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Adler, Samuel (Hans)locked

  • Marie Rolf

(b Mannheim, March 4, 1928). American composer and conductor of German birth. Both of his parents were musical, his father being a cantor and composer of Jewish liturgical music. The family came to the USA in 1939 and Adler attended Boston University (BM 1948) and Harvard University (MA 1950). He studied composition with Aaron Copland, Paul Fromm, Paul Hindemith, Hugo Norden, Walter Piston and Randall Thompson; musicology with Karl Geiringer, A.T. Davison and Paul A. Pisk; and conducting with Sergey Koussevitzky at the Berkshire Music Center. In 1950 he joined the US Army and organized the Seventh Army SO, which he conducted in more than 75 concerts in Germany and Austria; he was awarded the Army Medal of Honor for his musical services. Subsequently he conducted concerts and operas, and lectured extensively throughout Europe and the USA. In 1957 he was appointed professor of composition at North Texas State University, and in 1966 he joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music, where he served as chair of the composition department (1974–94). Later he taught at the Juilliard School. His honours include grants from the Rockefeller (1965) and Ford (1966–71) foundations, a Koussevitzky Foundation commission (1983), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1984–5), an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1990), a number of teaching awards and several honorary doctorates. His works have been performed by major symphony orchestras, choral and chamber ensembles throughout the USA, Europe, South America and Israel. His book A Study of Orchestration (New York, 1982, 2/1989) received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award in 1983.

Adler is a prolific composer whose music embraces a wide variety of contemporary styles. His works exhibit great rhythmic vitality, with a predilection for asymmetrical rhythms and metres, and a keen sensitivity to counterpoint. His harmonic materials vary from diatonicism and pan-diatonicism (in the works before 1969) to serial techniques (substantial use beginning with Symphony no.4, 1967) and occasional improvisatory and aleatory elements (e.g. in the Concerto for Wind, Brass and Percussion, 1968, and the Symphony no.5, 1975). Clustered effects and a colourful orchestral palette typify works such as the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1977). Adler’s vocal compositions range from large-scale pieces reflecting a strong liturgical background to secular miniatures that are often lighthearted and humorous in nature. A number of his works have been recorded and more than 200 have been published.



The Outcast of Poker Flat (op, 1, J. Stampfer), 1959, Dallas, April 1961

The Wrestler (op, 1, Stampfer), 1971, Dallas, June 1972

The Lodge of Shadows (musical drama, J. Ramsey), Bar, orch, dancers, 1973, Fort Worth, TX, 1988

The Disappointment (op, A. Barton), 1974 [reconstruction of an early ballad opera]

The Waking (ballet, T. Roethke and others), chorus, orch, 1978



Sym. no.1, 1953

Sym. no.2, 1957

Southwestern Sketches, wind, 1960

Sym. no.3 ‘Diptypch’, 1960, rev. 1980

Requiescat in pace, 1963

Sym. no.4 ‘Geometrics’, 1967

Conc., ww, brass, perc, 1968

Org Conc., 1970

Conc. for Orch, 1971

Sym. no.5 ‘We are the Echoes’ (C. Adler, A.J. Heschel, J.R. Oppenheimer, M. Rukeyser, K. Wolfskehl), Mez, orch, 1975

Concertino no.2, 1976

Fl Conc., 1977

Pf Conc., 1983

Sym. no.6, 1985

Conc., ww qnt, orch, 1991

Concertino no.3, 1993

Time in Tempest Everywhere, 1993

Gui Conc., 1994

Vc Conc., 1995

Pf Conc. no.2, 1996

c38 other works, incl. c19 works for wind ens, brass

Chamber and solo instrumental

Sonata, hn, pf, 1948

Str Qt no.3, 1953

Sonata, vn, pf, 1956

Introduction and Capriccio, hp, 1964

Pf Trio no.1, 1964

Sonata no.3, vn, pf, 1965

Sonata, vc, pf, 1966

Cantos I–XV, various insts, 1968–96

4 Dialogues, euphonium, mar, 1974

Str Qt no.6 (W. Whitman), Mez/Bar, str qt, 1975

Aeolus, God of the Winds, cl, vn, vc, pf, 1977

Pf Trio no.2, 1978

Sonata, fl, pf, 1981

Str Qt no.7, 1981

Gottschalkiana, brass qnt, 1982

Sonata, va, pf, 1984

Sonata, gui, 1985

Sonata, ob, pf, 1985

Str Qt no.8, 1990

c50 other works


Toccata, Recitation and Postlude, org, 1959

Sonata breve, pf, 1963

Pf Sonatina, 1979

Hpd Sonata, 1982

Duo Sonata, 2 pf, 1983


Shir chadash (Sabbath service), B, SAB, org, 1960

The Vision of Isaiah (Bible), B, SATB, orch, 1962

B’Shaaray tefilah (Sabbath service), B, SATB, org/orch, 1963

Shiru Ladonay (Sabbath service), solo/unison vv, org, 1965

Behold your God (cant., Bible), 1966

The Binding (orat, A. Friedlander, after Bible: Genesis, Midrash), 1967

From out of Bondage (Bible), S, A, T, B, SATB, brass qnt, perc, org, 1968

A Whole Bunch of Fun (cant., G.V. Catullus, Finjan, Moore, O. Nash, Roethke, Dr Seuss), vv, orch, 1969

We Believe (liturgical), mixed vv, 8 insts, 1974

Of Saints and Sinner (I. Feldman, W. Kaufmann, others), medium v, pf, 1976

A Falling of Saints (Rosenbaum), T, B, chorus, orch, 1977

It is to God I shall Sing (Pss), chorus, org, 1977

Of Musique, Poetrie, Nature and Love (R. Herrick), Mez, fl, pf, 1978

Snow Tracks (Amer. poets), high v, wind, 1981

Choose Life, Mez, T, SATB, orch, 1986

6 other large choral works; numerous smaller sacred and secular choral works; c20 works for solo vv, acc. and unacc.; works for children; arrs.


  • Anthology for the Teaching of Choral Conducting (New York, 1971, 2/1985)
  • Sightsinging, Pitch, Interval, Rhythm (New York, 1979, 2/1997)
  • A Study of Orchestration (New York, 1982, 2/1989)


  • EwenDD. Ewen: American Composers: a Biographical Dictionary
  • A.M. Rothmüller: The Music of the Jews: an Historical Appreciation (South Brunswick, NJ, rev. 2/1967)
  • J.D. Lucas: The Operas of Samuel Adler: an Analytical Study (diss., Louisiana State U., 1978)
  • H. Pollack: Harvard Composers: Walter Piston and his Students, from Elliott Carter to Frederic Rzewski (Metuchen, NJ, 1992)
D. Ewen: American Composers: a Biographical Dictionary
Rochester (NY), Sibley Music Library, University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music