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Richter, Margafree

(b Reedsburg, nr Madison, WI, 21 Oct 1926).
  • Judith Rosen
  •  and Sharon Mirchandani

Composer. At the Juilliard School she studied piano with Rosalyn Tureck and composition with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti (BS, MS 1951). As an undergraduate she had three compositions performed at a Composer's Forum series in New York. Her Sonata for Piano (1954), written for and recorded by Menahem Pressler, is one of four works commissioned by MGM Records; two commissions by the Harkness Ballet resulted in scores for Abyss (1964) and Bird of Yearning (1967–8). Inspired by two Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, her piano concerto (1968–74) makes effective use of an Indian rāga; it is the first of a series of works, entitled Landscapes of the Mind, that share thematic material and were composed between 1968 and 1979.

Evidence of the continued expansion and enrichment of her musical expression is found in such works as Out of Shadows and Solitude (1985) and Qhanri, subtitled “Tibetan Variations” (1988). Variations, ostinatos, and layering are frequently found in her works. Her triple concerto, Variations and Interludes on Themes from Monteverdi and Bach, was performed at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina (1993), and recorded by the Polish Radio National SO (2004). She composed a chamber opera Riders to the Sea (1995–7) which was premiered in 2002 at St. Marks's Episcopal Church in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, conducted by Gregory Buchalter.

Her compositions have been performed by major soloists and orchestras and she has received grants, awards, and commissions from the NEA, the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, the National Federation of Music Clubs, and Meet the Composer. In her compositions she uses multi-textural structures in a modern idiom, creating works that are easily accessible and which have been enthusiastically received. She has frequently drawn inspiration for her works from American, Irish, English, and Asian texts and images. In her 80s she continues to compose chamber music and supervise performances and recordings of her works.


(selective list)


Abyss (ballet), 1964

Bird of Yearning (ballet), 1967–8

Riders to the Sea (op, 1, J.M. Synge), 1995–7


Conc., pf, va, vc, db, 1955

Lament, str, 1956

Aria and Toccata, va, str, 1957

Landscapes of the Mind I, pf conc., 1968–74

Blackberry Vines and Winter Fruit, 1976

Spectral Chimes/Enshrouded Hills, 3 qnts, orch, 1980

Düsseldorf Conc., fl, va, hp, perc, str, 1981–2

Out of Shadows and Solitude, 1985

Quantum Quirks of a Quick Quaint Quark [no.1], 1991

Variations and Interludes on Themes from Monteverdi and Bach, conc., pf, vn, vc, orch, 1992

Chamber and solo instrumental

Sonata, cl, pf, 1948

Pf Sonata, 1954

Melodrama, 2 pf, 1958

Str Qt no.2, 1958

8 Pieces, pf, 1961

Darkening of the Light, va, 1961, arr. vc, 1976

Fragments, 1963

Soundings, hpd, 1965

Landscapes of the Mind II, vn, pf, 1971

Remembrances, pf, 1977

Requiem, pf, 1978

Landscapes of the Mind III, pf trio, 1979

Exequy, pf, 1980

Sonora, 2 cl, pf, 1981

Seacliff Variations, pf qt, 1984

Qhanri (Tibetan Variations), vc, pf, 1988

Quantum Quirks of a Quick Quaint Quark [nos.2–3], [2] org, 1992, [3] pf, 1993

3 Improvisations, pf, 2004

Fandango Fantasy, pf, cl, vn, vc, 2006

4 Miniatures, pf, 2008

Threnody, str trio, 2009


Transmutation (Chin., trans. H.H. Hart), S, pf, 1949

2 Chinese Songs, 1v, pf, 1953

3 Songs of Madness and Death (J. Webster), SATB, 1955

Psalm 91, SATB, 1963

3 Christmas Songs, SSAA, 2 fl, pf, 1964

Seek Him (Bk. of Amos), SATB, 1965

To Whom? (V. Woolf), SATB, 1980

Do Not Press My Hands (G. Mistral), SSATTB, 1981

3 Songs on Poems of Emily Dickenson, SSAA, 1982

Lament for Art O’Leary (E. O’Leary), S, pf, 1984

7 Lieder (F. Tanzer), 1v, pf, 1985

Into My Heart, SATB, pf 4 hands/chbr ens, 1990

Sarah, Do Not Mourn Me Dead (S. Ballou), 1995

Testament (A.M. Lindbergh), A, eng hn, pf, 2001

Dew-Drops on a Lotus Leaf (Ryokwan, trans. J. Fischer), Ct/A, str qt/pf, 2002

Goat Songs (M. Slatkin), 1v, pf, 2006

Sonnets 128, 71 (Shakespeare), 1v, pf, 2007

Recorded interviews in NHoh

Principal publishers: Broude, C. Fischer, G. Schirmer


  • GroveW (J. Rosen)
  • L. Van Gelder: “For a Composer, a Week of Special Note,” New York Times (9 April 1978)
  • D. Jezic and E. Wood: Women Composers: the Lost Tradition Found (New York, 2/1994)
  • C. Ammer: Unsung: a History of Women in American Music (Portland, OR, 2/2001)
  • S. Mirchandani: “The Choral Music of Marga Richter,” Choral Journal, xliii/10 (May 2003), 9–17
  • S. Mirchandani: “Marga Richter,” Women of Influence in Contemporary Music: Nine American Composers Today, ed. M. Slayton (Lanham, MD, 2011), 357–404
The New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers