The recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and an array of other major awards and honors, George Perle occupies a commanding position among American composers of our time. Born in Bayonne, NJ, May 6, 1915, he received his early musical education in Chicago. After graduation from DePaul University, where he studied composition with Wesley LaViolette, and subsequent private studies with Ernst Krenek, Perle served in the US Army during World War II. After the War, he took post-graduate work in musicology at New York University. His PhD thesis became his first book, Serial Composition and Atonality, now in its sixth edition.

Perle's music has been widely performed in this country and abroad. Major commissions have resulted in significant works, among them Serenade III (1983) for solo piano and chamber orchestra, choreographed by American Ballet Theater and nominated in a Nonesuch recording, for a Grammy Award (1986); Woodwind Quintet No.4 (Pulitzer Prize, 1986); Piano Concerto No.1 (1990), commissioned for Richard Goode during Perle’s residency with the San Francisco Symphony; Piano Concerto No.2 (1992), commissioned by Michael Boriskin; Transcendental Modulations for Orchestra, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 150th anniversary; and Thirteen Dickinson Songs (1978) commissioned by Bethany Beardslee. Recent works include Brief Encounters (fourteen movements for string quartet), Nine Bagatelles for piano, Critical Moments and Critical Moments 2 for six players, and Triptych for solo violin and piano. A particularly notable portion of Perle's catalog consists of pieces for solo piano, many of which have been recorded by Michael Boriskin on New World Records.

Perle's compositions have figured on the programs of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, BBC, and other major orchestras in this country and abroad. Perle's works are recorded on Nonesuch, Harmonia Mundi, New World, Albany, CRI and other labels. He has been a frequent Visiting Composer at the Tanglewood Music Festival and Composer-in-Residence with the San Francisco Symphony.

Though Perle is above all a composer, the breadth of his musical interests has led to significant contributions in theory and musicology as well. He has published numerous articles in scholarly journals and seven books, including the award-winning Operas of Alban Berg. He has been a guest professor at major universities and a much sought after lecturer and commentator on TV, here and abroad. He is Professor Emeritus at the City University of New York.

As music critic Andrew Porter has written, "Perle's renown as an analyst and scholar may have diverted some of the attention that should be given to his merits as a composer…What matters to listeners is his achievement: the vividness of his melodic gestures, the lively rhythmic sense, the clarity and shapeliness of his discourse and, quite simply, the charm and grace of his utterance."

© 2007 George Perle. All rights reserved.


Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | February 15, 2013
Distler Performance Hall at Tufts University | January 30, 2011
Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College | January 29, 2011
Studzinski Recital Hall at Bowdoin College | January 28, 2011

News and Press

[Concert Review] BMOP gives the viola its moment in the sun

And now, it might be asked, should we pity the viola? It is after all consigned to an unglamorous middle range, and is ever on the receiving end of all that merciless skewering (if you don’t know what I mean, type “viola jokes” into Google, or ask anyone who has played in an orchestra).

The Boston Globe Full review
[Concert Review] Roseate Ensemble: Violas Consort with BMOP

In another masterstroke of imaginative programming for which it is renowned, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, under Music Director Gil Rose, offered a day-late billet-doux to the sultriest member of the string family at Jordan Hall on February 15th. “Voilà! Viola!” consisted of five works featuring the viola, four of them as soloist and one for an ensemble of eight. (one will have to come up with a clever collective noun for this).

The Boston Musical Intelligencer Full review
[Concert Review] It’s “Voilà Viola!” night at Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Why did the contemporary-music orchestra give a concert of five works that all featured the viola?

a. because they wanted to make a pun in French
b. because it was St. Violantine’s Day
c. because there’s some good stuff for viola out there
d. the orchestra ordered up two brand-new viola pieces, never heard before

Boston Classical Review Full review
[Concert Review] Stylus reviews Voilà! Viola!

This Boston Modern Orchestra Project concert was another of Gil Rose’s theme-based concerts with a catchy name. The pieces were Suite for Eight Violas (1975) by Gordon Jacob, Serenade No. 1 for Viola and Orchestra (1962) by George Perle, Singing Inside Aura (2013) by Chinary Ung, Viola Concerto (2012) by Donald Crockett, and, finally, Xian Shi (1983) by Chen Yi. The selections were disparate in style and affect; a listener certainly comes away with an appreciation for the range of effects from this instrument within modern music.

Stylus Magazine Full review
[Concert Review] Not at all Monsters of Modernism

Gil Rose, who has included Tufts University as one of the bases of his Boston Modern Orchestra Project, brought a group of nineteen of Boston’s best freelancers to Distler Hall on Sunday afternoon, January 30, for a program of vivid (and not at all monstrous) American works for small orchestra and chamber groups. BMOP gave the same program at Bowdoin College and Wellesley College before this well-seasoned wrap-up. The audience was smaller than it ought to have been, but the weather was certainly much to blame for that.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer Full review