Skip to page content

About this Piece

An African-American composer and con- ductor born in Kentucky, Julia Perry stud- ied at Westminster Choir College and then Juilliard. Many of her early works are vocal, often incorporating influences from black spirituals. But she also studied with Luigi Dallapiccola at Tanglewood and in Italy, and she also worked with Nadia Boulanger, winning the Boulanger Grand Prix for her Viola Sonata. Her catalog includes a dozen symphonies and a pair of piano concertos; her theater works include three operas and a ballet, several on her own librettos or scenarios.

Most of this is sadly neglected, but her Short Piece for Orchestra (also known as Study for Orchestra, 1952) was recorded

in a live performance by the New York Phil- harmonic under William Steinberg in 1965. It is an initially raucous, highly energized essay, brilliantly scored. There are edgy lyrical contrasts, however, and the work closes in a haunted Lento, before a whip- lash ending returns the aggressive opening thunder. — John Henken