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Ellis B. Kohs   
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 Kohs passed away May 17, 2000

Biography

Ellis B. Kohs, a member of the USC Theory-Composition Department, and for many years Chair, now Professor Emeritus, had his early musical training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Institute of Musical Art and the Juilliard Graduate School in New York, University of Chicago (M.A. 1938), and Harvard University where he studied with Walter Piston (composition) and Hugo Leichtentritt and Willi Apel (musicology). He has been on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin (summer only), Stanford (summer only), Kansas City Conservatory (summers only), Wesleyan University Connecticut (1946-48), College of the Pacific (1948-50), and at USC from 1950.

His three textbooks, which grew out of his teaching, Music Theory (Oxford University Press), Musical Form (Houghton Mifflin), and Musical Composition (Scarecrow Press), have been widely adopted. Musical Form has recently been reprinted by Scarecrow Press. Some of his major works were written in response to commissions from, inter alia, Pierre Monteux, E. Power Biggs, the Fromm Foundation, and USC (for whose centennial Kohs' Violin concerto was composed and performed by the USC Symphony under Daniel Lewis, with Eudice Shapiro, soloist). Major biographical data are included in Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, (Nicolas Slonimsky, ed., Schirmer Books, 1986) and in American Composers, by David Ewen (Putnam, 1982).

Selected Compositions

A recently compiled catalog of works from early to late may be viewed at the American Music Center, American Composers Alliance, the Lincoln Center American Music Section of the New York Public Library, and at the Music Library, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

  • Concerto for Orchestra (1941) - ISCM World Music Festival, Berkeley, California, 1942. The only work by an American in uniform, WW II.
  • Passacaglia for Organ and Strings (1946) - Commissioned for E. Power Biggs and Fiedler Sinfonietta CBS broadcast, 1946.
  • Legend for Oboe and Strings (1946) - BMI/Associated Music Publishers, publication award, 1946.
  • Macbeth, incidental music to play (1947) - Commissioned by Drama Department, Wesleyan University (Connecticut). Subsequently televised (first US telecast of a Shakespeare play), Schenectady, NY, 1947
  • Sonatina for violin and piano (1948) - Comissioned by Samuel Dushkin (Stravinsky associate), premiered in Carnegie Hall, NY, 1948
  • A Short Concert for String Quartet (String Quartet No.2, 1948) - premiered by the Paganini Quartet
  • Chamber Concerto for viola and string nonet (1949) - chosen by Columbia Records, Modern American Music Series, 1953.
  • Symphony No.1 (1950) - Commissioned by Pierre Monteux, premiered by San Francisco Symphony under his direction, 1952.
  • Three Chorale Variations on Hebrew Hymns (1952) - Commissioned by Ludwig Altman for premiere at American Guild of Organists National Convention, San Francisco, 1952.
  • Lord of the Ascendant (1955) - for dancers, solo voices, chorus and orchestra. Based on Gilgamesh legend, commissioned by Thor Johnson, director of Cincinnati Symphony and Ojai Festival, California. Libretto by Dexter Allen.
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1980) - Commissioned for and performed at the centennial observances, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1980.
  • Amerika - opera after the Franz Kafka novel
  • Men for narrator and three percussionists (1982). Text by Gertrude Stein.
  • Lohiau and Hiiaka for narrator, flute, cello and percussion (1987). Based on an ancient Hawaiian legend.

Recordings

Quattro Corde Productions has released a CD with several Kohs compositions as performed on his 80th Birthday Celebration concert, including Macbeth Suite for Piano (Stewart Gordon, pianist), Passacaglia for Organ and Strings (Maija Lehtonen, organ and Manfred Grasbeck, conductor), and Sonatina for Violin and Piano, (Amy Sims, violin and Kevin Fitz-Gerald, piano). Available at Judy Green Music, 1616 No. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028 for $12 plus $5 tax, shipping and handling.

CRI has announced plans to release a CD of the following performances:

  • Chamber Concerto for Viola and String Nonet, K.31, performed by Ferenc Molnar, viola and Nonet led by Robert Mann of the Juilliard Quartet. From Columbia LP, 1953.
  • Toccata for Harpsichord, K.25, performed by Lionel Salter over the BBC London.
  • String Quartet No.2, "A Short Concert for String Quartet", from CRI LP, performed by a USC Faculty Quartet headed by Eudice Shapiro.
  • Sonatina for Violin and Piano, K.26, performed by Eudice Shapiro, violin and Albert Dominguez, piano.
  • Passacaglia for Organ and Strings, K.11, performed by Maija Lehtonen, organ and Manfred Grasbeck, violinist and conductor of the anonymous string ensemble.

Pubishers and Affiliations

Further Information

  • David Ewen, American Composers, Putnam, 1982.

    Nicolas Slonimsky, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 7th edition, 1984.

    New Grove's Dictionary of American Music, 1986.

Contact Information

8025 Highland Trail
Los Angeles, CA 90046

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