Roger Sessions

Roger Sessions

born on 28/12/1896 in Brooklyn, NY, United States

died on 16/3/1985 in Princeton, NJ, United States

Roger Sessions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Roger Huntington Sessions (28 December 1896 –16 March 1985) was an American composer, critic, and teacher of music.


Sessions was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family that could trace its roots back to the American revolution. His mother, Ruth Huntington Sessions, was a direct descendent of Samuel Huntington, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.[1] Roger studied music at Harvard University from the age of 14. There he wrote for and subsequently edited the Harvard Musical Review. Graduating at age 18, he went on to study at Yale University under Horatio Parker and Ernest Bloch before teaching at Smith College. His first major compositions came while he was travelling Europe with his wife in his mid-twenties and early thirties.

Returning to the United States in 1933, he taught first at Princeton University (from 1936), moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1945 to 1953, and then returned to Princeton until retiring in 1965. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1961.[2] He was appointed Bloch Professor at Berkeley (196667), and gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University in 196869. He continued to teach on a part-time basis at the Juilliard School from 1966 until 1983.[3]

His notable students include John Adams, Milton Babbitt, Jack Behrens, Elmer Bernstein, Robert Cogan, Robert Black, Edward T. Cone, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, David Del Tredici, Alan Fletcher, Carlton Gamer, Steven Gellman, Miriam Gideon, John Harbison, Walter Hekster, Robert Helps, Andrew Imbrie, Earl Kim, Fred Lerdahl, Leon Kirchner, David Lewin, William Mayer, Conlon Nancarrow, Roger Nixon, Will Ogdon, Claire Polin, Einojuhani Rautavaara, William Schimmel, Richard St. Clair, George Tsontakis, John Veale, Peter Westergaard, Rolv Yttrehus and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

He died at the age of 88 in Princeton, New Jersey.


His works written up to 1930 or so are more or less neoclassical in style. Those written between 1930 and 1951 are more or less tonal but harmonically complex. From the Solo Violin Sonata of 1953 on, he wrote almost exclusively in a serial style.

Major works

  • Symphony No. 1 (1927)
  • The Black Maskers Orchestral Suite (1928)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 (1930)
  • Violin Concerto (1935)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1936)
  • Duo for Violin and Piano (1942)
  • From my Diary (Pages from a Diary) (1940)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 (1946)
  • Symphony No. 2 (1946)
  • The Trial of Lucullus (1947), one-act opera
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1951)
  • Sonata for Solo Violin (1953)
  • Idyll of Theocritus (1954)
  • Piano Concerto (1956)
  • Symphony No. 3 (1957)
  • String Quintet (1957[4] or 195758[5])
  • Symphony No. 4 (1958)
  • Divertimento for Orchestra (1959)
  • Montezuma (1963), opera in three acts (libretto by Giuseppe Antonio Borgese)
  • Symphony No. 5 (1964)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 (1965)
  • Symphony No. 6 (1966)
  • Six Pieces for Violoncello (1966)
  • Symphony No. 7 (1967)
  • Symphony No. 8 (1968)
  • Rhapsody for Orchestra (1970)
  • Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, and Orchestra (1971)
  • When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd (1971)
  • Concertino for Chamber Orchestra (1972)
  • Five Pieces for Piano (1975)
  • Symphony No. 9 (October 1978)
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1981)
  • Duo for Violin and Violoncello (1981), incomplete

Some works received their first professional performance many years after completion. The Sixth Symphony (1966) was given its first complete performance on March 4, 1977 by the Juilliard Orchestra in New York City [6]

The Ninth Symphony (1978), commissioned by the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and Frederik Prausnitz, was premiered on January 17, 1980 by the same orchestra conducted by Christopher Keene.[7]


  • Sessions, Roger. Harmonic Practice. New York: Harcourt, Brace. 1951. LCCN 51008476.
  • Sessions, Roger. Reflections on the Music Life in the United States. New York: Merlin Press. 1956. LCCN 56012976.
  • Sessions, Roger. The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1950, republished 1958.
  • Sessions, Roger. Questions About Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1970, reprinted New York: Norton, 1971. ISBN 0-674-74350-4.
  • Sessions, Roger. Roger Sessions on Music: Collected Essays, edited by Edward T. Cone. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-691-09126-9 (cloth) ISBN 0-691-10074-8 (pbk)


  • Cone, Edward, ed. Roger Sessions on Music: Collected Essays. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-691-09126-9 and ISBN 0-691-10074-8.
  • Imbrie, Andrew (1972). "The Symphonies of Roger Sessions". Tempo New Ser. (103): 2432.
  • Olmstead, Andrea. Conversations with Roger Sessions. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987. ISBN 1-55553-010-9.
  • Olmstead, Andrea. The Correspondence of Roger Sessions. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992. ISBN 1-55553-122-9.
  • Olmstead, Andrea. Roger Sessions: A Biography. New York: Routledge, 2008. ISBN 978-0-415-97713-5 (hardback) ISBN 978-0-415-97714-2 (pbk.) ISBN 978-0-203-93147-9 (ebook)
  • Olmstead, Andrea. "Sessions, Roger (Huntington)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001.
  • Prausnitz, Frederik. Roger Sessions: How a "Difficult" Composer Got That Way. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-510892-2


  1. Olmstead 2008, 7.
  2. Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter S. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved on 20 April 2011.
  3. Olmstead 2001.
  4. Prausnitz 2002, 323.
  5. Olmstead 2001.
  6. (June 1977) "News Section". Tempo New Ser. (121): 49.
  7. Olmstead, Andrea (September 1980). "Roger Sessions's 9th Symphony". Tempo New Ser. (133/134): 79.

External links

  • The Roger Sessions Society
  • Art of the States: Roger Sessions
  • biographer/Andrea Olmstead contains a discography
  • The Seymour Shifrin Papers at Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University Shifrin's papers include two MSS by Roger Sessions
This page was last modified 08.05.2011 20:19:56

This article uses material from the article Roger Sessions from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.