Composer and former Peabody faculty member Benjamin Lees dies at 86
Just heard that Benjamin Lees, an American composer of powerfully constructed and vividly expressive music, died Monday at the age of 86 in Glen Cove, NY. The cause was heart failure, according to a release from Boosey & Hawkes, publisher of his music.
Mr. Lees taught composition in the early 1960s at the Peabody Institute and later served on the faculties of Juilliard and Manhattan schools of music. His works have been performed by major orchestras, chamber ensembles and soloists. Born to Russian parents in Manchuria in 1924, Mr. Lees was raised in California. One of his composition teachers was the iconoclastic George Antheil.
I was impressed whenever I encountered Mr. Lees' music live or on recording. The statement from Boosey includes this wonderful quote by the composer summing up his style:
"There are two kinds of composers. One is the intellectual and the other is visceral. I fall into the latter category. If my stomach doesn't tighten at an idea, then it's not the right idea."
Visceral is a great word for the kind of music Mr. Lees created, as this clip from his Piano Concerto No. 2 makes plain:
COLOR PHOTO COURTESY OF BOOSEY & HAWKES