Peter Mennin (1923-1983) was one of the most distinguished composers of his generation – a generation that developed a uniquely American symphonic style that flourished during the middle years of the 20th century. Although he was a younger member of this group of composers, his contribution was unique and his personal stamp was unmistakable.
Mennin completed his Third Symphony, which also served as his doctoral dissertation, on his 23rd birthday. It was introduced later that year by the New York Philharmonic before it had even been accepted by his doctoral committee. The following year he joined the Juilliard composition faculty. By the time he reached the age of thirty, he had completed six symphonies, and was recognized as one of the most promising young composers on the American scene. At 35 he was appointed to head the Peabody Conservatory, four years later he accepted the position of president of the Juilliard School, a post he held for 21 years, until his untimely death at age 60.
A composer of thirty works during his busy and short life, virtually all of Peter Mennin’s music reflects the highest artistic intentions; there are no peripheral, frivolous, or non-representative efforts. Virtually every work conveys a consistently eloquent, coherent, and characteristic metaphysical vision suggesting the sober contemplation of ferocious conflict among wild and massive forces – all portrayed through sound, uncompromising musical logic.”
His body of creative work, notable for its strong personal voice, consistency of vision, seriousness of purpose, and impeccable workmanship, boasts some of the most compelling music composed in America during the 20th century.
- Walter Simmons