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Stephen J. Albert

February 6, 1941 - December 27, 1992
born in New York, NY, composed during the Contemporary period
At his death on December 27, 1992, on Cape Cod, MA, Stephen Albert was 51, in his prime as an artist. A three-car collision claimed his life. He had come to be recognized and admired as a seminal figure in the postmodern (aka neo-Romantic) movement, which reaffirmed musical ideals still viable at the start of this century. It took courage to reject the nouvelles vagues and vogues that twentieth-century academia embraced (until another washed over the shifting sands of intellectual fashion). It took a thick skin, too, to withstand the derision his revisionism provoked in the early 1970s. But Albert had the courage of his convictions, and the wisdom to support both his family and his crusade by investing and dealing in rare stamps (a profession that grew out of preteen philately).

He studied at the Eastman School of Music with Bernard Rogers and at the University of Pennsylvania, but withdrew from both. Ultimately, he earned a B.A. degree from the Philadelphia Academy of Music, then still unaccredited. His first composition teacher had been Elie Siegmeister, likewise a maverick stylist; Siegmeister was succeeded later on by Joseph Castaldo and George Rochberg in Philadelphia. The degree helped Albert win Fulbright, MacDowell, and Guggenheim Fellowships that culminated in a Prix de Rome, where he lived for two years, and where Carlo Maria Giulini became interested in his music; Giulini introduced the opulent Leaves from the Golden Notebook to delighted Chicago Symphony audiences (and startled but approving reviewers, among them this writer) during the 1971 - 1972 season. The 1980s, though, were Albert's breakthrough decade. Gerard Schwarz became his champion with the New York Chamber Symphony at the 92nd Street Y, and in Seattle, where Albert was Composer-in-Residence from 1985 to 1988; Mstislav Rostropovich followed suit in Washington, D.C. In 1985, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his symphony, RiverRun, and in 1987 he was awarded an honorable mention by the Pulitzer committee. For Seattle, he wrote In Concordiam, a violin concerto, and in June 1989 began the cello concerto commissioned by Yo-Yo Ma -- his last major work. In 1991, Wind Canticle, for clarinetist David Shifrin was introduced by the Philadelphia Orchestra. And, after teaching at the Juilliard School, he joined the faculty of Harvard University. ~ Roger Dettmer, Rovi
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