Wayne Peterson

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Wayne Peterson (born September 3, 1927) is an American Pulitzer Prize–winning composer, pianist and educator.

Peterson was born in Albert Lea, MN. He earned B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Minnesota. He did advanced study on a Fulbright Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, London, England.

In 1960, he joined the faculty of San Francisco State University, reaching the rank of Professor of Music, from which he is now retired. In 1998 San Francisco State University, established the Wayne Peterson Prize in Music Composition. Peterson was awarded the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Music for The Face of the Night, the Heart of the Dark, an orchestral work commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and conducted by David Zinman. A controversy was involved in the Pulitzer Board's decision[1] and Peterson was reported to have the following comments about the prize years later:

Winning the Pulitzer has meant nothing for the piece that won. Back when Blomstedt was at the San Francisco Symphony, David Zinman conducted it and did a beautiful job. But they never did it again and nobody else has ever played it. It’s a very difficult piece. I write chromatic music and chromatic music is not in vogue at the moment. I think that has not helped things. The Prize has benefited me in other ways, however. You get a lot of notoriety out of it. My commissions have soared and everything I have written since that time has been published. And I am fortunate enough to have some of the best musicians in the world playing my chamber music, which has led to a CD that has just come out.[2]

Peterson's other honors include a Composer's Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1986) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989–90). In 1990 he was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome.

Selected compositions[edit]

  • Excursion violin and piano (2010)
  • Full Circle brass quintet plus percussion: 1 player (2009)
  • Trap Drum Fantasy for solo drum set (2008)
  • Scherzo for flute, clarinet, violin, cello (2008)
  • String Trio (2007)
  • Pas de Deux flute/alto flute & marimba/vibraphone (2006)
  • Quest flute/alto flute and piano (2002)
  • Nonet (2001)
  • Four Preludes for piano (2000)
  • Antiphonies for solo percussion: marimba/vibraphone (1999)
  • Colloquy flute and harp (1999)
  • Seven Debussy Songs seven Debussy songs transcribed for soprano or mezzo-soprano and small orchestra (1999)
  • Monarch of the Vine percussion quartet (1998)
  • Pop Sweet (String Quartet No. 3) (1998)
  • Peregrinations solo clarinet (1997)
  • Windup saxophone quartet (1997)
  • A Robert Herrick Motley five a cappella choruses, SATB, settings of Robert Herrick (poet) (1996, rev. 2000)
  • Theseus for chamber orchestra (1995–96)
  • Vicissitudes for six players (1995)
  • And the Winds Shall Blow a fantasy for saxophone quartet, winds and percussion (1994)
  • Duo for Violin and Piano (1993)
  • Diptych: Aubade, Odyssey for six players (1992)
  • String Quartet No. 2: Apparitions, Jazz Play (1991)
  • Four Spanish Songs (of Manuel de Falla) transcribed for woodwind quintet (1991)
  • The Face of the Night, the Heart of the Dark for orchestra (1991) awarded the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in Music
  • Mallets Aforethought for percussion quartet (1990)
  • The Widening Gyre for orchestra (1990)
  • Sonatine of Maurice Ravel transcribed for woodwind quintet (1989)
  • Duodecaphony for viola (or violin) and cello (1988)
  • Trilogy for chamber orchestra (1988)
  • Labyrinth flute, clarinet, violin and piano (1987)
  • Transformations for chamber orchestra (1986)
  • Ariadne's Thread for harp and six players (1985) winner of the American Society of Harpists 1985 composition contest
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1983)
  • Sextet (1982)
  • Doubles for 2 flutes, clarinet and bass clarinet (1982)
  • An Interrupted Serenade flute, harp and cello (1978)
  • Rhapsody for Cello and Piano (1976)
  • Encounters for eight players (1976)
  • Diatribe violin and piano (1975)
  • Capriccio flute and piano (1973)
  • Metamorphoses for wind quintet (1967)
  • an ee cummings cantata chorus SATB/piano or SATB/ mixed ensemble of 8 players (1964)
  • Free Variations for orchestra (1958) premiered and recorded by Antal Doráti and the Minnesota Orchestra
  • Can Death Be Sleep setting of John Keats for a cappella chorus, SATB (1955)

Partial discography[edit]

  • Transformations Boston Modern Orchestra Project, (BMOP 1053); The Face of the Night , The heart of the Dark, Transformations, And The Winds Shall Blow
  • Peregrinations. Albany Records (Troy 601); Peregrinations, Diatribe, Colloquy, Ceremony After A Fire Raid, Duo, String Quartet No. 1
  • Vicissitudes. Albany Records (Troy 912) or Koch International Classics (3-7498-2 HI) (2000); Vicissitudes, Duodecaphony, Labyrinth, Capriccio, Diptych. New York New Music Ensemble
  • Retrospections. FoghornClassics (CD1994); String Quartets 1-3 performed by the Alexander Quartet


  1. ^ See the wiki article on Ralph Shapey for details.
  2. ^ "Peterson, Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in Music". Archived from the original on 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2013-05-13.