Christopher Rouse (composer)

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Christopher Rouse
Christopher Chapman Rouse III

February 15, 1949
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedSeptember 21, 2019 (aged 70)
Alma materOberlin Conservatory of Music
Cornell University
Occupation(s)Composer, professor
AwardsKennedy Center Friedheim Award (1988)
Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition (2002)
Pulitzer Prize for Music (1993)

Christopher Chapman Rouse III (February 15, 1949 – September 21, 2019)[1][2][3] was an American composer. Though he wrote for various ensembles, Rouse is primarily known for his orchestral compositions, including a Requiem, a dozen concertos, and six symphonies. His work received numerous accolades, including the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, the Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He also served as the composer-in-residence for the New York Philharmonic from 2012 to 2015.


Rouse was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Christopher Rouse Jr., a salesman at Pitney Bowes, and Margorie or Margery Rouse, a radiology secretary.[4][3] He 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.[3] In between, Rouse studied privately with George Crumb.[3]

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. Beginning in 1997, he taught at the Juilliard School.

Rouse's Symphony No. 1 was awarded the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award in 1988,[5] and his Trombone Concerto was awarded the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Music.[6] 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 Gaudí.[7] In 2009, Rouse was named Musical America's Composer of the Year[8] and the New York Philharmonic's Composer-in-Residence in 2012.[9] Rouse 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 included Kamran Ince, Marc Mellits, Michael Torke, Lawrence Wilde, Nico Muhly,[10] Robert Paterson, Jeff Beal, Jude Vaclavik, Kevin Puts, D. J. Sparr, and Joseph Lukasik.

Rouse died on September 21, 2019, from complications of renal cancer in Towson, Maryland at the age of 70.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Rouse was married twice, first to Ann (née Jensen) in 1983 and then to Natasha (née Miller) in 2016.[3][11] Rouse had four children: Angela, Jillian, Alexandra, and Adrian.[3]


Rouse was a neoromantic composer. Some of his works were predominantly atonal (Gorgon, Concerto for Orchestra) while others are clearly tonal (Karolju, Rapture, Supplica). Most often he sought to integrate tonal and non-tonal harmonic worlds, as in his concerti for flute, oboe, and guitar. All of his music was composed, in his words, "to convey a sense of expressive urgency." Rouse was praised for his orchestration, particularly with percussion.[12] He often quoted other composers' works (e.g., his Symphony No. 1, composed in 1986, incorporates quotations of Bruckner and Shostakovich).[13][14]

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.[14]

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.[15] These scores memorialized William Schuman (Violoncello Concerto—1992),[16] the James Bulger murder (Flute Concerto—1993),[17][18] the composer Stephen Albert (Symphony No. 2—1994),[19] and Rouse's mother (Envoi—1995).[20] 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 Gaudí (1999),[21] Seeing (1998),[22] and Rapture (2000).[23]

Beginning in 2000, Rouse created works of varying moods, from his thorny Clarinet Concerto (2001) to his rock-infused The Nevill Feast (2003) to his romantic Oboe Concerto (2004).[24][25] The most significant piece from these years was his ninety-minute Requiem, composed over 2001 and 2002.[26][27] Rouse himself referred to the Requiem as his best composition.[28] Major compositions of more recent vintage included his Concerto for Orchestra (2008),[29] Odna Zhizn (2009),[30][31] Symphony No. 3 (2011),[32] Symphony No. 4 (2013),[33] Thunderstuck (2013),[14] Heimdall's Trumpet (a trumpet concerto—2012),[34][35] Organ Concerto (2014), Symphony No. 5 (2015), Bassoon Concerto (2017), and Berceuse Infinie (2017).

In late 2006, Rouse composed the wind ensemble piece Wolf Rounds, which premiered in Carnegie Hall March 29, 2007.[36]


Excerpts from Symphonies 1, 2 and 4, and Concerto per corde were used as the soundtrack to William Friedkin's 2017 film The Devil and Father Amorth.[37]

Complete works[edit]


Orchestra with soloist[edit]

Voice and orchestra[edit]

Wind ensemble[edit]

Chamber music[edit]

Solo works[edit]

  • Little Gorgon (piano, 1986)
  • Ricordanza (cello, 1995)
  • Valentine (flute, 1996)
  • Mime (snare drum, 1997)


  1. ^ "Composer Christopher Rouse Dies At Age 70".
  2. ^ Smith, Harrison (September 22, 2019). "Christopher Rouse, expressionistic composer who won Pulitzer Prize, dies at 70". The Washington Post. Washington. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Tommasini, Anthony (September 23, 2019). "Christopher Rouse, Composer of Rage and Delicacy, Dies at 70". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  4. ^ Oxenden, McKenna; Campbell, Colin (September 22, 2019). "Baltimore composer Christopher Rouse, 70, winner of Pulitzer Prize and three Grammy Awards, dies". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  5. ^ Valdes, Lesley (November 1, 1988). "Christopher Rouse Symphony Wins A $5,000 Prize". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  6. ^ Snow, Shauna (April 16, 1993). "The Pulitzers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  7. ^ Sheridan, Molly (February 28, 2002). "A Rousing Night At The Grammy Awards". NewMusicBox. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  8. ^ Horsley, Paul (2009). "Composer of the Year 2009". Musical America. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  9. ^ Maloney, Jennifer (February 22, 2012). "Rouse Named Next N.Y. Philharmonic Composer-in-Residence". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  10. ^ Ross, Alex (November 28, 2011). "The Long Haul: Nico Muhly's first two operas". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  11. ^ Nagle, Jeanne M. (December 24, 1999). "Christopher Rouse: A master in the classical composer's trade". Rochester Business Journal. Rochester. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  12. ^ Swed, Mark (August 16, 2008). "A percussionist cavorts alongside 'The Planets'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  13. ^ Rouse, Christopher. Symphony No. 1: Program Note by the Composer. 1986. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Allen, David (October 10, 2014). "The Rock Beat of His Youth, Echoing Again in August Precincts: Rouse's World Premiere and Batiashvili Plays Brahms". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  15. ^ Rothstein, Edward (January 1, 1993). "Review/Music; A Mournful but Thunderous Trombone Concerto". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  16. ^ Rothstein, Edward (January 28, 1994). "Review/Music; Cello Piece Pays Tribute To Departed Composers". The New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  17. ^ Tumelty, Michael (October 4, 2014). "Rouse's flute concerto is a perfectly formed arc". The Herald. Newsquest. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  18. ^ Maddock, Stephen (January 20, 2012). "Rouse: Symphony No. 2; Flute Concerto; Phaethon". BBC Music Magazine. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  19. ^ Wigler, Stephen (May 3, 1997). "Four not-so-easy pieces, played well". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  20. ^ Tucker, Dan (August 14, 1999). "Repin's Ability Lacks Conviction". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
  21. ^ Smith, Tim (May 31, 2001). "Guitar Sharon Isbin, guitarist. Concertos by..." The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  22. ^ Kozinn, Allan (May 10, 1999). "MUSIC REVIEW; A Bit of Adventuring In a Pianist's Repertory". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  23. ^ Druckenbrod, Andrew (May 5, 2000). "Classical Music Preview: Gloomy composer Christopher Rouse turns toward the light with 'Rapture'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on July 13, 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  24. ^ Rhein, John von (May 19, 2001). "Composer Rouse and CSO are full of sonic audacity". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  25. ^ Smith, Steve (November 17, 2013). "Shifting Gears to Explore the Realm of the Oboe: Liang Wang Performs Christopher Rouse's Oboe Concerto". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  26. ^ Swed, Mark (March 27, 2007). "At long last, a fitting American Requiem". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  27. ^ Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna Da (May 6, 2014). "A Festive Curtain Raiser, Yes, But One With Somber Hues: New York Philharmonic Opens Spring for Music". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  28. ^ "New York Philharmonic Plays Rouse's Requiem". WQXR-FM. May 5, 2014. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  29. ^ Oteri, Frank J. (July 1, 2008). "Christopher Rouse: Going to Eleven". NewMusicBox. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
  30. ^ Kozinn, Allan (February 11, 2010). "Finding Emotions Stark and Intimate in Works New and Familiar". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  31. ^ Puckett, Joel (August 19, 2010). "Guest blog post: composer Joel Puckett on Christopher Rouse's 'Odna Zhizn'". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  32. ^ Smith, Tim (November 9, 2012). "BSO gives East Coast premiere of sensational symphony by Christopher Rouse". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  33. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (June 6, 2014). "A Work Is Rushed to a Debut, by Design: Christopher Rouse and EarShot Premieres From Philharmonic". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  34. ^ Rhein, John von (December 22, 2012). "World ends with a jazzy bang in Rouse concerto for CSO's Martin". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  35. ^ Johnson, Lawrence A. (December 21, 2012). "CSO's Christopher Martin scales the heights in Rouse's rousing trumpet concerto". Chicago Classical Review. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  36. ^ Guy, Kingsley (April 15, 2007). "Frost winds to lift Wolf Rounds". Sun-Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  37. ^ The Devil and Father Amorth (2017) – IMDb, retrieved May 17, 2019
  38. ^ Rouse Unveils Dark, Introspective Sixth Symphony: Boosey & Hawkes
  39. ^ Miller, Sarah Bryan (November 16, 2018). "Concert review: An exciting all-American program from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
  40. ^ Shulman, Laurie (January 1997). "Christopher Rouse: An Overview". Tempo. Cambridge University Press (199): 2–8. doi:10.1017/S0040298200005532. JSTOR 945524. S2CID 144315586.

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, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Slonimsky, Nicolas, Laura Kuhn, and Dennis McIntire. 2001. "Rouse, Christopher (Chapman)". Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, edited by Nicolas Slonimsky and Laura Kuhn. New York: Schirmer Books.

External links[edit]