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  • Born

    25 June 1971 (age 47)

  • Born In

    Washington, D.C., United States

Michael Nathaniel Hersch (born June 25, 1971) is an American composer and pianist.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Reston, Virginia, Hersch was introduced to classical music at the age of 18 by his younger brother Jamie, who showed him a videotape of Georg Solti conducting Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. This "shook me," Hersch has written. "It scrambled everything. That's when I knew that I was to be a composer… My whole life started over at that moment."

He almost immediately began studies at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Hersch has stated that "with Morris Moshe Cotel - the teacher I spent the most time with during my studies at the Peabody Conservatory - lessons consisted only of week after week coming into the teacher's studio, playing and singing through the latest work at the piano and his saying nothing more than, 'Okay. Fine. See you next week.' He believed that a composer confronting his or herself in this manner would force the composer to look in the mirror seeing, along with the good, all the flaws." Hersch moved on to the Moscow Conservatory, where he worked with Albert Leman and Roman Ledenev, and received a Certificate in Composition in 1995. He also worked with John Corigliano, John Harbison and George Rochberg at a program for young composers in 1995. Hersch then returned to Peabody for graduate studies.

His first success came when Marin Alsop selected Elegy for Strings as winner of the American Composers Prize, and conducted it at Lincoln Center in New York in 1997. That year also saw Hersch win a Guggenheim Fellowship and become a fellow at the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center, where he worked with Christopher Rouse, followed by fellowships at the Norfolk Festival for Contemporary Music and the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan in 1998. In 2000 Hersch won the Rome Prize, where he worked with Luciano Berio, and in 2001 the Berlin Prize, where he worked with Hans Werner Henze.

A CD of orchestral works with Marin Alsop conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has been released on the Naxos Records label, and another disc on the Vanguard Classics label features Mr. Hersch as a pianist, performing not only his own work, but works of Morton Feldman, Wolfgang Rihm, and Josquin des Prez.

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