Christopher Rouse (composer)

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Christopher Rouse (born February 15, 1949) is an American composer.


Rouse was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and studied with Richard Hoffmann at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1971. He later completed graduate degrees under Karel Husa at Cornell University in 1977. In between, Rouse studied privately with George Crumb.

Early recognition came from the BMI Foundation's BMI Student Composer Awards in 1972 and 1973. Rouse taught at the University of Michigan from 1978 to 1981, where he was also a Junior Fellow in the University's Society of Fellows and at the Eastman School of Music from 1981 to 2002. Since 1997, he has taught at the Juilliard School.

Rouse's Symphony No. 1 was awarded the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award in 1998, and his Trombone Concerto was awarded the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Music. In 2002, Rouse was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Also in that year, he won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for his Concert de Gaudi. In 2009, Rouse was named Musical America's Composer of the Year and the New York Philharmonic's Composer-in-Residence in 2012. Rouse has also served as Composer-in-Residence with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (1985–88), the Tanglewood Music Festival (1997), the Helsinki Biennale (1997), the Pacific Music Festival (1998), and the Aspen Music Festival (annually since 2000).

His notable students include Michael Torke, Nico Muhly, Kamran Ince, Marc Mellits, Robert Paterson, Jude Vaclavik, Kevin Puts, D. J. Sparr, and Joseph Lukasik.

Rouse has four children: Angela, Jillian, Alexandra, and Adrian.


Rouse is a neoromantic composer. Some of his works are predominantly atonal (e.g., "Gorgon", Concerto for Orchestra) while others are clearly tonal ("Karolju", "Rapture"). Most often he seeks to integrate tonal and non-tonal harmonic worlds, as in his concerti for flute, oboe, and guitar. All of his music has been composed, in his words, "to convey a sense of expresssive urgency." Rouse has been praised for his orchestration, particularly with percussion. He often quotes other composers' works (e.g., his Symphony No. 1, composed in 1986, incorporates quotations of Bruckner and Shostakovich), and his music also sometimes shows the influence of rock.

Rouse's oldest extant works are two brief pieces for percussion ensemble, both inspired by mythological subjects: "Ogoun Badagris" (1976, Haitian) and "Ku-Ka-Ilimoku" (1978, Polynesian); a later percussion score inspired by rock drumming, Bonham was composed in 1988.

The death of Leonard Bernstein in 1990 was the first in a series of deaths that made a profound impression on Rouse, and his Trombone Concerto (1991) became the first score of his so-called "Death Cycle", a group of pieces that all served as reactions to these deaths. These scores memorialized William Schuman (Violoncello Concerto—1992), the James Bulger murder... the two-year-old English boy abducted from a mall and subsequently murdered by two ten-year-old boys (Flute Concerto—1993), the composer Stephen Albert (Symphony No. 2—1994), and Rouse's mother ("Envoi"—1995). After "Envoi" he purposely set out to compose scores that were more "light infused", works intended to take on a less dark cast; pieces from this second half of the 1990s include Compline (1996), Kabir Padavali (1997), the Concert de Gaudi (1998), and Rapture (2000).

From 2000 on Rouse created works of varying temperaments, from his thorny "Clarinet Concerto" (2001) to his rock-infused "Nevill Feast" (2003) to his romantic Oboe Concerto (2004). Unquestionably the most significant piece from these years is his ninety-minute Requiem, composed over 2001 and 2002. Major compositions of more recent vintage would include his Concerto for Orchestra (2007), "Odna Zhizn" (2010), Symphony No. 3 (2011), Symphony No. 4 (2013), and "Heimdall's Trumpet" (a trumpet concerto - 2012).

Commercial Use[edit]

Rouse's Flute Concerto was used in a 2010 UK television advertisement for the Canadian beer brand Carling.

Complete works[edit]


Orchestra with soloist[edit]

Voice and orchestra[edit]

Wind ensemble[edit]

Chamber music[edit]

  • Ogoun Badagris (percussion ensemble, 1976)
  • Quattro Madrigali (eight-voice choir, 1976)
  • Ku-Ka-Ilimoku (percussion ensemble, 1978)
  • Rotae Passionis (mixed ensemble, 1982)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1982)
  • Lares Hercii (violin and harpsichord, 1983)
  • Artemis (brass quintet, 1988)
  • Bonham (percussion ensemble, 1988)
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1988)
  • Compline (flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet, 1996)
  • Rapturedux (cello ensemble, 2001)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (2009)

Solo works[edit]

  • Little Gorgon (piano, 1986)
  • Ricordanza (cello, 1995)
  • Valentine (flute, 1996)


Further reading[edit]

  • Shulman, Laurie. 1997. "Christopher Rouse: An Overview" Tempo, new series, no. 199:2–8
  • Shulman, Laurie. 2001. "Rouse, Christopher (Chapman)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.

External links[edit]