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Robert Kurka

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Robert Kurka

Biography

Robert Kurka (22 December 1921, Cicero, Ill. – 12 December 1957, New York City) was an American composer who produced a variety of work during his short lifetime. He is remembered above all for his opera and suite The Good Soldier Schweik. Shortly before his death from leukemia at the age of 35, Brandeis University honored him with an award that read, "To Robert Kurka, a composer at the threshold of a career of real distinction."

Robert Kurka began his musical career by studying violin with the Canadian Kathleen Parlow as well as the German-American Hans Letz (in New York). In 1948 he received his MA degree from Columbia University. Although largely self taught in composition, he did study briefly with Otto Luening and Darius Milhaud. From 1948 to 1951, Kurka taught at the City College of New York and then at Queens College. He also served as composer-in-residence at Dartmouth College. During that period he was co-winner of the George Gershwin Memorial Award (1950), winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1951, renewed in 1952), and recipient of a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1952). As his early works became known, Kurka received a number of commissions, including those from the Little Orchestra Society and the Paderewski Fund for American Composers (1952), the Musical Arts Society of La Jolla (1953), and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra (1955).

Kurka's compositions include Ballad for French Horn and Strings; Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra; Concerto for Two Pianos, String Orchestra and Trumpet; The Good Soldier Schweik (title of a suite for winds and an opera; Piano Trio; Serenade for Chamber Orchestra; Symphony No. 1 and 2; and Violin Concerto; as well as five string quartets, four violin sonatas, piano pieces; and choruses.


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