Lukas Foss

The German-born American composer, conductor, pianist, and educator, Lukas Foss contributed profoundly to the circulation and appreciation of music of the 20th century.

Foss was recognized as a child prodigy. He began piano and theory lessons with Julius Goldstein [Herford] in Berlin at the age of six. He moved with his family to Paris in 1933, where he studied piano with Lazare Lévy, composition with Noël Gallon, orchestration with Felix Wolfes, and flute with Louis Moyse. In 1937 he moved with his parents and brother to the United States, where he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

At Curtis, Foss began a lifelong friendship with classmate Leonard Bernstein, who later described Foss as an "authentic genius." In 1961 Bernstein would conduct the premiere of Foss's Time Cycle, while Foss would conduct the premiere of Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

He served from 1963 to 1970 as music director and conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1963, Foss founded, and became the director of, the Center for Creative and Performing Arts at UB.

His compositions illustrate two main periods in his artistic development, separated by a middle, avant-garde phase. The works of his first period are predominantly neo-classic in style, and reflect his love of J.S. Bach and Igor Stravinsky. In the transitional period he fused elements of controlled improvisation and chance operations with 12-tone, and serialist techniques. His later period works, including the Renaissance Concerto (1990) for flute, embrace a wide variety of musical references, displaying a keen awareness of idioms and styles that span the history of western art music.