Robert Lombardo

1932        Born on March 5 at St Francis Hospital

Hartford Connecticut, fourth child of Rosalia and Michele

Lombardo.  His mother was born in Palazzolo Acreide,

Sicily in 1892 and his father was born in Canicattini Bagni,

Sicily in 1888.

1945    Began studying the clarinet.

1947    While attending Weaver High School in Hartford,  he played the

clarinet , not only in the school band but also in the Hartt College

orchestra.  He intended to major in clarinet in college,

but a lung injury forced him to give up the instrument in his last

year of high school.  Since he was still bent on a career in music,

1950    He entered the Hartt College at the University of Hartford

as a composition major,  even though he had, until then,

composed just two short movements for  string trio in the style

of Mozart and a few popular songs.  Those latter pieces written

while playing clarinet and saxophone in jazz bands.

At Hartt College, he studied composition with Isadore Freed and

orchestration and counterpoint with Arnold Franchetti.

“Although I did not begin composition study with Franchetti

until 1954,  Lombardo recalls,  “this man was to have a profound

influence on my musical development throughout my college

education and for several years afterwards.”

1954  Lombardo earned his bachelor of music degree, cum laude and a

year later his master of music degree.

1956    During the summer, Lombardo continued his music study at the

Berkshire Music center at Tanglewood:  Orchestration with Aaron

Copland and composition with Goffredo Petrassi. That Fall, he

went to Italy where he was a composition student of Guido Turchi.

1957     He went on to Florence where he stayed through the summer

composing a woodwind quintet on a commission from the Fromm

Foundation . It was premiered by Boston Symphony players

the following year.

He enrolled at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in the Fall, studying

composition with Boris Blacher and harpsichord with Sylvia Kind.

1959    He began his postgraduate studies at the University of Iowa

studying composition with Philip Bezanson.  He was awarded

a PhD in composition two years later.

Compositions written at this time include:  Five Songs for

mezzo soprano and cello premiered at the International

Music Festival at Bilthoven, Holland and Aria and Allegretto

for orchestra, and I due Orfani, a dramatic dialogue for soprano,

alto and chamber ensemble featured at the Festival.

1962-63    Lombardo was composer-in-residence on grants from the

Ford Foundation in two public school systems: Hastings-on-

Hudson, NY and Colorado Springs, Colorado.  On still another

Ford Foundation Grant, he spent the summer with nine other

composers  at the Santa Fe Opera where Stravinsky was in

residence, and to hear his operas being performed.

1963-64     He was on the music faculty of his alma mater, the Hartt

College of Music and the following year he joined the Chicago

Musical College of Roosevelt University as composer-in-residence

and professor of composition.

1964     Lombardo was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.  Taking a leave

of absence from Roosevelt University, he returned to Florence .

There on March 27th, he married Kathleen Knudsen, a poet and

playwright.  In addition to becoming the mother of his two children,

Rosalia and Adreana,  she was also the poet and librettist for many of her

husband’s compositions.

1965     His most important composition up to this point was Threnody

for Strings, a deeply emotional and lyrical composition which was 

introduced by the Cincinnati Symphony under Max Rudolph .

When the Chicago Symphony under Carlo Maria Giulini performed

it in 1972, Robert C. Marsh in the Sun Times saluted Lombardo

“for writing a work that has both substance and immediate appeal.”

Bernard Jacobson in the Daily News praised it for the “logic with

which it grows out of three germinal ideas and for its way of evoking

every precise consciousness of grief without resorting to

conventional breast beating.”  Jacobson added: “Lombardo has the

ability to wield intricately chromatic material into textures of an

openness and resonance usually associated with plainer diatonic

styles of harmony…His string writing…sounds with an authority that

compasses telling effects through apparently simple strokes.”

1966    Rosalia Maria was born.  Lombardo wrote Dialogues of  Lovers   for soprano,

baritone and chamber ensemble on a commission  from the Koussevitzky Foundation.

It was premiered at the University of Chicago, Ralphy Shapey conducting.  In the same

year, he received a commission from the Chicago Musical College  for a one-act opera

called The Sorrows of a Super Soul that was produced at

the Music Educator’s National Convention.  His wife, Kathleen wrote

the text for both works.  That same year, he wrote In Memoriam  for

bassoon and string trio in memory of his father, Michele Lombardo.

1968     Aphorisms for orchestra was premiered  in Chicago.

1969    Adreana Michelina was born.

1970   Climbing for Tree Frogs– love songs for soprano and      

harpsichord, text by Kathleen– was premiered in Chicago.

1971     A   program devoted to Lombardo’s music —including the premiere

of Fourplay, (1969)— was heard at Roosevelt.  It covered

his productivity from 1958 through 1968.  In reviewing this

concert, Bernard Jacobson described Lombardo’s style as follows:

“His harmonic language is freely chromatic and his use of the

material,  frequently post serial.  The general sound of his music is

neat, intricate involuted—you could call it ‘small bone.’  But the spirit

it reveals is anything but small:  humanity, and a singular rich,  sensitive humanity at that,

is always to be felt beneath the skillfully polished surface.”

1972  Carlo Maria Giulini conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

in Threnody for Strings.

1973     Lombardo was commissioned by  Mr. & Mrs. Lee A. Freeman to

write a work for the Fine Arts Quartet.  This led to the String Quartet

no. 2. (1974) which the Fine Arts Quartet Premiered in Chicago in

1975.  Louise Kengott in the Milwaukee  Journal wrote: “ The

introspective musical moods shift and grow through the two

continuous movements and finally end in fragments and questions.”

1975    On a research grant from Roosevelt University, Lombardo composed a one-act

opera on ecology called The Dodo, first produced in 1979 at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Down the Rabbit Hole,  also composed in 1975, was a multimedia production for  voices

actors, dancers and film with a text by Kathleen.  It was commissioned by Columbia

College in Chicago and performed there in 1976 on a grant from the National Endowment

for the Arts.

1976    Lombardo completed Sicilian Lyric for timpani solo, percussion and

orchestra whose main melody was taken from an old Sicilian folk tune.  

1977    Lombardo adapted the music of Scott Joplin for which Kathleen

wrote both the book and the lyrics.  It was presented at the St. Nicolas Theatre

the same year.

1980   Lombardo received a second grant from the National Endowment for

the Arts  to compose an opera entitled Tango on the Moon.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

                                             Other works and  performances after 1980

The Dodo-a story with music for young people for Narrator and Orchestra.

Slendrone  for Gamelan

Three Pieces for Harp and Gamelan

Aria Variata for soprano and string orchestra was recorded by the

Czech National Symphony Orchestra

Orpheus & the Maenads, Concerto for Mandolin & String Orchestra, with

Dimitris Marinos, soloist.  Cliff Colnot, Conductor. Albany Records

Against Forgetting, cantata in memory of the Holocaust children

Last Letters Home: A meditation on war for mezzo soprano, strings   and percussion

Piccolo Concertino for mandolin & mandolin orchestra

Musaic: String Quartet #3 for the Pacifica Quartet

Sorrows of a Supersoul, a chamber opera

Contrasti a due for mandolin & marimba

Painter’s Notes for violin & viola

Five one-minute pieces for percussion trio

Lamentations & a Prayer for SATB & two cellos

Fantasy Variations:  a series of single movements for Cello, Harpsichord, 

Violin, Mandolin, Alto Saxophone. Bb Clarinet, Flute, Viola & Piano)

Rosalie and Adreana: Two madrigals for  solo SSAA

Musicals: Joplin, Northside/Southside, Mahalia & Me, and Sweets.

Independence Day: harp, double gamelan & dancers produced at

the Columbia College Dance Center in Chicago

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

A list of additional works can be found under the Complete Bio  heading.


Comments are closed.