Peter Lieberson, (October 25, 1946 – April 23, 2011). American composer.

Peter Lieberson was the son of former CBS Records President Goddard Lieberson and ballet dancer Vera Zorina (who danced a number of roles for Stravinsky).  He studied composition with several teachers, including Milton Babbitt and Charles Wuorinen. In his youth, he was exposed to the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Webern that his father produced for CBS Masterworks. He also studied the music of jazz pianist Bill Evans and loved Broadway show tunes. All of these influences joined in his own works, which was written to be accessible to concert audiences. His opera, Ashoka’s Dream, reflected an interest in Buddhism and Indian-Tibetan culture. His second wife was acclaimed mezzo-soprano, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, for whom he wrote some of his most successful works, including the Rilke Songs and Neruda Songs. Lieberson won the Grawemeyer Award in 2008 for the Neruda Songs. After Lorraine’s death from cancer in 2006, Peter Lieberson composed a new Neruda song cycle called Songs of Love and Death, which reflected on his late wife as well as his new marriage to Rinchen Lhamo, a longtime friend.

Peter Lieberson with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

His works were performed by musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Emmanuel Ax, Peter Serkin, and James Levine,  as well as by several leading orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, (who commissioned several works from him), Cleveland Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also taught composition at Harvard. One of his last works, Remembering JFK: An American Elegy, was premiered by the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. this past January. Ironically, he was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly after Lorraine’s death from cancer and eventually died from it. He is survived by his third wife and three daughters from his first marriage.

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