Composer of the Week: Quincy Porter

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

Few people have heard of Quincy Porter or his fabulous compositions. His undeniable underdogness makes him our Composer of the Week.

b. February 7, 1897 in New Haven, Connecticut

d. November 12, 1966 in Bethany, Connecticut

Quincy Porter, who’s compositional style bridged Impressionism with chromaticism to create his own idiom, composed a catalog of music including two symphonies, a cycle of nine string quartets, and numerous other orchestral and chamber works. Among these are the seven pieces he wrote with the violist in mind—the largest of them being a concerto with orchestral accompaniment. Though he wrote for ensembles both large and small, Quincy Porter’s most sought-after and rewarded musical contributions were the pieces he wrote for chamber ensembles. He was awarded the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Medal for his “eminent service to chamber music” and the Pulitzer Prize, which he won for his Concerto concertante for two pianos and orchestra. Porter also earned an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Rochester.

As was typical of many of his contemporaries and predecessors, Porter did a great deal of teaching in addition to his composing.  He held a professorship at Vassar College and in 1938, left the position to take on the role of dean of faculty at the New England Conservatory in Boston. In 1942, Porter assumed the role of conservatory director. Porter returned to Yale as a professor of music in 1946, which also defined the time he spent writing the viola concerto. In 1958 he became master of Pierson College, one of Yale’s twelve residential colleges, in addition to teaching at Yale. Porter retired from teaching in 1965.

Where to start:

-listen to Eliesha Nelson’s album of Quincy Porter’s complete viola works.

-download Quincy Porter’s string quartets

Here’s Blues Lontains in the form of a music video by Eliesha Nelson and John McLaughlin Williams:

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