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QUINCY PORTER

A native of Connecticut, (William) Quincy Porter was one of a diverse generation of American composers, Roger Sessions, Howard Hanson and Roy Harris among his immediate contemporaries, who played a significant rôle in shaping and directing American musical culture in the mid-twentieth century, only for their music to be neglected thereafter.

Born in New Haven on 7th February 1897, Porter learnt the violin from an early age. He studied at Yale University with Horatio Parker, who had taught Charles Ives a quarter-century before, and David Stanley Smith, graduating in 1919, then taking lessons with Vincent d’Indy in Paris. Returning to the United States in 1921, he worked with Ernest Bloch in New York and Cleveland, joining the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1923. A fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1928 made possible a three-year stay in Paris, during which time Porter laid the basis for the works of his maturity. In 1932 he was made professor of music at Vassar College, leaving some six years later to join the faculty of New England Conservatory, where he became director in 1942. In 1946 he returned to Yale as professor of music, which title he held until his retirement in 1965. He died in Bethany on 12th November 1966.

Stylistically Porter inclines to neo-classicism, rather than modernism or neo-romanticism, as the basis for his creative thinking; though his approach avoids the emulation of traits derived from Stravinsky or Hindemith that affected many American composers of his generation. Although his orchestral works attracted considerable attention in his lifetime (the Concerto Concertante for Two Pianos and Orchestra won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954, while the Viola Concerto was lauded by none other than William Primrose), his posthumous reputation rests more on his chamber output: specifically the series of nine string quartets that stretches across the greater part (1922-58) of his composing career.

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