By the University at Buffalo
Lukas Foss (1922-2009) was a composer, conductor, pianist and visionary whose legendary contributions to the Buffalo arts scene were transformative. From 1963-70, Foss served as the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), championing the works of living composers and 20th century music. In 1964, he co-founded and served as co-director of the Center for Creative and Performing Arts at the University at Buffalo, where he ushered in innovative works and performances for more than two decades.
“Lukas Foss had a long and vital connection to the department of music and its faculty. As co-founder of the Rockefeller-funded Center of the Creative and Performing Arts (along with UB music department Chair Allen Sapp), he was crucial to the project of bringing to UB a truly astounding list of guest composers and performers (the creative associates, as these guests are often called) for groundbreaking work in the field of new music,” said Jonathan Golove, associate professor and co-director of the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music.
A musical prodigy, the German-born Foss began playing harmonium (a keyboard instrument similar to an organ) as a toddler and began composing at the age of 7. He was first published at the age of 15.
“Foss was a versatile and prolific composer who left an indelible impression upon the Buffalo arts and music scene in the ’60s and ’70s that continues to inspire,” said Robin Schulze, Ph.D., dean of the UB College of Arts and Sciences and member of the BPO board of trustees. “We are excited and pleased to be part of the celebration of Foss’ legacy.”
In commemoration of what would have been his 100th birthday this year, the BPO and the department of music are celebrating the life and works of Foss through six concerts, including a performance at the prestigious Carnegie Hall:
√ Sunday, Sept. 18 – Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music/department of music performance, 3 p.m. in Slee Hall. This is a free event. This program will be performed by members of UB's Slee Sinfonietta, and will feature Foss's masterwork "Time Cycle," along with a cycle of shorter works spanning five decades.
√ Friday, Sept. 30 – “BPO Coffee Concert,” 10:30 a.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall. Program and ticket information are available here.
√ Saturday, Oct. 1 – “The Lukas Foss Legacy” – BPO performance at 7:30 p.m. in Kleinhans Music Hall. Program and ticket information are available here.
√ Saturday, Oct. 3 – Lukas Foss Centennial Celebration at Carnegie Hall – BPO performance, 7 p.m. in Carnegie Hall. More information available here.
√ Monday, Oct. 5 – Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music/department of music performance, talk, and viewing of Foss documentary, 6:30 p.m. at DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York City
√ Tuesday, Oct. 25 – BPO/Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music/department of music collaborative event – at 7 p.m. at Slee Hall.
According BPO’s website, Buffalo hosted the First Festival of the Arts in 1965 and a sequel in 1968 during Foss’ tenure as music director of BPO. Both events featured the glittering stars of the avant-garde in music, art, dance and writing, and brought thousands of spectators and rave reviews from the national press. Foss was known for working closely with new talent and performing alongside small groups of virtuosic performers to create forward-looking works of electrifying spontaneity. (“Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra returns to Carnegie Hall”)
“Foss’ musical collaborations with the creative associates were top-notch and widely heralded, and the concert we will present in New York City is an echo of the many programs Foss brought to NYC with the creative associates,” Golove said. “Through his combined activities with UB and the BPO, it’s fair to say that Lukas played a significant role in placing Buffalo on the map internationally among centers for contemporary classical music. He was also personally important to many at UB, past and present.”
According to BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta, the Lukas Foss era is generally regarded as a golden age of modernism in Buffalo, a time when the BPO played more new music than all the other orchestras in the country combined.
“Under Lukas, our orchestra became known for the wildest and most imaginative programs of new music that was happening anywhere,” she said. “He talked about BPO constantly – it was such a happy time of his life because he felt free to really be creative and do things he wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else. We have to celebrate the person he was; a maverick and a force of nature who believed so strongly in new music and young composers that he actually made Buffalo the epicenter of the new music world.”
Falletta will lead the program at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 3.