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Roger Huntington Sessions (28 December 1896 16 March 1985) was an Americanmarker composer, critic and teacher of music.

Sessions was born in Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker, to a family that could trace its roots back to the American revolution. He studied music at Harvard Universitymarker from the age of 14. There he wrote for and subsequently edited the Harvard Musical Review. Graduating at age 18, he went on to study at Yale Universitymarker under Horatio Parker and Ernest Bloch before teaching at Smith Collegemarker. His first major compositions came while he was travelling Europe with his wife in his mid-twenties and early thirties.

Returning to the United States in 1933, he taught first at Princeton Universitymarker, moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1946 to 1954, and then returned to Princeton until retiring in 1965, although he continued to teach on a part-time basis at the Juilliard Schoolmarker until 1983.

His notable students include John Adams, Milton Babbitt, Elmer Bernstein, Larry Thomas Bell, Robert Black, Donald Bohlen, Edward T. Cone, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, David Del Tredici, Alan Fletcher, Kenneth Frazelle, Carlton Gamer, Miriam Gideon, John Harbison, Walter Hekster, Robert Helps, Andrew Imbrie, Earl Kim, Fred Lerdahl, David Lewin, William Mayer, Roger Nixon, Will Ogdon, Claire Polin, Einojuhani Rautavaara, William Schimmel, George Tsontakis, John Veale, Henry Weinberg, Peter Westergaard, Rolv Yttrehus and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

He died at the age of 88 in Princeton, New Jerseymarker.


His works written up to 1930 or so are more or less neoclassical in style. Those written between 1930 and 1951 are more or less tonal but harmonically complex. From the Solo Violin Sonata of 1953 on, he wrote almost exclusively in a serial style.

Major works

  • Symphony No. 1 (1927)
  • The Black Maskers Orchestral Suite (1928)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 (1930)
  • Violin Concerto (1935)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1936)
  • Duo for Violin and Piano (1942)
  • From my Diary (Pages from a Diary) (1940)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 (1946)
  • Symphony No. 2 (1946)
  • The Trial of Lucullus (1947), one-act opera
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1951)
  • Sonata for Solo Violin (1953)
  • Idyll of Theocritus (1954)
  • Piano Concerto (1956)
  • Symphony No. 3 (1957)
  • String Quintet (1957)
  • Symphony No. 4 (1958)
  • Divertimento for Orchestra (1959)
  • Montezuma (1963), opera in three acts (libretto by Giuseppe Antonio Borgese)
  • Symphony No. 5 (1964)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 (1965)
  • Symphony No. 6 (1966)
  • Six Pieces for Violoncello (1966)
  • Symphony No. 7 (1967)
  • Symphony No. 8 (1968)
  • Rhapsody for Orchestra (1970)
  • Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, and Orchestra (1971)
  • When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d (1971)
  • Concertino for Chamber Orchestra (1972)
  • Five Pieces for Piano (1975)
  • Symphony No. 9 (October 1978)
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1981)
  • Duo for Violin and Violoncello (1981), incomplete

Some works received their first professional performance many years after completion. The Sixth Symphony (1966) was given its first complete performance on March 4, 1977 by the Juilliard Orchestra in New York City

The Ninth Symphony (1978), commissioned by the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and Frederik Prausnitz, was premiered on January 17, 1980 by the same orchestra conducted by Christopher Keene.


  • Sessions, Roger. Harmonic Practice. New York: Harcourt, Brace. 1951. LCCN 51008476.
  • Sessions, Roger. Reflections on the Music Life in the United States. New York: Merlin Press. 1956. LCCN 56012976.
  • Sessions, Roger. The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1950, republished 1958.
  • Sessions, Roger. Questions About Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1970, reprinted New York: Norton, 1971. ISBN 0-674-74350-4.
  • Sessions, Roger. Roger Sessions on Music: Collected Essays, edited by Edward T. Cone. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979. ISBN 0691091269 (cloth) ISBN 0691100748 (pbk)


  • Cone, Edward, ed. Roger Sessions on Music: Collected Essays. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press. 1979. ISBN 0-691-09126-9 and ISBN 0-691-10074-8.
  • Olmstead, Andrea. Conversations with Roger Sessions. Boston: Northeastern University Press. 1987. ISBN 1-55553-010-9.
  • Olmstead, Andrea. The Correspondence of Roger Sessions. Boston: Northeastern University Press. 1992. ISBN 1-55553-122-9.
  • Olmstead, Andrea. Roger Sessions: A Biography. New York: Routledge, 2008. ISBN 9780415977135 (hardback) ISBN 9780415977142 (pbk.) ISBN 9780203931479 (ebook)
  • Prausnitz, Frederik. Roger Sessions: How a "Difficult" Composer Got That Way. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0195108922


  1. Prausnitz, p. 323.

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