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Otto Luening

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Otto Luening (b. Milwaukee WI, June 15, 1900 - d. New York NY, September 2, 1996) demonstrated an infectious musical catholicism both through his prolific output as a composer and as a tireless educator and advocate for new music.

Although he is now most famous for his electronic work in the 1950s and early 1960s in collaboration with Vladimir Ussachevsky, Luening composed a vast body of music, much of it chamber music, characterized by its accessibility and its stylistic variety. Highlights of his extensive output include a flute concertino, four symphonic fantasias, a short symphony for chamber orchestra, three string quartets, three sonatas for violin and piano, three solo violin sonatas, and a substantial body of chamber music with flute, an instrument he played professionally throughout his life. He also composed scores for Hollywood films and television.

Born to a musical family of German descent, he moved with his family at the age of twelve to Munich where he studied at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik. He made his debut as a flutist at sixteen and moved to Switzerland the following year where he studied composition with Ferruccio Busoni and also spent time as an actor and stage manager for James Joyce’s English Players Company. He returned to America in 1924 and became known primarily as an operatic conductor, serving as the executive director of the opera department at Eastman during the first years of Hanson’s tenure (1925-28).

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