July 3, 1926 - November 26, 2003
born in New York, NY, composed during the Modern period
Meyer Kupferman was a versatile and eclectic composer who incorporated diverse elements in his works, from aleatoric music and jazz to Impressionism, from serial music and atonality to Romanticism. He wrote works in most genres, including opera, ballet, symphonies, concertos, film scores, chamber, vocal, and choral music.
Kupferman was born in New York City on July 3, 1926. He exhibited talent as a child, first showing interest in the violin but then taking up the clarinet at age 10. He soon taught himself piano, as well, then later studied music at New York's High School of Music and Art. Though he pursued music studies at Queens College, he learned composition on his own.
Around the mid-'40s Kupferman served as an arranger for several jazz bands. His first opera, In a Garden (1948), drew considerable attention at its first performances at the Tanglewood Festival and later at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1951 he joined the faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, teaching composition and chamber music. He eventually became chairman of the music department, serving in that capacity for five terms.
In 1961 he began composition on one of his largest and best-known collections of works, the Cycle of Infinities, a group of 34 chambers pieces, which he concluded in 1984. By the 1970s he was regularly receiving prestigious commissions: for the Kansas City Philharmonic he wrote his cantata, Comicus Americanus (1970); for the Hudson Valley Philharmonic he composed his Symphony No. 10, FDR (1982), as well as his famous Jazz Symphony (1988).
Kupferman received many citations and grants throughout this period, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975 and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters grant in 1981. In 1990 Kupferman traveled to Lithuania to take part in a recording of his Jazz Symphony and Challenger (1983), despite warnings of grave hardship there, owing to Soviet economic sanctions. Two years later, Kupferman's provocative book Atonal Jazz was published by Dorn Publications. The composer retired from Sarah Lawrence in 1994, concluding 43 years of service as a professor of music.
That same year he produced his Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, premiered in Mexico by soloist Roberto Limón, a close friend who commissioned four guitar concertos in all from the composer. Kupferman remained active in his last years, turning out such works as the 2002 orchestral piece Invisible Borders. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi