Lukas Foss

(b. 15 August 1922, Berlin – d. 1 February 2009, New York, New York).

American composer, born in Germany, of mostly stage, orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal, and piano works that have been performed throughout the world; he was also active as a conductor.

Mr. Foss was the son of the philosopher Martin Foss and the painter Hilde Schindler. He studied music theory and piano privately with Julius Herford as a child and began composing at age seven. He studied composition with Noël Gallon, flute with Louis Moyse, orchestration with Felix Wolfes, and piano with Lazare Lévy in Paris from 1933–37, then studied composition with Rosario Scalero and Randall Thompson, conducting with Fritz Reiner and piano with Isabelle Vengerova at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia from 1937–39. He also studied composition with Paul Hindemith as a special student at Yale University in 1939–40 and studied conducting with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts from 1939–41. He received more than 20 honorary doctorates.

Among his honours were the Guggenheim Fellowship (1945, 1960), the New York Music Critics' Circle Award (1945, for The Prairie; 1954, for Concerto No. 2 [piano]; 1961, for Time Cycle), a residency at the American Academy in Rome (1950–51), and the Fulbright Scholarship (1950–52). He was later elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1983 and his music was featured at a two-week festival in Buffalo in 2003.

As a conductor, his specialty was contemporary music. He made his début in 1939. He later founded the quartet Improvisation Chamber Ensemble in Los Angeles in 1957 and served as its conductor from 1957–62. He then served as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1963–70, as principal conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic from 1971–90, as a regular conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra from 1972–75, and as music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1981–86, where he served as conductor laureate from 1986–2009.

He was also active in other positions. He served as pianist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1944–50.

He taught composition and conducting as Professor of Music at the University of California, Los Angeles from 1953–62 and later taught at the Tanglewood Music Festival. He founded the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York in 1963. He later taught as composer-in-residence at Boston University from 1990–2009 and for shorter periods at Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, the Manhattan School of Music, and Yale University. In addition, he presented the Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. in 1986.

He lived in the USA from 1937–2009 and became a citizen of the USA in 1942.

He was married to the painter Cornelia Foss until his death.

His primary publisher is Carl Fischer Music.


E-mail address for consulting scores:



The Tempest (incidental music, play by William Shakespeare), 1939–40 (one section may be performed separately as a concert work: Where the bee sucks)

The Heart Remembers (ballet), piano, 1944

Within these Walls (ballet), piano, 1944

Gift of the Magi (ballet), 1944 (a concert suite was arranged as Pantomime)

Capriccio (ballet), cello, piano, 1946

The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (opera in 1 act, libretto by Jean Karsavina, after Mark Twain), mezzo-soprano, 2 tenors, 2 baritones, 2 basses, mixed chorus, orchestra (5 winds, 5 brass, piano, percussion, strings), 1949

Griffelkin (opera in 3 acts, libretto by Alastair Reid), 13 sopranos, 4 mezzo-sopranos, alto, tenor, 2 baritones, 2 basses, mixed chorus, orchestra, 1953–55 (a concert suite was arranged; one section may be performed separately as a concert work: Parade; also concert version of one section as March)

Introductions and Goodbyes (opera in 1 act, libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti), baritone, mixed chorus, flute, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, harp ad libitum, piano, string orchestra, 1959


Two Pieces, 1941

Concerto No. 1, clarinet, orchestra, 1941 (also version as Concerto No. 1, piano, orchestra, 1943)

The Prairie, 1944 (suite from choral work)

Ode, large orchestra, 1944, revised 1958

Symphony No. 1 in G major, 1944

Three American Pieces, flute/violin, small orchestra (flute, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, piano, timpani, percussion, strings), 1944

Pantomime, 1945 (concert suite from Gift of the Magi)

Recordare, 1948

Elegy, clarinet, orchestra, 1949

Concerto No. 2, piano, orchestra (12 winds, 9 brass, piano, timpani, percussion, strings), 1949–51, revised 1953

Parade, 1955 (section of Griffelkin; may be performed separately as a concert work)

Symphony No. 2, 'Symphony of Chorales', large orchestra, 1955–58

Concert, cello, small orchestra (2 French horns, trumpet, trombone, piano, organ, percussion, strings), 1966

For 24 Winds, small orchestra (15 winds, 9 brass), 1966 (also version for small orchestra [12 winds, 12 brass], 1966)

Baroque Variations, large orchestra (10 winds, 10 brass, electric guitar, electric piano, electronic organ, harpsichord, celesta, 4 percussion, strings), 1967 (its three sections may be performed separately: On a Handel Larghetto; On a Scarlatti Sonata; On a Bach Prelude [also version as Phorion, orchestra (8 winds, 5 brass, electric guitar, electric piano, electronic organ, 3 percussion, strings), 1994])

Geod, mixed chorus ad libitum, variable folk ensemble, orchestra, 1969

Orpheus, violin/viola/cello, small orchestra, 1972 (also version as Orpheus and Euridice, 2 violins, small orchestra, fixed media, 1983)

Fanfare, 1973

Concerto, percussion, orchestra, 1974

Salomone Rossi Suite, 1974

Folksong, 1975–76, revised 1978

Quintets, 1979 (version of Brass Quintet)

Night Music for John Lennon (Prelude, Fugue and Chorale), French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, small orchestra (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, piano, percussion, strings), 1980–81

Exeunt, large orchestra, 1982

For 200 Cellos (A Celebration), 200 cellos, 1982

Solo Observed, piano, small orchestra (flute, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, strings), 1982 (version of Solo; also version for piano, ensemble [harp/cello, electronic organ/accordion, vibraphone/marimba]; version as Solo Transformed, piano, small orchestra [6 winds, French horn, 2 trumpets, percussion/2 percussion, strings], 2000)

Renaissance Concerto, flute, small orchestra (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, harp, harpsichord ad libitum, timpani, percussion, strings), 1985

Griffelkin, 1986 (concert suite from opera)

Concerto No. 2, clarinet, small orchestra (flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, trumpet, trombone, piano, percussion/2 percussion, strings), 1988

For Lenny (Variation on NY, NY), piano obbligato, orchestra, 1988

American Landscapes (concerto), guitar, small orchestra, 1989

March, small orchestra (12 winds, 11 brass, timpani, percussion), 1989 (concert version of section of Griffelkin)

American Fanfare, 1990 (also version for amplified harp/electric guitar, double bass, amplified piano, synthesizer/electronic organ, symphonic band, 1990)

Symphony No. 3, 'Symphony of Sorrows', speaker ad libitum, piano obbligato, large orchestra, 1989–91 (one section may be performed separately: Elegy for Anne Frank, speaker ad libitum, piano obbligato, small orchestra [2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion, strings], 1989)

Concerto for the Left Hand, piano left hand, orchestra, 1993

Symphony No. 4, 'Window to the Past', large orchestra, 1995

For Tōru, flute, string orchestra, 1996 (also version for flute, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass)

Capriccio, cello, small orchestra, 1999

Celebration, French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, orchestra, 1999

Concerto, symphonic band, 2002

For Aaron, small orchestra (12 players), 2002


Sonata, violin, piano, 1937

Four Preludes, flute, clarinet, bassoon, 1940

Duo (Fantasia), cello, piano, 1941

Three Pieces, violin, piano, 1944 (also version as Three Early Pieces, flute, piano, 1986)

String Quartet No. 1 in G major, 1947

Studies in Improvisation, clarinet, French horn, cello, piano, percussion, 1959

Echoi, clarinet, cello, piano, percussion, 1961–63

Elytres, flute, 2 violins, ensemble (harp, 3 violins, 2 pianos, 3 percussion), 1964

Non-Improvisation, clarinet, cello, piano/harpsichord, electronic organ, percussion ad libitum, 1967

Paradigm, electric guitar/electric sitar, percussion–conductor, any 3 players, 1968, revised 1969

MAP (Musicians at Play) (musical game), any 4/5 players (with referee), live electronics, 1970

Ni bruit, ni vitesse, 2 pianos, 2 percussion, 1971

La Grotte des Vents, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 1972

String Quartet No. 2, 'Divertissement pour Mica', 1973

String Quartet No. 3, 1975

Curriculum Vitae, accordion, 1977 (also version as Curriculum Vitae with Time Bomb, accordion, percussion, 1980)

Music for Six, any 6 instruments in treble clef, 1977, revised 1978

Brass Quintet, French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, 1978 (also version as Quintets)

Round a Common Center, mezzo-soprano ad libitum, speaker ad libitum, violin/2 violins, viola, cello, piano, 1979

Solo Observed, piano, ensemble (harp/cello, electronic organ/accordion, vibraphone/marimba), 1982 (version of orchestral work)

Quartet, 4 percussion, 1983

Trio, French horn, violin, piano, 1983

Quartet, 4 saxophones, 1985

Tashi, clarinet, piano, string quartet, 1986

Chaconne, guitar, 1987

Central Park Reel, violin, piano, 1989

For Tōru, flute, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1996 (version of orchestral work)

String Quartet No. 4, 1998

String Quartet No. 5, 2000


The Prairie (cantata, text by Carl Sandburg), soprano, alto, tenor, bass, mixed chorus, orchestra, 1943 (a suite for orchestra was arranged)

Adon Olom: A Prayer, cantor/tenor, mixed chorus, organ, 1948

Behold! I Build a House (text from the Bible), mixed chorus, organ, 1950

A Parable of Death (text by Rainer Maria Rilke [English translation]), tenor, speaker, mixed chorus, piano, organ, percussion, string orchestra, 1952

Psalms, mixed chorus, small orchestra (2 French horns, trumpet, trombone, harp, 2 pianos, organ, timpani, strings), 1955–56 (also versions for mixed chorus, 2 pianos, 1956; mixed chorus, small orchestra [2 flutes, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 French horns, trumpet, trombone, harp, 2 pianos, timpani, strings], 1956)

The Fragments of Archilochos, countertenor, female speaker, male speaker, mixed chorus in 4 groups, mixed chorus ad libitum, guitar, mandolin, 3 percussion, 1965

Three Airs for Frank O'Hara's Angel (text by Frank O'Hara), soprano, male speaker, female chorus, flute, piano, 2 percussion, 1972

LamdeniTeach Me (text from Hebrew sources), mixed chorus, any 6 players, 1973

American Cantata (texts by the composer, Arie Sachs), soprano, tenor, female speaker, male speaker, mixed chorus, orchestra, 1976, revised 1977

Then the Rocks on the Mountain Began to Shout (text by Walt Whitman), 5 mixed voices, 1978

With Music Strong (text by Walt Whitman), mixed chorus, orchestra, 1979

De Profundis, mixed chorus, 1983

Sanctus, mixed chorus, orchestra, 1994


Where the bee sucks (text by William Shakespeare), medium voice, piano, 1940 (section of The Tempest; may be performed separately as a concert work)

Melodrama and Dramatic Song for Michelangelo, any voice, orchestra, 1940

Song of Anguish (text from the Book of Isaiah), baritone/bass, large orchestra, 1945

Song of Songs, soprano/mezzo-soprano, orchestra, 1946

Time Cycle (song-cycle, texts by W. H. Auden, A. E. Housman, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche), soprano, orchestra (2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, harp, timpani, percussion, strings), 1959–60 (also version for soprano, clarinet, cello, celesta, percussion, 1960)

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (text by Wallace Stevens), soprano/mezzo-soprano, flute, piano, percussion, fixed media, 1978

Measure for Measure (text by William Shakespeare), tenor, small orchestra, 1980


Four Two-Part Inventions, 1938

Grotesque Dance, 1938

Sonatina, 1939

Set of Three Pieces, 2 pianos, 1940

Passacaglia, 1941

Fantasy Rondo, 1944

Prelude in D major, 1949

Scherzo ricercato, 1953

Solo, 1981 (also versions as Solo Observed; Solo Transformed)


Four Études, 1967

War and Peace, 1995