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George Perle   

 Perle passed away in 2009.


George Perle, winner in 1986 of both the Pulitzer Prize in music and a MacArthur Fellowship, was born in 1915 in Bayonne, New Jersey. Perle's compositions have figured on the programs of the Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minnesota, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco, Baltimore, and BBC Symphonies, Bavarian Radio Orchestra of Munich, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Juilliard String Quartet, Kennedy Center, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, etc. His works are recorded on Nonesuch, Harmonia Mundi, New World, Albany, CRI, and other labels. The Nonesuch recording of his Serenade No. 3 (choreographed for American Ballet Theatre under the title Enough Said) , was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1986. Mr. Perle has been a frequent Visiting Composer at the Tanglewood Music Festival and Composer-in-Residence with the San Francisco Symphony.

Mr. Perle was among the first American composers to recognize and to be profoundly influenced by the revolutionary transformation in the language of music embodied in the work of the "Second Vienna School" in the early years of this century. From the very beginning, however, his own work, both as composer and theorist, represented a radical reinterpretation and departure and in his very first published article (1941) he presented a fundamental critique of Schoenberg's "twelve-tone method," which he saw as the first step toward a new tonality rather than as a special technique of atonal composition. His first book, Serial Composition and Atonality (6th edition 1991), is widely recognized as the standard work on the music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern and was recently published in a Chinese translation. The Operas of Alban Berg, in two volumes (1980, 1985), is a comprehensive work on all of Berg's compositions and on his life as well. In Twelve-Tone Tonality (1977, 1996) and The Listening Composer (1990) Perle sets forth his own musical language and presents the view that the disparate styles of post-diatonic music share common structural elements that collectively imply a new tonality. Two new books were published in 1995: The Right Notes: 23 Selected Essays on 20th-Century Music and a monograph, Style and Idea in the Lyric Suite of Alban Berg.

George Perle is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.




  • Boelke-Bomart: Jerona Music Corporation. P.O. Box 671, Englewood, NJ 07631. 201/568-8448.
  • Galaxy: ECS Publishing. 138 Ipswich St., Boston, MA 02215 800/777-1919.
  • GunMar Music, Inc. 167 Dudley Rd., Newton Centre, MA 02159. 617/332-6398.
  • Peer-Southern, Concert Music Division. 810 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019. 212/265-3910.
  • Pendragon Press. RR-1, Box 159, Stuyvesant, NY 12173. 518/828-3008.
  • C.F. Peters Corporation. 70-30 80th Street, Glendale, NY 11385. Phone: 718-416-7800. Fax: 718-416-7805.
  • Theodore Presser Company. 1 Presser Place, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010. 610/525-3636.
  • University of California Press. 2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94720. 800/822-6657.


Contact Information

333 Central Park West
New York, NY 10025

Annual Updates




Pianist Stepan Simonian performed Toccata and Pantomine, Interlude and Fugue on January 12, 2006, in Carnegie Hall, NY, NY. Julian Kuerti conducted a performance of Critical Moments Two on February 24, Berlin-Ballhaus, Naunynstr 27 Germany. Ballade for piano was heard in a March 14 recital by David Holzman at Goethe House, NY City. Ludovic Morlot led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a July 28 performance of Transcendental Modulations at Tanglewood. Wind Quintet No. 2 was presented October 8 by Musical Offering, Sundin Hall, Minneapolis, MN.


George Perle: A Retrospective 1958-2004, two CD compilation; Bridge 9214, Bridge Records, Inc.






Bassoon Music was first heard on June 7, 2005, in New York’s Merkin Hall.


Concerts were given to celebrate the 90th birthday of George Perle on May 10, 2005, at Princeton, and June 7 in New York, New York. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Levine, presented Transcendental Modulations, November 18-19. Critical moments 2 was presented at Tanglewood 2005 on the Festival of Contemporary Music. Another all-Perle concert was presented on December 5 in Carnegie Hall, NY, as part of the Making Music Series.


Bassoon Music, solo bassoon; Chanson Cachée, flute and piano; both by E.C. Schirmer.


Transcendental Modulations, Leon Botstein, American Symphony Orchestra; New World Records. Forthcoming retrospective on Bridge Records.

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