Vincent Persichetti

Vincent Persichetti was born to an Italian father and a German mother in Philadelphia in 1915, where he continued to live until his death in 1987. He began to study the piano at the age of five, which gave direction to an insatiable musical interest and a talent that soon proved prodigious. He began to compose almost immediately, and during his adolescence earned money as a church organist. After graduating from Philadelphia’s Combs Conservatory, he went on to complete his doctorate at the Philadelphia Conservatory. In 1947 William Schuman invited him to join the Juilliard faculty, and he taught there for the rest of his life. He became chairman of Juilliard’s composition department in 1963, and in 1970, of the literature and materials department.

Persichetti’s career flourished during a period when American composition was deeply divided among rival stylistic factions, each seeking to invalidate the work of its opponents. In the face of this partisan antagonism, Persichetti advocated, through his lectures and writings, as well as through his music, the notion of a broad working vocabulary, or “common practice”, based on a fluent assimilation of all the materials and techniques which had appeared during the 20th century. His own music exhibits a wide stylistic range, from extreme diatonic simplicity to complex, contrapuntal atonality.

Vincent Persichetti was a prolific composer of some 120 works, including notable pieces for piano and wind band, as well as much music suited for instructional use. A fondness for wind instruments dates back to Persichetti’s early years: his Op 1, composed at the age of fourteen, is a Serenade for Ten Winds. Like Foss, his style was eclectic, but Persichetti did not tend to work within any one style at any given time, his music was always marked by compositional variety.