Steven Stucky (1949-2016)

Leading American composer dies aged 66


Steven Stucky, one of the most regularly performed contemporary composers in the US, has died aged 66.


Best known for his orchestral music, Stucky wrote for many of the US’s major ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland and, above all, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was resident composer from 1988-2009. He was a close collaborator with conductors such as André Previn, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jaap van Zweden, who recently described Stucky to BBC Music Magazine as ‘what I’d call a new-old composer’ – Stucky’s style, while always inventive, nonetheless placed melody and accessibility at its core.

Born in Kansas and brought up in Texas, Stucky studied at Baylor and Cornell universities. He later returned to Cornell to teach, one of a number of such posts he held alongside his career as a composer.

In 1989, Stucky was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize for his First Concerto for Orchestra. Though he didn’t win on that occasion, success would come in 2005, when he was awarded the prize for his Second Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned for and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Other major works of his to have enjoyed considerable acclaim include August 4, 1964, a work about President LB Johnson that was premiered by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Five of his works, including the Second Concerto for Orchestra and his Rhapsodies from 2008, have been performed at the BBC Proms.


A world-renowned expert on the music of the Polish composer Lutoslawski, Stucky’s 1981 biography Lutoslawski and his music was awarded the Lutoslawski Society’s medal.