Laura Schwendinger

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Composer Laura Schwendinger

Laura Elise Schwendinger (born January 26, 1962 in Mexico City D.F. Mexico) was the first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin's Berlin Prize.[1]


Ms. Schwendinger is an Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is also the Artistic Director of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.[2] She received her Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley, where she studied with Andrew Imbrie and Olly Wilson. Schwendinger has been invited to present her music to seminars at Harvard University, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of California at Berkeley, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.

Before her position in Madison Schwendinger taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Music Department of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Smith College and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Preparatory Division, where she started a program for young composers in 1985.


While in high school, she toured with the Berkeley High School Concert Chorale, which toured Europe in 1978–1979.[3] Her setting of in Just- spring was performed on tour by Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish from 1997 to 2002 at venues including Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall in London, the Theatre Chatelet in Paris, the National Arts Center in Canada and at the Tanglewood and Ojai Music Festivals. It is available on a Naxos TDK/DVD, Voices of Our Time,[4] with Upshaw and Kalish and was recorded at The Theatre Chatalet.

Other performances of her music include a "Pocket Concerto" commission from Miller Theatre in New York, Chiaroscuro Azzurro, premiered by violinist Jennifer Koh and the International Contemporary Ensemble.[5] Other performances of note include her cello concerto Esprimere, written for and premiered by Matt Haimovitz and the University of Wisconsin–Madison Symphony Orchestra.[6][7]

A Harvard Musical Association Commission, String Quartet, was premiered by the Arditti Quartet,[8] a Koussevitzky Foundation[9] commission. Celestial City, which featured the dynamic young recording artist Janine Jansen with Spectrum Concerts Berlin[10] at the Berlin Philharmoniker Kammermusiksaal, Fable performed by Collage New Music at Harvard University,[11] and a Fromm Foundation Commission,[12] Nonet for the Chicago Chamber Musicians,[13] which was premiered on "Live from WFMT" radio in Chicago. The Theater Chamber Players commissioned two works by Schwendinger, Songs of Heaven and Earth, and Magic Carpet Music, which were both premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.


Allan Kozinn of the New York Times wrote of her Chiaroscurro Azzurro as played by Jennifer Koh:

Ms. Schwendinger's work also lives in (at least) two worlds. The violin writing, played with equal measures of energy and velvety richness by Jennifer Koh, is sometimes assertive and rhythmically sharp-edged, but those moments virtually always resolve into a sweetly singing line. The grittier orchestral writing offsets that sweetness without overwhelming it. This is a work that seems likely to blossom with repeated listening.[14]

Richard Buell of the Boston Globe wrote in his review of her chamber work Fable,

This was shrewd composing, the genuine article. Onto the season's best list it goes" and of her String Quartet "an unmistakable lyric intensity...a fine piece...worthy of the Arditti's attention,[15]

and later of her Magic Carpet Music as played by Collage New Music: "Schwendinger's Magic Carpet Music like the composer's other music, rejoices in edge and has a force that has its way...Here is a composer with distinct voice." Mark Kanny of the Pittsburgh Tribune wrote,

The absence of any visual entertainment for Schwendinger's Buenos Aires focused attention on the musical excellence of her hard-driving quartet for flute, bass clarinet, violin and cello. She creates fresh and compelling lines that are brought together to a powerful climax.


Beyond those already mentioned, Schwendinger has received honors from the Guggenheim Foundation,[16] the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the American Academy of Arts and Letters,[17] the Rockefeller Foundation, Yaddo Corporation, the MacDowell Colony,[18] the Liguria Conference Center, and was the first prize winner of the 1995 ALEA III International Composition Competition.[19]

Selected works[edit]

  • Chiaroscuro Azzurro, a “Pocket concerto" commission from Miller Theater for violin and chamber orchestra (20 players). For Jennifer Koh, Premiere March 2008, Miller Theater, New York City (for March 2008)
  • High Wire Act (2005) for flute, strings and piano. Written for and commissioned by Christina Jennings and Bright Music. Premiere November 15, 2005
  • Esprimere Concerto for cello and orchestra (2005) Written for Matt Haimovitz and the UW Symphony Orchestra. Premiere March 28, 2007
  • Celestial City (2002) For Spectrum Concerts of Berlin. Koussevitzky Foundation Commission. Premiere was 1/22/03: Berlin Philharmonic recital Hall. (18:01) for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano
  • String Quartet in three movements (2001) A Harvard Musical Association. Commission, The Arditti String Quartet, 1/24/03. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. 17:36.
  • Magic Carpet Music (1999) for flute, clarinet (bass), violin and cello. 13:00. Written for The Theater Chamber Players. Premiere was on December 4, 1999 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Chansons Innocentes: Three song set includes In Just Spring-, Hist whist, little ghost things (2000) and Tumbling-hair for voice and piano. Hildegard Publishing, available from Theodore Presser.
  • from Chansons Innocente- In Just Spring- (1988) for soprano and piano. Taken on tour (1997–2002) by Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish, venues include Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall- London, Veteran's Wadsworth- Los Angeles, Theatre du Chatelet- Paris, Herbst Theater- San Francisco and The Tanglewod Music Festival. Also available on Voices of Our Time a recital video of Dawn Upshaw at The Theatre du Chatelet in Paris
  • Fable, (1994), for flute (alto, piccolo), clarinet (bass), violin, cello, piano and percussion (15:00).* Performances include Aspen Music Festival, San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, June in Buffalo and Bowdoin Festival.
  • Rapture (2003) for cello and piano. (8:30) Adapted for Jens Peter Maintz, principal cellist of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Premiere 5/24/03
  • Sonata for solo violin (1992) in three movements (13:00). Written for and premiered by Victor Schultz at the Ives Center for American Music.
  • Songs of Heaven and Earth (1998) for mezzo-soprano, flute (picc., alto), clarinet (bass), violin, cello, piano, percussion, and harp.(28:00) Written and premiered by The Theater Chamber Players, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


  • Voices of Our Time from Naxos/TDK[20]
  • Chamber Concerto for piano and chamber orchestra, On Grand Design from Capstone records[21]
  • Cow Music, Kofomi#13 - Stimmen.Atmen from Ein Klang records, Austria[22]


  1. ^ "Berlin Prize Fellow Class of Spring 2000"[dead link]. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  2. ^ "University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music website". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  3. ^ Dixit Dominus, Georg Friedrich Handel, Berkeley High School Concert Chorale. Vinyl LP, Audio Engineering Associates, Pasadena, California, 1979
  4. ^ "Naxos Classical Music: Voices of Our Time". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  5. ^ "Miller Theatre Pocket Concertos: Year Three". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  6. ^ "Oxingale". Oxingale. 2007-03-28. Retrieved 2010-10-24. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Isthmus: The Guide". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  8. ^ "Repertoire - String Quartets P-S". 2003-01-24. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  9. ^ "Koussevitzky Foundation Announces Commission Winners for 2001 - The Library Today (Library of Congress)". 2002-04-03. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  10. ^ "Spectrum: Repertoire 1988-2011". Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  11. ^ "Collage New Music website"[dead link]. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  12. ^ "Past Fromm Foundation Commissions". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  13. ^ "Chicago Chamber Music commissions". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  14. ^ Kozinn, Allan (March 31, 2008). "Reaching the Final Turn in Three Years of Bumpy Road". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2009. 
  15. ^ Buell, Richard (February 25, 2003). "Whimsy, resonance on night 2 of Ditson fest". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 7, 2009. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Laura Elise Schwendinger". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  17. ^ American Academy of Arts and Letters website. Retrieved February 9, 2009.
  18. ^ "MacDowell Colony Index". Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  19. ^ "Past Finalists". Retrieved February 7, 2009.[dead link]
  20. ^ "Voices Of Our Time: Dawn Upshaw - Dv-Vtdu-Eur". 2000-01-26. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  21. ^ "SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, INC - "Grand Designs"". Capstone Records. 1998-01-11. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  22. ^ [1][dead link]

External links[edit]