Richard Danielpour
Distinguished Professor, Composition

Co-Area Head, Composition

Grammy-Award winning composer Richard Danielpour “is an outstanding composer for any time, one who knows how to communicate deep, important emotions through simple, direct means that nevertheless do not compromise” (New York Daily News). His distinctive American musical voice possesses large and romantic gestures, and is brilliantly orchestrated, intensely expressive, and rhythmically vibrant. His work has attracted an illustrious array of champions; and, as a devoted mentor and educator, he has also had a significant impact on a younger generation of composers. Danielpour’s first opera Margaret Garner — written with Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison — took critics and audiences by storm with sold-out houses in its 2005 premiere by the co-commissioning opera companies of Detroit, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. In 2007, New York City Opera opened its season with an entirely new production.
Much in demand across the globe, Mr. Danielpour has received such prestigious honors as the: the American Academy of Arts & Letters’ Lifetime Achievement Award and Charles Ives Fellowship; the Guggenheim Fellowship; The Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin; two Rockefeller Foundation grants; the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, and fellowships and residencies from The Bogliasco Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Copland House, and the American Academy in Rome. He has also enjoyed guest residences at Princeton University (1996 & 2003), Berklee College (Boston); a McCormack Residency at Skidmore College, and a specially created interdisciplinary lectureship at Northwestern University surrounding the Chicago premiere of Margaret Garner.

Mr. Danielpour’s work has been performed throughout the world, and his commissions read like a Who’s Who of the world’s leading musical institutions and artists. He has written for the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, American Composers Orchestra, and Seattle, Pittsburgh, Pacific, National, Atlanta and Baltimore Symphonies, among many others. His music has also been championed by Yo-Yo Ma, Jessye Norman, Gil Shaham, Sarah Chang, Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, Emanuel Ax, Frederica von Stade, Thomas Hampson, Gary Graffman, Anthony McGill, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Guarneri, Emerson, Ying, and American String Quartets, Music from Copland House and conductors Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur, Charles Dutoit, David Zinman, Zdenek Macal, Carl St. Clair, Giancarlo Guerrero, and Leonard Slatkin. Mr. Danielpour has also composed two major scores for the New York City and Pacific Northwest Ballets. European performances include Scottish Chamber, Frankfurt, Maryinsky Orchestras, Berlin and Cologne Symphonies, Orchestra de Lyon and Orchestra National de France.

Dr. Danielpour is one of the most recorded composers of his generation and became only the third composer –after Stravinsky and Copland– to be signed to an exclusive recording contract by Sony Classical. Since then, Sony released several Danielpour recordings, including the Cello Concerto, recorded by Yo-Yo Ma and the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by David Zinman, and the Grammy-nominated Concerto for Orchestra (coupled with Anima Mundi), recorded by Zinman and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Other recordings include An American Requiem for chorus and orchestra on Reference Recordings, and A Child’s Reliquary with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and In The Arms Of The Beloved, written for and recorded by Jamie Laredo and Sharon Robinson, with the Iris Chamber Orchestra and Michael Stern conducting on Arabesque Recordings.

Dr. Danielpour is an active educator and believes deeply in the nurturing of young musicians. He served on the composition faculty of Manhattan School of Music from 1993-2017 and has been on the composition faculty of The Curtis Institute of Music since 1997. In 2017, he accepted a tenured position in composition at UCLA’s Herbt Albert School of Music where he now teaches. Danielpour has served as Composer in Residence with the Seattle Symphony (1991-92), the Pacific Symphony (1998-2001), and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2009-10).

In July of 2018, Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua, a 100 minute passion oratorio in Hebrew and English, commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the SDG Foundation, was premiered at the Oregon Bach Festival with JoAnn Faletta conducting. The work was then performed in December at Royce Hall in Los Angeles with the UCLA Philharmonia and Chorus led by music director Neal Stulberg and choral director James Bass. Finally, in April 2019, JoAnn Faletta lead the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus in performances of The Passion of Yeshua, where it was recorded by Naxos. The album was released in March of 2020 to critical acclaim and was nominated for three GRAMMYs in 2021, including Best Contemporary Classical Composition, while winning in the category of Best Choral Performance. In 2019, Danielpour composed five works, the most significant of them being A Standing Witness, a series of 15 songs which are settings of poems written by celebrated poet Rita Dove. Composed for mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and Music from Copland House, this 74-minute monodrama which witnesses the last 50 years of our American history was premiered at the University of Chicago and later received performances at the Kennedy Center and at Tanglewood.

In 2020, The Oregon Bach Festival commissioned Danielpour to compose An American Mosaic as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and to pay homage to those most effected by its devastation. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein gave a premiere via YouTube and the corresponding album release through Supertrain Records garnered immediate critical acclaim while receiving over 2,500,000 streams on Apple Music alone and was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Classical Instrumental Solo.

In 2021, Danielpour was commissioned by Orchestra Della Toscana to write a piece for the Dante 700th anniversary, making him the first American composer in nearly 40 years to be commissioned by an Italian Orchestra. That same year, clarinetist Anthony McGill premiered Danielpour’s Four Angels with the Catalyst Quartet. The work was commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as part of a celebration of Black Lives Mattering in America. In September, he was awarded with a lifetime achievement award from the Cremona Music Festival and in later that Fall, he was awarded the Covel Chair from UCLA to support the composition and production of his new two act opera The Grand Hotel Tartarus, making him only the second recipient of this coveted award. The opera will be premiered in Los Angeles at UCLA in May of 2024.

Born in New York City on January 28, 1956, Mr. Danielpour studied at the New England Conservatory and The Juilliard School with Vincent Persichetti and Peter Mennin. In 1986, he received his DMA from Juilliard. From 1988 until 1990, Danielpour studied composition with Leonard Bernstein. He also trained as a pianist with Lorin Hollander, Veronica Jochum, and Gabriel Chodos.

Danielpour is one of the most recorded composers of his generation; many of his recordings can be found on the Naxos of America and Sony Classical labels. Danielpour’s music is published by Lean Kat Music and Associated Music Publishers.

UCLA composition professor explores the life of Jesus Christ in his latest oratorio
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