John Corigliano

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John Corigliano (born 16 February 1938 in New York, NY) is an American composer of classical music. His scores, now numbering over one hundred, have won him the Pulitzer Prize, five Grammy Awards, Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, and an Oscar. He is a distinguished professor of music at Lehman College in the City University of New York and on the composition faculty at The Julliard School.

Life and career[edit]

Most of Corigliano's work has been for symphony orchestra. He employs a wide variety of styles, sometimes even within the same work, but aims to make his work accessible to a relatively large audience. Many of his works have been performed and recorded by some of the most prominent orchestras, soloists, and chamber musicians in the world. He has written symphonies, as well as works for string orchestra, wind band, concerti for clarinet, flute, violin, oboe, and piano, various chamber and solo instrument works, opera, and for film. His most distinguished works include Symphony No. 1 (1988), Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1977), The Ghosts of Versailles (1991), Symphony No. 2 for string orchestra (2000), Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan (2000), and his film score the The Red Violin (1998). His Clarinet Concerto is the first by an American composer to have entered the standard repertoire since that of Aaron Copland.[1]

Before 1964[edit]

Italian-American Corigliano was born in New York to a musical family. His father, John Corigliano Sr., was concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for 23 years, and his mother, Rose Buzen, is an accomplished educator and pianist.[2] Corigliano attended P.S. 241 and Midwood High School in Brooklyn.[3] He studied composition at Columbia University (BA 1959)[4] and at the Manhattan School of Music. He is also a former student of Otto Luening,[2] Vittorio Giannini and Paul Creston. Before achieving success as composer, Corigliano worked as assistant to the producer on the Leonard Bernstein Young People's Concerts, and as a session producer for classical artists such as André Watts.


The younger Corigliano first came to prominence in 1964 when, at the age of 26, his "Sonata for Violin and Piano" (1963) was the only winner of the chamber-music competition of the Spoleto Festival in Italy.[5] In 1970 Corigliano teamed up with David Hess to create The Naked Carmen. In a recent communication with David Hess, Hess acknowledged that The Naked Carmen was originally conceived by Corigliano and himself as a way to update the most popular opera of our time referring to Bizet's Carmen. Mercury Records wanted the classical and popular divisions to work together and after a meeting with Joe Bott, Scott Mampe and Bob Reno it was decided to proceed with the project. In Hess's own words, the project was "a collective decision." After awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, he began teaching at Manhattan School of Music and became a music faculty member at Lehman College. Corigliano credits his first two concerti for solo wind for both changing his art and his career. It was during the composition of the Oboe Concerto (1975) performed by the American Composers Orchestra and, especially, the Clarinet Concerto (1977) performed by Stanley Drucker and the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein that he first used the “architectural” method of composing. In 1974 he wrote his first film score for the documentary, A Williamsburg Sampler followed by the dramatic score for the movie Altered States in 1980 (which he was nominated for an Academy Award), and his third film score for Revolution in 1985. The award-winning score for Revolution is one of Corigliano's most impressive creations although it is less known, as it was never released in any recorded format;[6] it has existed in a bootleg form until Varese Sarabande officially released the score for a limited time in December 2009 through their CD club, which will be released in stores as a regular release later in 2010.[7] Corigliano did, however, export portions of the score for use in his first symphony. For flutist James Galway he composed his third wind concerto titled Pied Piper Fantasy which premiered with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1982). In 1984 he became Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College and left his position at Manhattan School of Music in 1986.


In 1987 Corigliano was the first composer ever to receive a Composer-in-Residence by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. During his residency he composed his first symphony Symphony No. 1 (1988), which was inspired by the AIDS epidemic and to honor the friends he lost. His first symphony won him the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1991 and his first Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 1992.[8] Corigliano's first and only opera The Ghosts of Versailles, was the Metropolitan Opera's first commission in nearly three decades, celebrating the company's 100 anniversary. The opera was a huge success at the premiere and received the International Classic Music Awards Composition of the Year award in 1992.[5] In 1991 Corigliano became faculty member at The Juilliard School. In 1995 he was commissioned to write "String Quartet" (1995) by Lincoln Center for the Cleveland Quartet which won him his second Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Corigliano's fourth film score was in Francois Girard's 1997 film The Red Violin which won him his second Academy Award nominations and the 1999 Oscar for best film score. Portions of the score to The Red Violin were used in his 'Violin Concerto' (2003) written for violinist Joshua Bell who premiered it on September 19, 2003 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In 2001 he received the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 2 (2001).

In 2011, Corigliano's "One Sweet Morning" premiered at Avery Fisher Hall by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and the New York Philharmonic, a commission commemorating the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.[9] Stephanie Blythe performed the solo mezzo-soprano role.

Other important commissions have been Chiaroscuro (1997) [Listen here], for two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart for The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation, Vocalise (1999) for the New York Philharmonic, "Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan" (2003), winning his third Grammy Award, "Circus Maximus"(2004) commissioned by the School of Music, The University of Texas at Austin, for the University of Texas Wind Ensemble, "STOMP" (2011) written for the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia, and "Conjurer" (2008) Commissioned by an international consortium of six orchestras for Evelyn Glennie and winning him his fifth Grammy Award.

Among Corigliano's students are David S. Sampson, Eric Whitacre, Elliot Goldenthal, Edward Knight, Nico Muhly, Roger Bergs, Scott Glasgow, John Mackey, Michael Bacon, Avner Dorman, Mason Bates, Steven Bryant, Jefferson Friedman, Dinuk Wijeratne and David Ludwig. In 1996, The Corigliano Quartet was founded, taking his name in tribute. [10]

Personal life[edit]

Corigliano has lived in New York City all his life dividing his time between Manhattan and Kent Cliffs, New York with his husband, composer Mark Adamo.


See List of compositions by John Corigliano.

Notable works include:

  • "Fern Hill" (1961)
  • "Clarinet Concerto" (1977)
  • "Pied Piper Fantasy" (1982)
  • Symphony No. 1 (1988)
  • The Ghosts of Versailles, Opera in 2 acts (1991); libretto by William M. Hoffman
  • "String Quartet" (1995)
  • The Red Violin, film score (1998)
  • Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan for soprano and piano (or orchestra) (2000)
  • Symphony No. 2 for string orchestra (2000)
  • "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (The Red Violin)" (2003)
  • Circus Maximus, Symphony No. 3 for large wind ensemble (2004)
  • "Conjurer: Concerto for Percussionist and String Orchestra" (2007)




  1. ^ Yvonne Frindle, "An American composer", ABC Radio 24 Hours, February 1997, p. 40
  2. ^ a b "C250 Celebrates John Corigliano". Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Kozinn, Allan (March 26, 1999). "Decades in the Making, John Corigliano's 'Dylan Thomas' Gets Its Premiere". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  4. ^ McGinnis, Mara. "The Music of Communion". Columbia Magazine. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "About John Corigliano". Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  6. ^ "John Corigliano Awards" (PDF). The Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency, Inc. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  7. ^[bare URL]
  8. ^ a b "1991 - John Corigliano". 23 April 1991. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Kozinn, Allan (23 September 2011). "John Corigliano's New Work Commemorates 9/11". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Scott Cantrell (10 July 2005). "On the Outside Looking In: Gay Composers Gave America Its Music". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 

External links[edit]