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MORTEN LAURIDSEN  

(b 1943 )

Recipient, 2007 National Medal of Arts

The music of Morten Johannes Lauridsen, composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1994–2001 and professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than thirty years, occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the twentieth century. His seven vocal cycles—Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke), Mid-Winter Songs (Graves), Cuatro Canciones (Lorca), A Winter Come (Moss), Madrigali: Six “FireSongs” on Renaissance Italian Poems, Nocturnes, and Lux Aeterna—and his series of sacred a cappella motets (O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, O Nata Lux, Ubi Caritas et Amor and Ave Dulcissima Maria) are featured regularly in concert by distinguished ensembles throughout the world. O Magnum Mysterium, Dirait-on (from Les Chansons des Roses) and O Nata Lux (from Lux Aeterna) have become the all-time bestselling choral octavos distributed by Theodore Presser.

In speaking of Lauridsen’s sacred works in his book, Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple describes Lauridsen as “the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered…From 1993 Lauridsen’s music rapidly increased in international popularity, and by century’s end he had eclipsed Randall Thompson as the most frequently performed American choral composer.”

His works have been recorded on over a hundred CDs, three of which have received GRAMMY® nominations, including O Magnum Mysterium by the New York-based ensemble, Tiffany Consort, led by Nicholas White, and two all-Lauridsen discs entitled Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by Paul Salamunovich (RCM) and Polyphony with the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Layton (Hyperion). His principal publishers are Peermusic (New York/Hamburg) and Peer’s affiliate, Faber Music (London).

A recipient of numerous grants, prizes and commissions, Dr Lauridsen chaired the Composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990–2002, founded the School’s Advanced Studies Program in Film Scoring, and is currently Distinguished Professor of Composition. In 2006, Morten Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007, he was the recipient of the National Medal of Arts from the President in a White House ceremony, “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.” The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.

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