We at String Poet are saddened to have to announce the recent death of the gifted and wonderful composer, Steven R. Gerber. Steven was to be our composer for the 2015 String Poet Prize. To honor his memory, we are featuring his work in this Spring/Summer issue of String Poet.
Steven R. Gerber was born on September 28, 1948 in Washington, D.C. He held degrees from Haverford College and from Princeton University, where he received a 4-year fellowship. Steven’s music composition teachers include Robert Parris, J. K. Randall, Earl Kim, and Milton Babbitt.
His early works were in a free atonal style, incorporating serial and non-twelve-tone languages into a distinctive and deeply personal sound world. During his years as a graduate student at Princeton and throughout the 1970’s, he wrote a number of stunning compositions, such as the a cappella choral works Dylan Thomas Settings and Illuminations (Rimbaud). Beginning in the early 1980s, he abandoned twelve-tone and atonal composition, with rare exceptions, and his music became much more tonal while still retaining the expressive elements of the his earlier works
Steven’s music gained international attention as a result of recorded CD releases featuring several of his major works for orchestra as well as concertos. His Symphony No. 1, Dirge and Awakening, the Viola Concerto and Triple Overture were recorded by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra under Thomas Sanderling, with Lars Anders Tomter, viola, and the Bekova Sisters Trio on the Chandos label. Koch International Classics released his Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto, and Serenade for String Orchestra, with performances by the National Chamber Orchestra under Piotr Gajewski, with soloists Kurt Nikkanen (violin) and Carter Brey (cello). In 2007 Arabesque records released a CD with three of Gerber’s orchestral works, Spirituals for string orchestra, Clarinet Concerto, and Serenade Concertante, featuring the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony, conducted by Vladimir Lande, with clarinet soloist Jon Manasse. Other releases included recordings of his music with Composers Recordings, Inc., and Opus One record labels.
The American premiere of his Violin Concerto at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was performed in 1995 by Nikkanen and the National Chamber Orchestra under Gajewski. Carter Brey premiered his Cello Concerto with the same orchestra and conductor in 1996. Other major works of Gerber’s included a Viola Concerto written for Yuri Bashmet and premiered by him at his Summer festival in Tours, France, String Quartets No. 4, 5 and 6, written respectively for the Fine Arts and Amernet String Quartets, Spirituals for clarinet and string quartet, commissioned by Concertante Chamber Players for performances in 2000 at the Library of Congress, Merkin Hall (NYC) and in Harrisburg, a Clarinet Concerto for Jon Manasse, premiered by him with the National Philharmonic Orchestra under Maestro Gajewski, and Fanfare for the Voice of A-M-E-R-I-C-A, commissioned to celebrate VOA’s 60th anniversary, and premiered at the VOA auditorium on a 9/11 memorial concert in 2003. His most recent orchestral work Music in Dark Times was commissioned by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the four World Premiere performances took place in March, 2009 with Maestro Ashkenazy conducting the San Francisco Symphony.
Steven’s chamber music release on Naxos Steven R. Gerber’s Chamber Music features nine of his finest works in the genre, recorded by violinists Kurt Nikkanen and Cho-Liang Lin and cellists Cyrus Beroukhim and Brinton Smith, with pianist Sara Davis Buechner. Recent chamber music releases include the Albany Records CD (Mostly) Piano Music of works performed by Gerber on piano, with Gregory Fulkerson, violin and Jennifer Rinehart, piano. A new Albany Records CD release of The Amernet String Quartet performing Gerber’s String Quartet’s 4, 5 and 6 and Fantasy, Fugue & Chaconne for Viola & Cello was released in May 2015.
Gerber’s catalog of works also includes many song cycles, choral works and pieces for solo instruments. His compositions are published by Mobart Music Publications / Boelke-Bomart, Inc. and Lauren Keiser Music. Information about Gerber, including a complete list of works and discography is available at http://wwwstevengerber.com.
Steven R. Gerber was living in his long-time home of New York City at the time of his death from cancer on May 28, 2015. His beloved partner, Dr. Norma Hymes, died in July of 2010.