American composer, pianist, conductor and educator Lukas Foss died on February 1, 2009 at the age of 86.
Born in Berlin on August 15, 1922, Foss moved with his family to Paris in 1933, and in 1937 they relocated to the United States where he lived for the rest of his life. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Foss studied conducting with Sergei Koussevitsky and composition with Paul Hindemith. Foss was appointed as Professor of Music at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1953, filling the position vacated by the death of Arnold Schoenberg. In the 1960s, Foss founded the Center for Creative and Performing Arts while teaching at the University at Buffalo. He served as music director for the Buffalo Philharmonic (1963-1971), Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (1981-1986), and at each orchestra was a champion for new music. In 2005, Foss was awarded the American Music Center’s Letter of Distinction.
Foss’s own compositions spanned a broad range of styles and included works which employed improvisation and aleatory elements. In later years, he even flirted with minimalism. Among his most noted works are Time Cycle (1960), Baroque Variations (1967), and the opera Griffelkin (1956), which was originally written for television. His works are published by Carl Fischer. —FJO