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One year ago: Leon Kirchner

September 17, 2010 |  6:00 am


Leon Kirchner, a pianist, composer, conductor and Harvard music professor who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for his String Quartet No. 3, died one year ago today at age 90. Describing Kirchner's music in a 2006 Times story, writer Allan M. Jalon suggested the reader "imagine an often rhapsodic yet unsentimental modernism."

Kirchner wasn't known for conforming to trends during his long career. He once wrote that "idea, the precious ore of art, is lost in the jungle of graphs, prepared tapes, feedbacks and cold stylistic minutiae."

Although born in New York City in 1919, Kirchner grew up in Los Angeles, where he was influenced by such European expatriate luminaries as Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg. He studied at L.A. City College, UCLA and UC Berkeley and went on to teach for many years at Harvard. There he became a mentor to a new generation of musicians including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and composer John Adams.

Read more about Kirchner in a 2006 Times profile and in the obituary that appeared in The Times.

-- Claire Noland

 Photo: Leon Kirchner in 2006. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times