Johannes Somary


Born: April 7, 1935
Johannes Somary is a composer, conductor, organist, and co-founder of the Amor Artis chamber choir and orchestra in New York City. Born to American parents in Zurich, Switzerland, Somary studied at the Yale University School of Music with Quincy Porter. In 1961, Somary made good use of an opportunity when Margaret Hillis decided to disband the American Chamber Choir; along with manager Milton Goldin, the American Chamber Choir was reorganized into Amor Artis. Starting in the 1960s, Somary and Amor Artis, which eventually had a chamber orchestra to go along with the choir, embarked on a number of recordings for the Vanguard label in an association that lasted into the 1970s. This resulted in many recordings of works by J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Wolfgang Mozart considered state of the art in their time in terms of period consciousness and historical accuracy. Amor Artis also gave the first performances in America of three of Handel's oratorios, "Esther," "Theodora," and "Susanna." Amor Artis has also recorded under Somary for Vox, Leonarda, American Decca, Newport Classic, and Premier. Somary has also guest conducted on many occasions outside New York and regularly appears as an organ soloist. Somary has compositions stretching back into the late '50s, but the bulk of them date from the 1980s forward. His secular cantata "What is Life?" was premiered in 1994 at Lincoln Center with actor Michael Moriarity as narrator.