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first george perle, now lukas foss

Lukas Foss died yesterday at age 86. I didn’t know his music that well (I had heard Phorion), but still have his great performance of Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with the composer conducting. He apparently even dabbled in minimalism, which I’d love to hear. A lot of the older guard seems to be passing away this year.


Comment from Sparky P.
Time: February 2, 2009, 4:10 pm

Foss “dabbled” in many different styles: “past pilfering” (sort of like George Rochberg; see “Baroque Variations”, especially his treatment of a Scarlatti sonata (the “Cortege” in E Major)), chance assemblage (see “Paradigm” with the fractured text and the Stockhausen-like playing of whatever your eye catches (but still controlled, of course) and straight ahead chromaticism (like his first string quartet (which I have on vinyl and transferred to disc)). Again, it’s a pity that a wide ranging catalog is so little recorded.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: February 2, 2009, 4:38 pm

Sounds like you have those Nonesuch and Turnabout LPs that I had, Sparky. The Scarlatti bit in the Baroque Variations was a big hit with me, too. Over at

You can listen to Scott Dunn’s Naxos recording of Foss’ complete piano music. The “Solo for Piano” from 1981 is especially nice.

Comment from jodru
Time: February 2, 2009, 4:39 pm

dung is planning a reissue of their recording of ‘Music for Six’, which is an early 70’s minimalist piece of Foss’.

Foss is one of the best performers of Mozart I’ve ever heard.

Comment from Sparky P.
Time: February 2, 2009, 4:53 pm

Also Columbia (SQ1) which I have and DGG (Paradigm), although, to be fair, I recorded that and the Turnabout version onto cassette tape (now twentah years ago in Baltimore and which I should put onto disc to make a Foss Vol.2). I remember seeing, albeit vaguely, at SUNY Purchase in 1989 in which I went along with my choral ensemble from SUNY Stony Brook and Foss was there.

Comment from Christian
Time: February 2, 2009, 9:52 pm

I studied with Lukas at Boston U. in 1995-6. He was a wonderful composer and pianist.

Echoi is a terrific work which no one has mentioned.

Comment from lawrencedillon
Time: February 2, 2009, 10:36 pm

Solo is great, but Solo Observed is even better — the piano part is gradually wrapped in a surrounding ensemble.

And time was I couldn’t get enough of Time Cycle.

Comment from Todd
Time: February 2, 2009, 10:46 pm

I remember very fondly watching him rehearse and perform Bach’s D minor concerto with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in the early 90s when I was working as an intern for the winter. He was extremely kind and gracious and the performance was eye-opening.

Comment from Christian
Time: February 2, 2009, 11:56 pm

Comment from Cary
Time: February 4, 2009, 4:44 pm

His Renaissance Concerto (the recording with flutist Carol Wincenc is stellar) is a real masterpiece. I was fortunate to have lunch with Foss and some colleagues a few years back. It’s the passing of an ear, and a real musical icon. He was a kind and lovely person.

Comment from Ketty Nez
Time: February 11, 2009, 9:13 pm

The Boston University community deeply feels the loss of Lukas, who was friend, mentor, and guiding light for several generations of composers, performers, and colleagues (including myself). Xanthos Ensemble, in residence at BU, will give a tribute on March 19, playing “Time Cycle” and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” on March 19, 7:30 p.m.