(b Croydon, 2 May 1899; d London, 27 May 1953). English publisher and writer on music. He joined the Oxford University Press in 1921 and, after brief periods in the army and as assistant editor of Land and Water, in 1925 founded its London publishing department. A man of great energy and a musician of varied accomplishments as composer, pianist and concert promoter, he was able in the course of 20 years to initiate series of publications of church music, of English songs, and of commentaries (the Musical Pilgrim booklets), and to act as sole publisher for Vaughan Williams, Walton and Rawsthorne. He was also a friend and champion of Warlock, Moeran and Van Dieren. He edited three volumes of critical biographies of major composers, The Heritage of Music, and was himself the author of the first full-length study of Vaughan Williams; he also made substantial revisions to the second edition of Warlock’s study of Delius and translated Leon Vallas's La véritable histoire de César Franck (Paris, 1950; Eng. trans., 1951/R). He prepared new editions of Tovey’s Essays on Musical Analysis: Chamber Music (London, 1944/R), Beethoven (London, 1945/R), and Essays and Lectures on Music (London, 1949). Foss wrote a number of songs, notably seven settings of Hardy, and provided piano accompaniments with Vaughan Williams and Clive Carey for Maud Karpeles’s Folk Songs from Newfoundland (London, 1934). In 1926 he founded the Bach Cantata Club for the systematic presentation of Bach’s cantatas and occasionally conducted its concerts. He was interested in fine printing and founded the Double Crown Club; he was consequently able to assist in the production of the Oxford Lectern Bible. He resigned from the OUP in 1941 and devoted the last ten years of his life to freelance journalism, including the writing of programme notes, adjudicating and broadcasting. He was married to the singer Dora Stevens, and sometimes accompanied her in recitals.
ed.: The Heritage of Music (London, 1927–51/R)
Music in my Time (London, 1933)
The Concertgoer's Handbook (London, 1946, 2/1951)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (London, 1950)
with N. Goodwin: London Symphony: Portrait of an Orchestra (London, 1954)
H.C. COLLES/FRANK HOWES
Foss [Fuchs], Lukas
(b Berlin, 15 Aug 1922). American composer, conductor and pianist. He began studies in the piano and theory in Berlin with Julius Goldstein. From 1933 to 1937 he was in Paris, where he studied the piano with Lazare Lévy, composition with Noël Gallon, orchestration with Felix Wolfes and the flute with Louis Moyse. Having moved to the USA with his family in 1937, he continued his studies at the Curtis Institute, where his teachers included Isabelle Vengerova (piano), Rosario Scalero and Thompson (composition) and Fritz Reiner (conducting). He also studied conducting with Koussevitzky during summers at the Berkshire Music Center (1939–43) and composition with Hindemith as a special student at Yale University (1939–40).
Precociously gifted, Foss began to compose at the age of seven, and at 22 he won wide acclaim for the cantata The Prairie on Carl Sandburg’s poem. After its first performance by the Collegiate Chorale under the direction of Robert Shaw in 1944 this work received the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award. From 1944 to 1950 Foss was pianist in the Boston SO and in 1945 he became the youngest composer ever to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1950–51 he was a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and in 1950–52 the recipient of a Fulbright grant. His international reputation was enhanced with the première of his Piano Concerto no.2 in Venice (7 October 1951); he was the soloist.
In February 1953 Foss was appointed professor of music (composition and conducting) at UCLA, where in 1957 he founded the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble (clarinet, piano, cello and percussion). While living in California, he was music director of the Ojai Festival and directed 12 ‘marathon’ concerts, each devoted to the music of one composer, or music from one region, at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles PO. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1962. From 1963 to 1970 he was music director and conductor of the Buffalo PO. In 1963 at SUNY, Buffalo, he founded the Center for Creative and Performing Arts and presented concerts of new music. In 1971 he was appointed conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonia (which changed its name in 1982 to the Brooklyn PO) and from 1972 to 1976 served as conductor of the Kol Israel Orchestra of Jerusalem. In Brooklyn, Foss gave more ‘marathon’ concerts, and in 1973 he began Meet the Moderns, a series of new music concerts and discussions with composers. In 1981, while continuing to hold his Brooklyn post and live in New York, Foss became music director of the Milwaukee SO, a position he retained until 1986. He has appeared as guest conductor with many orchestras in the USA and Europe, and has lectured widely at colleges and universities in North America.
Foss’s development as a composer may be divided into three main periods, with a transitional phase of ‘controlled improvisation’ (1956–61). The first period (1944–60) was predominantly neo-classical and eclectic, represented by such works as the Symphony in G, the early concertos, various choral works, and the orchestral Symphony of Chorales based on chorales by Bach. Also present is an element of American populism, as in the setting of Sandburg’s The Prairie and the comic opera The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County on the story by Mark Twain.
The transitional phase began in 1956 when Foss decided to experiment with ensemble improvisation, primarily for the benefit of his students at UCLA. A year later he founded the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble and formulated what he called ‘system and chance music’, a kind of controlled improvisation. This experience led to a profound change in Foss’s compositional techniques: he abandoned tonality and fixed forms and opted for serialism, indeterminacy and graphic notation. A transitional work, Time Cycle for soprano and orchestra (1959–60), sets texts by W.H. Auden, A.E. Housman, Franz Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche that probe the nature of time; originally performed with improvised interludes by Foss’s group, Time Cycle won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award of 1961 and has remained Foss’s most performed and recorded work. Echoi for four soloists (the players of Foss’s ensemble) marks the definitive beginning of the experimental phase. Its point of departure is serialism, but used ‘in a free, willful manner’, with the performers invited to skip back and forth between different pages of the score.
Three works of this period – Elytres, Fragments of Archilochos, For 24 Winds – ‘are based on the idea of a score containing on every page a sum total from which a different selection is extracted for each performance’. Baroque Variations (on themes by Handel, Scarlatti and Bach) includes a surrealist element in that the variations are ‘dreams’ in which the original music is fragmented and distorted. This surrealism pervades Variation III (Phorion), on Bach’s Partita in E for solo violin; he described its desired effect as ‘torrents of baroque semiquavers … submerging into and emerging out of inaudibility’. There are little jokes too, such as the xylophone’s spelling out of ‘Johann Sebastian Bach’ in morse code. The autobiographical suggestions in Phorion become explicit in Curriculum Vitae with Time Bomb: while an accordion plays themes remembered from Foss’s own childhood (a Hungarian Dance by Brahms, Mozart’s Turkish March, the Nazi anthem, etc.), percussion ominously ticks off a countdown; the final explosion, however, turns out to be a gentle pop from a child’s cap pistol.
Foss has used the revelations of electronic techniques to refresh live performance. In Ni bruit, ni vitesse he explores the ability of two pianos to produce ‘electronic’ sounds, while in MAP, a Musical Game the players make tapes of themselves and then compete against the tapes and each other. Similarly, his String Quartet no.3 and Solo for piano both use hypnotic repetition in the minimalist style, but even here Foss cannot resist subtly altering the patterns. With the more conservative musical taste of the 1980s and 90s, Foss revisited the neo-classicism and Americana of his first period, composing again in traditional instrumental and choral genres, but not forgetting the experimental techniques of his second period. In his American Cantata (1976) he strove ‘to be as crazy as I was in my avant-garde music and yet tonal’. His guitar concerto, American Landscapes, combines folk guitar styles and tunes with novel plucking and percussion techniques in the solo part. Similarly, in the wistful and antiquarian Renaissance Concerto, the solo flute’s key clicks add percussive effect. These later works present music that is frank in sentiment, imaginative in an almost pictorial way, yet refined and witty in execution.
For all their diverse styles, Foss’s works spring from a distinct personality: enthusiastic, curious and receptive to every kind of musical idea. Not coincidentally, these are the same attitudes he has instilled in audiences with his performances of the classical repertory and new music. In short, he has been one of his era’s most communicative and representative composer-performers.
The Tempest (incid music, W. Shakespeare), 1940; The Heart Remembers (ballet), pf, 1944; Within these Walls (ballet), pf, 1944; Gift of the Magi (ballet), orch, 1945; The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (op, 2, J. Karsavina, after M. Twain), 1949, Bloomington, IN, 18 May 1950; Griffelkin (op, A. Reed, after H. Foss), 1955, broadcast, NBC TV, 6 Nov 1956, staged, New York, 7 Oct 1993; Introductions and Goodbyes (op, 1, G.C. Menotti), B, chorus, 1959, New York, 5 May 1960; Search into Darkness (film score), 1962
2 Sym. Pieces, 1939–40, lost; Cl Conc., 1941–2, rev. as Pf Conc. no.1, 1944; 2 Pieces: Dance Sketch, Allegro concertante, 1941; Suite from The Prairie, 1944 [after cant.]; Sym., G, 1944; Ode, 1945, rev. 1958; Pantomime, 1946 [after ballet Gift of the Magi]; Ob Conc., 1948; Recordare, 1948; Elegy, cl, orch, 1949 [after Pf Conc. no.1]; Pf Conc. no.2, 1949, rev. 1953; Griffelkin Parade, 1955 [after op]; Sym. of Chorales, 1956–8; Baroque Variations, 1967 [3rd variation arr. as Phorion: str, hpd, elec org, elec gui, 1967; orch, 1994]; Concert, vc, orch, 1967; Geod, 4 orch groups, 1969; Orpheus, vn/va/vc, small orch, 1972, rev. as Orpheus and Euridice, 2 vn, orch, 1984; Fanfare, 1973;
Perc Conc., 1974; Folksong, 1975; Solomon Rossi Suite, 1975; Night Music for John Lennon, brass qnt, orch, 1979-80; Qnts for Orch, 1979 [after Brass Qnt]; 200 Cellos, a Celebration, 1982; Exeunt, 1982; Solo Observed, pf, orch, 1982 [after chbr work]; Renaissance Conc., fl, orch, 1985; 3 American Pieces, vn/fl, orch, 1986 [after 3 Pieces, 1944]; Griffelkin Suite, 1986 [after op]; American Landscapes, gui conc., 1989; Cl Conc. no.2, 1989; Elegy for Anne Frank, pf, orch, 1989, rev. as movt of Sym. no.3, 1991; Griffelkin March, orch/band, 1989 [after op]; American Fanfare, orch/band, 1990; Sym. no.3 ‘Sym. of Sorrows’, 1991; Pf Conc. of the Left Hand, 1993; Sym. no.4 ‘Windows to the Past’, 1995; For Toru, fl, str orch/qt, 1996
Grotesque Dance, 1938; 4 2-Pt Inventions, 1938; Sonatina, 1939; Set of 3 Pieces, 2 pf, 1940; Passacaglia, 1941; Fantasy Rondo, 1944; Prelude, D, 1950; Scherzo ricercato, 1953; Etudes, org, 1967; Ni bruit, ni vitesse, 2 pf, 2 perc, 1972; Curriculum vitae, accdn, 1977 [rev. as Curriculum vitae with Time Bomb, accdn, perc, 1980]; Solo, 1981; War and Peace, org, 1996
Cantata dramatica, T, chorus, orch, 1940, withdrawn; We Sing, children’s chorus, pf, drums, 1941, withdrawn; Cool Prayers, chorus, 1944; The Prairie (C. Sandburg), S, A, T, B, chorus, orch, 1944; Tell this Blood, 1945, withdrawn; Behold I build an house, chorus, org/pf, 1950; Adon olom, cantor, chorus, org, 1951; A Parable of Death (R.M. Rilke, trans. A. Hecht), nar, T, SATB, orch, 1952
Psalms, chorus, orch/2 pf, 1955–6; Frags. of Archilochos, Ct, male spkr, female spkr, 4 small choruses, large chorus ad lib, mand, gui, 3 perc, 1965; 3 Airs for Frank O’Hara’s Angel, S, female chorus, fl, pf, 2 perc, 1972; Lamdeni mi [Teach me], chorus, 6 insts, 1973; American Cantata, T, chorus, orch, 1976; And then the rocks on the mountain began to shout, chorus, 1978 [after brass qnt]; De profundis, chorus, 1982; With Music Strong (W. Whitman), chorus, orch, 1988
1 voice, piano, unless otherwise stated
3 Songs (Shakespeare), 1938; Wanderers Gemutsruhe (J.W. von Goethe), 1938; Melodrama and Dramatic Song of Michelangelo (C.F. Meyer), 1940; Where the Bee Sucks (Shakespeare), 1940; Song of Anguish (after Bible: Isaiah), Bar, orch, 1945; Song of Songs, S, orch, 1946; For Cornelia (Years: For Anne Gregory), 1955; Time Cycle (W.H. Auden, A.E. Housman, F. Kafka, F. Nietzsche), S, orch, 1959–60 [arr. S, cl, vc, cel, perc, 1960]; 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (W. Stevens), S, fl, pf, perc, 1978; Measure for Measure, T, orch, 1980 [after Solomon Rossi Suite]
Recorded interviews in US-NHoh
Principal publishers: C. Fischer, Salabert, G. Schirmer
GroveA (G. Chase/D. Wright) [incl. further bibliography]
KdG (W. Gruhn)
W.Mellers: ‘Today and Tomorrow: Lukas Foss and the Younger Generation’, Music in a New Found Land (London, 1964/R), 220–35
J.Waugh: ‘Chance, Choice and Lukas Foss’, American Music: Keele 1975, 37–50
C.Gagne and T.Caras: ‘Lukas Foss’, Soundpieces: Interviews with American Composers (Metuchen, NJ, 1982), 193–208
H.Kupferberg: ‘Lukas Foss: Newfound Focus for the Composer-Conductor’, Ovation, v/3 (1984–5), 12–17