A major American composer has died, at 66

A major American composer has died, at 66


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2016

The death has been announced of Steven Stucky, one of the most successful and widely performed US composers of his time. Steven died at his home in Ithaca, NY, on Sunday.

He won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Second Concerto for Orchestra and received commissions from many US orchestra. As resident composer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 21 years he played a considerable role in shaping West Coast taste to moderate modernism.

As a scholar, he was a leading authority on the life and music of Witold Lutoslawski.

UPDATE: Family members have reported that he died of brain cancer, peacefully in his sleep. Our shocked sympathies to the Stucky family.

Steven Stucky Photo copyright 2005 Hoebermann Studio

2nd UPDATE: A son’s tribute here.


  • John Borstlap says:

    This symphony is a moving, expressionist piece, balancing between tradition and modernism and still finding some common ground, it could have been written in Vienna in the twenties (this is meant as a compliment….). So well written for the orchestra. How sad that his life is cut short.

  • Stephen Endelman says:

    A wonderful talent cut short.

  • David Hyslop says:

    Steven was a great talent and good friend.

    Sad day indeed.

  • Sara Andon says:

    I am deeply saddened by this beyond words..Steven was one of the greatest talents this music community and this world has ever had and a golden soul for the ages. He will be missed terrible. RIP dear STEVEN!!

  • Roger Lebow says:

    Steve was a friend of many years. I’ve played several of his chamber works, all thoroughly beautiful, witty and engaging and written as if to please–and thus unite–audience, player and composer.

    I hadn’t heard he’d been ill, and his death comes as a shock.

  • Ppellay says:

    A composer of real stature who left us far too soon. Requiescat in pace…….

  • Michael Anderson says:

    Very sad news. He was a terrific composer, and spent a wonderful week here as composer in residence with the Eugene Symphony exactly 6 years ago. Such a loss. RIP Steven.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Very sad to hear. Wonderful person and composer.

  • M2N2K says:

    It was always a great pleasure to be playing his pieces and to be working together with this wonderful man and a truly fine composer. A huge loss… And much too soon.

  • Eva Tumiel-Kozak says:

    How sad! Extremely talented composer. The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble has performed his music often; not a long time ago, he was the Composer of the Year at the Pittsburgh Symphony. With great success! My deep sympathy to his Family!

  • Joyce Oxfeld says:

    I think I knew him. Congress of Strings University of Cinn. Summer 1971

  • Walter Zimmermann says:

    how painful! I met him in Ithaca April 2013, when I was composer in residence… he was so lighthearted

  • John says:

    I first met Steve when we were teenagers at a summer music camp. We were roommates in college for a year. I was always amazed by his musicianship and amused by his cleverness. I have many memories of all sorts of good times.

  • Daniel F. says:

    Wonderful composer. This is a HUGE loss for those who enjoy the efforts of serious people to expand the art.

  • Robert Moir says:

    An extremely gifted musician and a warm, unpretentious, generous human being. This is so sad.

  • Mary McNally says:

    A great talent and dry wit. I knew him as assistant conductor of Cornell’s Sage Chapel Choir. He will be sorely missed.

  • Tom Nazziola says:

    A great composer and a great human being. His talent is matched only by his sincerity and generosity in guiding others along their compositional journey. I’m fortunate to have known him.

  • Hal Reynolds says:

    As gifted and talented he was as a major musical figure, I will always remember his infectious smile and his unique quick wit and dry sense of humor. Indeed, a great loss to us all, fellow musicians and humanity as a whole. Rest in Peace, my friend!

  • Jen Gage Sage says:

    My most sincere sympathies to his family

  • Jerry Amaldev says:

    Steven Stucky was senior to me by two years in Composition at Cornell. We studied composition under Prof. Robert Palmer and Karel Husa. He was a quiet guy. Always busy writing music.

    Years later when I pointed out to him that my name was not mentioned among Cornell Composers he readily corrected that error. A good soul.

    Jerry Amaldev.

  • Russell Platt says:

    This is a major loss to American music. Rest in peace, Steve.

  • Michael Slon says:

    Thanks for this post Mr. Lebrecht. I first knew him as my undergrad advisor and composition/20th century music mentor at Cornell (and since through performing his works as a conductor), and as his son beautifully explains, he was a genuine artist. He will be greatly missed, along with the music he might still have written.