011. Publishers of Lee Hoiby's music
Complete Catalog at LeeHoiby.net
Biography at Schott Music
Playlist overview on Spotify.com
Scores for perusal at OnDemand

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