February 1, 1923 -
born in Berlin, Germany, composed during the Contemporary period
Composer Ursula Mamlok has generally remained a little known figure on the concert scene owing to the challenging nature of her music, which shows the influence of the Second Vienna School. Typically, her works are small-scale (she's written a spate of chamber and solo piano compositions), and generally her music is subdued. Though she has made some headway in the twenty first century, she remains a minor composer, albeit one who is highly respected. What may have impeded her career was her relatively late start: she was still a student in the late '50s, and her most important works came after 1955, when she was well into her thirties. Mamlok's discography has been growing since the late '90s, with recordings appearing on Bridge, CRI, Naxos, Centaur, and smaller labels.
Ursula Mamlok was born in Berlin, Germany, on February 1, 1923. She was a talented child, studying both piano and composition in Berlin. Her family fled Germany for the U.S. in 1938, but was forced to settle in Ecuador for a short time owing to American immigration quota policies. Following her 1941 arrival in New York, Mamlok enrolled at Mannes, where she studied under famed conductor George Szell (1942-1946). Her formal education was interrupted for a decade: she studied with Vittorio Giannini at the Manhattan School of Music from 1956-1958, obtaining both bachelor's and master's degrees.
Though Mamlok's earliest significant work was the 1950 Concerto for String Orchestra, her music did not start to gain international attention until the 1960s, with works like the 1962 String Quartet No. 1. In that decade Mamlok also began teaching, joining the faculty at New York University in 1967, where she remained until 1976. During this stint, she took on two more teaching posts, the first at Kingsborough Community College from 1972-1975, and the second at the Manhattan School of Music, where she's been a faculty member since 1974.
1974 was also the year Mamlok received the first of two grants from the National Endowment of the Arts. The second came in 1981, and a Fromm Foundation Grant was awarded her in 1994. From the mid-'70s Mamlok also began attracting prestigious commissions, including from the Koussevitzsky Foundation and Eastman School of Music. Mamlok has remained active both as a composer and teacher in the new century. In 2009 Music of Ursula Mamlok, Vol. 1, was released on the Bridge label and included the 1985 Concertino, for orchestra. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi