Christopher Rouse is one of America’s most prominent composers of orchestral music. Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Trombone Concerto, Rouse has created a body of work perhaps unequalled in its emotional intensity. The New York Times has called it “some of the most anguished, most memorable music around.”
Born in Baltimore in 1949, Rouse developed an early interest in both classical and popular music. He graduated from Oberlin Conservatory and Cornell University. Rouse has maintained a steady interest in popular music: at the Eastman School of Music, where he taught composition for two decades, he also taught a course in the history of rock. He now teaches composition at The Juilliard School.
While the Rouse catalog includes a number of acclaimed chamber and ensemble works, the composer is best known for his mastery of orchestral writing. His music has been played by nearly every major orchestra in the U.S., and numerous ensembles overseas, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney and Melbourne symphonies, and the Austrian Radio Orchestra.
Rouse’s Symphony No. 1 (1986), commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, was rated by the Boston Globe as “probably the most completely successful symphonic composition yet written by an American composer of his rising generation.” Symphony No. 2 (1995), commissioned by Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony, has found equal success, earning praise in both its premiere and in European tour performances. Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony have recorded Symphony No. 2 for Telarc, on an all-Rouse disc that also features the Celtic-inspired Flute Concerto (1994) (with Carol Wincenc as soloist) and Phaethon (1986), one of several Rouse scores inspired by mythology. The disc earned a ‘Diapason d’Or’ award from the French magazine Diapason. RCA has also issued a CD devoted to Rouse’s music, featuring Marin Alsop leading the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in Gorgon (1984), Iscariot (1989), and Trombone Concerto (1991), with New York Philharmonic Principal Trombonist Joseph Alessi as soloist.
Since the early 1990’s, Rouse has gained particular notice for his concertos. Among these are Violin Concerto (1991), commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival for Cho-Liang Lin, and Violoncello Concerto (1992–93), given its premiere in Spring 1994 by Yo-Yo Ma, with David Zinman leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Ma has recorded the Violoncello Concerto for Sony Classics, accompanied by David Zinman and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
January 1999 brought the premiere of Kabir Padavali (1997–98), an orchestral song cycle commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra for soprano Dawn Upshaw. Seeing (1998), a piano concerto for Emmanuel Ax and the New York Philharmonic, made its debut in May 1999 under Leonard Slatkin.
Rouse’s Concert de Gaudí (1999), a guitar concerto for soloist Sharon Isbin, was commissioned jointly by the NDR Symphony Orchestra (Hamburg) and the Dallas Symphony. Isbin’s 2001 recording of the work on the Teldec label earned the composer a Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition. May 2001 brought the premiere of his Clarinet Concerto (2000), commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for its principal clarinetist, Larry Combs.
Recent premieres have included Rouse’s trumpet concerto, Heimdall’s Trumpet (2012), the concert openers Prospero’s Rooms (2013), Supplica (2014), and Thunderstuck (2014), and his Symphony No. 4 (2013).
Christopher Rouse was named the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic for the 2012–13 season, an appointment that was extended through the 2013–14 and 2014–15 seasons. He is currently in the process of composing a new symphony and concerto.
Christopher Rouse is published by Boosey & Hawkes.
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