Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

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Wilson, Olly

(b St Louis, 7 Sept 1937). American composer. He studied the piano as a child and later gained degrees in music from Washington University, St Louis (BMus 1959), the University of Illinois (MMus 1960) and the University of Iowa (PhD 1964). He also studied electronic music at the Illinois studio for experimental music (1967). In 1968 his electronic composition Cetus won a prize in the world’s first International Electronic Music Competition. Later honours included Guggenheim fellowships (West Africa, 1971, American Academy in Rome, 1977), and a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation Center in Bellagio, Italy (1991). He taught at several colleges before becoming professor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1970. His commissions include works for the Boston and Chicago SOs, the New York PO, Boston Musica Viva and the Black Music Repertory Ensemble.

Wilson draws freely upon avant-garde styles and techniques in his music, showing a predilection for unorthodox formal procedures and instrumental combinations. His articles appear in Black Perspectives in Music, Black Music Research Journal and Perspectives of New Music.


(selective list)

Orch: Structure, 1960; Voices, 1970; Akwan, pf, elec pf, orch, 1972; Lumina, 1981; Sinfonia, 1983; Expansions II, 1988; Shango Memory, 1996; Sym. no.3 ‘Hold On’, 1998

Chbr and solo inst: Sonata, vn, pf, 1961; Dance Suite, wind ens, 1962; Piece for 4, fl, tpt, db, pf, 1966; Echoes, cl, elecs, 1974; Pf Trio, 1977; A City Called Heaven, ens, 1988–9; Fanfare for the New Millennium, brass qnt, elecs, 1996

Vocal: Wry Frags. (J. Cunningham), T, perc, 1961; Biography (L. Jones), 1v, pf, 1966; In Memoriam Martin Luther King, chorus, elecs, 1968; Sometimes (Negro spiritual), T, tape, 1976; No More (D. Brutus, I. Mackay), T, chbr ens, 1985; I Shall Not Be Moved, S, chbr ens, 1991–2

Elec: Cetus, 1967; Black Mass (Jones), incid music, 1971; The 18 Hands of Jerome Harris, ballet, 1971; Soweto’s Children, elec tape, 1994–5

Recorded interview in US-NHoh

Principal recording companies: Columbia, CRI, New World, Neuman


GroveA (E. Southern) [incl. further bibliography]


D.N. Baker, L.M. Belt, H.C. Hudson, eds.: The Black Composer Speaks (Metuchen, NJ, 1978) [incl. work-list and interview]

M.D. Schrock: ‘Aspects of Compositional Style in Four Works by Olly Wilson’, Black Music Research Journal, ix (1989), 93–108


Wilson, Richard (Edward)

(b Cleveland, 15 May 1941). American composer and pianist. After studying the cello and the piano at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, he was awarded the BA from Harvard (1963), then studied the piano with Wührer in Munich and composition with Moevs (his main Harvard professor) in Rome on a Frank Huntington Beebe Fellowship. He pursued postgraduate study at Rutgers, New Jersey (MA 1966), subsequently joining the music faculty of Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, where he was appointed professor in 1976; he was appointed to the Mary Conover Mellon Professorship there in 1988. His works have been performed worldwide; among his many awards are a joint prize in the League of Composers/ISCM Piano Music Competition (1976) as well as the Burge/Eastman Prize (1978) for his virtuoso piano work Eclogue, and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1992–3). He has been commissioned by the San Francisco SO for Articulations, and by the Koussevitsky Foundation for the Triple Concerto, written for the American SO, whose composer-in-residence he became in 1992.

Wilson has composed for a wide variety of vocal and instrumental combinations and is concerned as much with exploring the sonic idiom of the particular force at hand as with the communication of an abstract musical concept. His musical style incorporates some aspects of traditional tonality within a highly chromatic, though sensuous, language. Avoiding serialism, he favours evolving motivic interplay, often set against a quasi-Impressionistic background. Eclogue, String Quartet no.3 and Symphony no.1 provide the best illustration of his mature style, which is rich yet subtle, often witty, varied yet cohesive, and structured yet always expressive.


(selective list)

Comic Op: Aethelred the Unready (Wilson, 7 scenes), 1994

Orch: Initiation, 1970; Vn Conc., 1979; 11 Sumner Place, sym. band, 1981; Bn Conc., 1983; Sym. no.1, 1984; Sym. no.2, 1986; Suite for Small Orchestra, 1988; Articulations, 1989; Pf Conc., 1991; Agitations, 1994; A Child’s London, 1997; Triple Conc., hn, b cl, mar, orch, 1998

Chbr: Suite for 5 Players, fl, cl, va, vc, perc, 1963; Trio, ob, vn, vc, 1964; Fantasy and Variations, chbr ens, 1965; Str Qt no.1, 1968, Qt, 2 fl, db, hpd, 1969; Wind Qnt, 1974; Str Qt no.2, 1977; Str Qt no.3, 1982; Suite for Winds, fl, cl, 2 bn, 2 tpt, 2 trbn, 1983; Contentions, a fl, eng hn, b cl, dbn, pf/el pf, hp, va, db, 1988; Sonata, va, pf, 1989; Affirmations, fl, cl, vn, vc, pf, 1990, Str Qt no.4, 1997

Solo inst: Eclogue, pf, 1974; Profound Utterances, bn, 1980; Fixations, pf, 1985; Flutations, fl, 1985; Intercalations, pf, 1986; Lord Chesterfield to his Son, vc, 1987; Music for Solo Va, 1988; Civilization and Its Discontents, tuba, 1992

Vocal: In Schrafft’s (W.H. Auden), male chorus, pf 4 hands, 1966, arr. SATB, cl, hpd, mar, 1979; 7 choral works (S. Sandy), 1968–72; The Ballad of Longwood Glen (V. Nabokov), T, hp, 1975; August 22 (J. Unterecker), SATB, pf, perc, 1975–6; A Theory (M. Guston), S, vib, 1980; Tribulations (M. Hollis, A.E. Housman, J. Viorst, H. Belloc, O. Nash), v, pf, 1988; Persuasions (T. Carew), S, fl, ob, bn, hpd, 1990; 5 Love Songs on Poems of John Skelton, Mez, pf, 1995; Pamietam (L. Staff, M. Jastrun), Mez, orch, 1995; Poor Warren (J. Ashbery), SATB, pf, 1995

Principal publishers: Peermusic Classical, Boosey & Hawkes


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