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Lyric for Strings (1946)


George Walker (1922–2018)

George Walker
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George Walker wrote his first major work, his String Quartet No. 1, in 1946, fresh out of his conservatory training at the Curtis Institute of Music. A concert pianist, composer, and teacher, hailing from Washington, D.C., he studied with Nadia Boulanger and Robert Casadesus, taught at Rutgers University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, and toured the United States and abroad as a performer with institutions like the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. As a composer, he earned Fulbright, Whitney, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and MacDowell fellowships, and won a prestigious award from the American Academy and Institute for Arts and Letters. He was the first Black American composer to win a Pulitzer, in 1996, for his song cycle Lilacs (1995). Walker’s Lyric for Strings—his best-known work—is a resetting for string orchestra of the slow second movement of his String Quartet No. 1 (much along the vein of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings [1936]). Hearing this work in the hands of a larger ensemble, Walker was reminded of his grandmother, who had passed in 1945; the work is dedicated to her.

Program notes by:
Dr. Jessica Getman

Assistant Professor of Musicology/Ethnomusicology
California State University, San Bernardino

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