Gloria Coates (1933 – 2023)

from The New York Times

Gloria Coates, Composer Who Defied Conventions, Dies at 89

A Wisconsin native, she was among the most prolific female composers of symphonies, 17 in all, finding particular prominence in Europe, where she lived.

Gloria Coates, an adventurous composer who wrote symphonies — she was one of the few women to do so — as well as other works, pieces that were seldom performed in her home country, the United States, but found audiences in Europe, where she lived much of her professional life, died on Aug. 19 in Munich. She was 89.

Her daughter, Alexandra Coates, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

Ms. Coates composed 17 symphonies, along with numerous works for small ensembles and voice. In 1999, when she was working on her 11th symphony, the composer and critic Kyle Gann wrote in The New York Times that “Ms. Coates’s symphonies are dark and sensuous, and distinguished by an imaginative use of orchestral glissandos (gradual rather than stepwise changes of pitch, like slow sirens), which culminate powerfully in drawn-out crescendos.”

The glissando continued to be her calling card, Mr. Gann said this week by email.

“Gloria owned the orchestral glissando the way van Gogh said he owned the sunflower,” he said. “The slow pitch slides that run across the surfaces of her symphonies and string quartets can be difficult for the performers to coordinate, which has probably made musicians less willing to present her music. But they make it absolutely distinctive and recognizable. And underneath those glissandos there is often aclear discipline of canons, palindromes and other simple musical structures.”

“The effect,” he added, “is often like a painting of a beautiful edifice on which rain has impressionistically smeared the surface.”

Ms. Coates first came to wide attention when her “Music on Open Strings” was performed by the Polish Chamber Orchestra at the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music in 1978...

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Go to Gloria Coates' release on New World Records


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