Roger Goeb was one of several composers born during the teen years of the twentieth century whose music Leopold Stokowski premiered and recorded but never played again. In Goeb's case it was Symphony No. 3 (of five altogether, although he withdrew the first one), composed in 1950 and introduced by Stokowski in New York City two years later. As a native Iowan, Goeb immersed himself in agriculture and chemistry early on, although he did manage toRead more study violin, viola, horn, and trumpet. In fact, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1936 with a B.S. degree in agriculture. Nevertheless, he played in jazz bands for the next two years before going to Paris in 1938 to study with Nadia Boulanger at l'École Normale de Musique. On his return to the U.S. in 1939, he became a pupil of Otto Luening; then did graduate work at NY University, but received his M.M. in 1942 from the Cleveland Institute where, he studied with Herbert Elwell. Three years later, he earned his Ph.D. at Iowa State University.
Thus equipped to teach, he did -- variously at the Juilliard School, Bard, and Adelphi colleges, Columbia and Stanford universities. He won two Guggenheim fellowships (1950, 1952), served for six years as executive secretary of the American Composers Alliance (1956 - 1962), was a founding member of Composers Recordings, Inc. (CRI). The Louisville Orchestra extended a "First Edition" commission to him, and received in return the second of three Concertinos, composed in 1949, which it recorded and released on its own label. His catalog also included Prairie Songs for small orchestra (1947), four Concertants for divers solo combinations with either string or chamber orchestra accompaniments (1949 - 1951), five American Dances, concertos for violin (1953) and piano (1954), a piano Fantasy with strings (1955), two Sinfonias (1957, 1962), and, resurgently in the early 1980s, a Divertimento, Memorial, Caprice, Fantasia, Essay, and Gambol -- all for orchestra.
He wrote and had published much chamber music: four string quartets (of which he withdrew the first) between 1943 and 1980, four woodwind quintets during roughly the same period, piano and cello quintets, a violin sonata, and a good deal of Gebrauchsmusik for winds that continues to be played, some of it also recorded. He was a learned and fluent composer of musical complexities -- triadically tonal, rhythmically alert. What Goeb lacked, as a worldwide legion of composers has lacked from medieval times until the present, was a musical personality to set him apart from the crowd, and a sufficiency of subject matter to fill his erudite conflations. It is sobering to discover that his name, long before he died, was -- and continues to be -- confined almost exclusively to single paragraphs in reference books (i.e., The American Grove, and editions of Baker since 1958). There is no published study of his life or works, nor a website on the Internet. Roger Goeb lived 82 years in which he composed, taught, and, like many of his contemporary colleagues, proselytized on behalf of twentieth-century American music, yet left few footprints in the sand. Read less
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