Leon Kirchner (24 January 1919, Brooklyn, N.Y. – 17 September 2009, New York) was an American composer and educator.
Kirchner began his music studies at the age of four. Five years later, his family moved to Los Angeles. He began composing while a student at Los Angeles City College. With the encouragement of his piano teachers and Ernst Toch, he entered the University of California, Los Angeles to study with Arnold Schoenberg. Kirchner began graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley and was awarded the George Ladd Prix de Paris in 1942. As World War II put Europe in turmoil, he went to New York and studied with Roger Sessions. At the war's end, he returned to Berkeley as a lecturer and assisted Sessions and Ernest Bloch in theory.
Kirchner held a Slee Professiorship at the University of Buffalo (succeeding Aaron Copland), and professorships at the University of California, University of Southern California, Yale University, the Juilliard School of Music, and Mills College, where he was the first Luther Brusie Marchant Professor from 1954 to 1961. In 1961 he succeeded Walter Piston at Harvard University, where he was named Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music in 1965 and taught until 1989. He won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1967 for Quartet No. 3.
Kirchner's musical style is generally linear, chromatic, rhapsodic and rhythmically irregular; it is influenced by Schoenberg but does not employ the twelve-tone technique. Many of his early works are sectional, with strongly contrasting textures and tempos. In his later works, the textures and tempos tend to be more continuous and changes more gradual. By and large, Kirchner favored compact structures based on a minimal number of motifs. According to Alexander Ringer, he remained consistently individual, unimpressed by changing fashion where "idea, the precious ore of art, is lost in the jungle of graphs, prepared tapes, feedbacks and cold stylistic minutiae".
Works for Winds