George Walker: Lyric for Strings

1996 Pulitzer Prize winner George Walker(Photo: http://georgetwalker.com/)
1996 Pulitzer Prize winner George Walker(Photo: http://georgetwalker.com/)

As we recognize and honor the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King on this day, I’d like to bring your attention to an African-American composer of classical music who has written a beautiful piece for string orchestra that seems appropriate for this day as well.

George Walker was born in 1922 and was the first African-American composer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music, which he won in 1996 for his work Lilacs.

He has received commissions from prominent orchestras, including the  New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra. His most often performed piece is “Lyric for String Orchestra.” It was originally the slow movement of his first string quartet and titled “Lament,” in homage to his grandmother.

If there seem to be echoes of Samuel Barber‘s “Adagio for Strings,” this piece still stands as a beautiful, independent statement.

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