Leon Kirchner was born on 24 January 1919 of Russian parents in Brooklyn, grew up in Los Angeles, and studied with Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions, and Ernest Bloch. Stylistically, Kirchner has remained remarkably individual; earlier influences of Hindemith, Bartók, and Stravinsky soon yield to a wholehearted identification with the aesthetics, if not necessarily the specific procedures, of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern.

Extraordinarily gifted as both a pianist and a conductor, Kirchner is first and foremost a composer. A member of the American Academies of Arts and Letters and Arts and Science, he has been honored twice by the New York Music Critics' Circle (First and Second String Quartets), and received the Naumburg Award (Piano Concerto No. 1), the Pulitzer Prize (Third Quartet with electronic tape), the Friedheim Award (Music for Cello and Orchestra), and commissions from, among others, the Ford, Fromm, and Koussevitzky Foundations, the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Symphony, Spoleto and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festivals, the Boston Symphony, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. He was composer-in-residence and a performer at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Tanglewood Music Center, Tokyo Music Today (Takemitsu Festival), and the Spoleto, Charleston, Aldeburgh, and Marlboro Music Festivals. He has also conducted at a number of leading music festivals around the world, most recently at Ravinia, and taught for many years at Harvard.

Kirchner's most recent works include The Forbidden, for James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Music For Cello and Orchestra, for Yo-Yo Ma and the Philadelphia Orchestra (on Sony Classical), Trio No. 2 for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, and Of Things Exactly as They Are, a work for orchestra, chorus, and soloists for the Boston Symphony, premiered in November 1996, and String Quartet No. 4 for the Orion Quartet. Following their premiere of the fourth String Quartet, the Orion Quartet recorded Kirchner's complete quartets, works which span a 57 year period, for Albany Records. Other recent works have included piano pieces for Russell Sherman and Jonathan Biss, and a violin-piano duo premiered by Ida Levin and Jeremy Denk.

Performers who have championed Kirchner's work include Yo-Yo Ma, who has toured and recorded both Music for Cello and Orchestra and Triptych for Sony; the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Continuum; pianists Peter Serkin, who commissioned and recorded InterludeString Quartets (Boston Composers String Quartet, Albany Troy 137) and Nonesuch's all-Kirchner recording (CD and tape, 79188) which includes the Concerto for Violoncello, Ten Winds, and Percussion; the Piano Trio; Five Piano Pieces; and Music for Twelve, featuring the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. Of Music for Twelve, Allan Kozinn of The New York Times wrote: "There is magic in the interplay between the 12 soloistic lines, and in the way instrumental colors seem to grow from each other to form lengthy melodies." Kirchner's music is published exclusively by Associated Music Publishers.


Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | May 28, 2010
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston | September 21, 2008
Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | January 25, 2008
Edward M. Pickman Concert Hall at Longy | November 14, 2003

News and Press

[Concert Review] Classical Music Review: Boston Modern Orchestra Project

The Jordan Hall stage was crammed full of seventy players for the season’s final concert by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) on May 28. Under its artistic director Gil Rose, we heard music by five composers, the earliest dating from 1989. For two works the distinguished baritone Sanford Sylvan (b. 1953) was the soloist.

The Arts Fuse Full review
[Concert Review] BMOP's feast of new music

After giving each orchestra section a spotlight concert this season, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and artistic director Gil Rose brought a full symphonic complement to Jordan Hall on Friday, with a program to match: five canvases of splashy instrumentation. The complement was in fine form indeed, zealous and bold. New-music advocacy doesn’t get more luxurious.

The Boston Globe Full review
[Concert Review] BMOP proves that new music can be moving

On Friday, May 28, in Jordan Hall, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, a.k.a. BMOP, presented its last concert of the season -— five works composed in the past 25 years, two of which featured the great baritone Sanford Sylvan. BMOP’s past season had featured concerts showcasing groups within the orchestra (strings in “Strings Attached,” percussion and keyboards in the “Big Bang” concert, winds in “Band in Boston”). For this concert, deploying the full orchestra, BMOP presented works by four living composers, all in attendance, and Orchestra Piece by Leon Kirchner, who died last fall.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer Full review
[Concert Review] Stylus reviews Full Score

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project commissions, performs, and records music of the twentieth and twenty first centuries exclusively, allowing listeners to hear full-sized orchestral performances of modern compositions, previously performed more typically by small groups like the Kronos Quartet and the Chameleon Arts Ensemble.

Stylus Full review
[Press Release] BMOP presents Full Score

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's leading orchestra dedicated exclusively to performing, commissioning, and recording new music, will present its final concert of the 2009-10 season, Full Score, at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street), on Friday, May 28 at 8:00pm. After three instrument-centric performances ("Big Bang" for percussion, "Band in Boston" for winds, and "Strings Attached" for strings), the BMOP season will culminate with a full orchestral program uniting over 70 musicians and guest baritone Sanford Sylvan.

Full review
[Concert Review] BMOP explores many faces of modern music

Friday’s wide-ranging Boston Modern Orchestra Project concert demonstrated how unhelpfully vague the umbrella term “modern music” can be. Some New England Conservatory link was the only correspondence among the disparate works, gathered under the title “Boston ConNECtion” (and performed under Jordan Hall’s architecturally ill-mannered “New England Conservatory” signboard, which continues to intrude on the season’s concert experience like a dinner-time telemarketer).

The Boston Globe Full review
[Concert Review] Country for old men

BMOP has become so popular, you have to look hard in the program to find its full name: Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Founder Gil Rose and his outstanding ensemble celebrated their 10th season at the New England Conservatory on Friday with their annual concert devoted to Boston composers. An enthusiastic and diverse audience (diverse especially in age) cheered, whistled, and hooted its approval for pieces, including two world premieres, by five composers also diverse in age. All the pieces were lively and (unlike Gerontius) fun.

Full review