Ed's talk: death of Lukas Foss

Monday, February 2, 2009

death of Lukas Foss

In 1954, when I was 17 -18, I spent the summer in Tanglewood as a member of the "Study Group". I don't remember the circumstances very well but, for some reason, Leonard Bernstein was not there that year and Lukas Foss was. And it happened that he was the one who gave me my first conducting lesson, in effect, by showing me how to give a downbeat for an ensemble to start a piece.

Mr. Foss was one of the most eclectic of composers and often his compositions were rather atonal. In his later years, he returned to tonality having never been that dedicated to the twelve- tone system. Though I listened to many of his works with pleasure, I was reminded today by the friend who showed me the obit, that he was often booed, especially by the blue-haired ladies of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's audience.

As I recall, though Foss was often audacious, he never lost sight of what pleased an audience even if the audience was often not pleased. I especially enjoyed his "Time Cycle" and "Song of Songs". If he was not startingly original, (these days who is?) I still think he deserved better.

I was pleased by the extent of his recognition in the Times obituary!


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