May 24, 1954 -
born in Boston, MA, composed during the Contemporary period
Robert Beaser is often classed as a member of the new tonalists, a group whose membership includes Lowell Liebermann, Daniel Asia, Paul Moravec, and other major America composers born at mid-twentieth century. Beaser, like his colleagues, embraces more traditional methods of composition, including tonality and an expressive directness. He possesses a great melodic gift and is unabashed in his use of it. Moreover, he is versatile in writing in a variety of genres, from opera and orchestral works to chamber pieces and songs and solo works for piano and guitar. Beaser is also active as a teacher, having chaired the composition department at Juilliard since 1994, a year after he joined the faculty there. Recordings of Beaser's works are available on a variety of labels, including Naxos, Koch International, Albany Records, Summit, and many others. He has appeared as conductor on the CRI label.
Robert Beaser was born in Boston, MA, on May 24, 1954. He was a precocious youngster: at 16 he conducted the Boston Youth Symphony in a performance of an orchestral work of his own. Beaser earned degrees in political philosophy and literature at Yale College, and then went on to Yale School of Music for a doctorate in music, studying under Jacob Druckman, Toru Takemitsu, Earle Brown, and other notables. He studied conducting with William Steinberg and Arthur Weisberg.
Beaser had further composition studies in 1976 with Betsy Jolas at Tanglewood. The following year he won the Prix de Rome, becoming the youngest American composer awarded the prize. From 1978-1980 he served as conductor and co-director of the New York City-based Musical Elements, a chamber ensemble mostly devoted to the performance of new music.
Beaser's first great compositional success came with his Mountain Songs (1984), for flute and guitar, which was nominated for a Grammy in 1986. Other successes followed, including The Heavenly Feast (1994), for soprano and orchestra, a work commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and its then-conductor David Zinman for performance with Dawn Upshaw.
Beaser's 1999 opera The Food of Love was written to fulfill one of his most important commissions, a joint offering from Glimmerglass Opera, the New York City Opera, and WNET-TV, for performance at both of the opera companies' venues as well as for broadcast on PBS. From 2001 Beaser has served as artistic director of the Carnegie Hall-based American Composers Orchestra, for whom he was previously composer-in-residence. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi