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Stephen Hartke is widely recognized as one of the leading composers of his generation, whose work has been hailed for both its singularity of voice and the inclusive breadth of its inspiration. Born in Orange, New Jersey, Hartke grew up in Manhattan where he began his musical career as a professional boy chorister, performing with such organizations as the New York Pro Musica, the New York Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera. Following studies at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California at Santa Barbara, interrupted by stints as advertising manager for several major music publishers, Hartke taught in Brazil as Fulbright Professor at the Universidade de São Paulo, before joining the University of Southern California faculty in 1987.
Hartke’s output is extremely varied, from the medieval-inspired piano quartet, The King of the Sun, and Wulfstan at the Millennium, an abstract liturgy for ten instruments; the blues-inflected violin duo, Oh Them Rats Is Mean in My Kitchen, and the surreal trio, The Horse with the Lavender Eye; to the Biblical satire, Sons of Noah, for soprano, four flutes, four guitars, and four bassoons, and his recent cycle of motets for chorus, oboe, and strings, Precepts. He has composed concertos for renowned clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and violinist Michele Makarski, and his collaboration with the internationally celebrated Hilliard Ensemble has resulted in three substantial works, including his Symphony No. 3, commissioned by Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic. Most recently his acclaimed full-length opera, The Greater Good, was premiered and recorded by Glimmerglass Opera. Other major commissions have come from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Harvard Musical Association, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.
In 2008 Hartke’s opera, The Greater Good, received the first Charles Ives Opera Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Most of Hartke’s music is available on commercial CDs released by Bridge, Chandos, CRI, ECM New Series, EMI Classics, Naxos American Classics, and New World Records.
Stephen Hartke lives in Glendale, California, with his wife, Lisa Stidham, and son, Sandy, and is Distinguished Professor of Composition at the Thornton School of Music of the University of Southern California.