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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » L » Lees, Benjamin



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Benjamin Lees (1/08/1924 - 5/31/2010)

Benjamin Lees was an American composer of Russian parents. He was born in Harbin China on January 8, 1924 and came to the U.S. in 1925. At age five Lees began piano lessons and his studies of harmony and theory began in his teens, along with his first efforts at composition. After military service (1942–5), Lees entered the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where he studied with Halsey Stevens, Ernst Kanitz and Ingolf Dahl. From 1949 until 1954 he studied with George Antheil. In 1953 Lees’ Sonata for Two Pianos and String Quartet No.1 were among those works to win the first Fromm Music Foundation Award. 1954 was a pivotal year for Lees; the first significant performance of his work occurred when the NBC Symphony performed Profiles for Orchestra. That same year he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. This enabled him to leave the U.S. and travel to Europe, eventually settling in a small village near Paris. His aim was to remain uninfluenced by the turbulent American scene in order to create his own style. He remained in Europe for seven years. During those years he became the first recipient of the Copley Foundation Award and received a Fulbright Fellowship. His Piano Concerto No.1 and his Symphony No 2 received their first performances. Later Lees received the UNESCO Award for String Quartet No.2and the Sir Arnold Bax Society Medal in London, given for the first time to a non-British composer. He received his first Grammy Nomination in 2004 for his Symphony No.5 and his second Nomination in 2008 for his

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