John Corigliano

Composer John Corigliano has been renowned in the classical music field since his 1964 "Sonata for Violin and Piano" (written for his father) thrust him into the public eye. He followed up with numerous acclaimed ... Read more »
Born: 02/16/1938 in New York City, New York, USA


Music (6)

The Red Violin 1999 (Movie)


The Ghosts of Versailles 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)


Solti at 75: A Celebration! 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


Revolution 1985 (Movie)


Altered States 1980 (Movie)

Actor (2)

Copland's America 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)



Composer John Corigliano has been renowned in the classical music field since his 1964 "Sonata for Violin and Piano" (written for his father) thrust him into the public eye. He followed up with numerous acclaimed original works before a successful entry into film music with his experimental score for Ken Russell's "Altered States" (1980). His eerie and hauntingly evocative music was a non-melodic, octave-jumping collection of sounds that perfectly captured the unsettling feel of the film and earned the composer his first Oscar nomination. This victory was followed by his scoring of Hugh Hudson's Revolutionary War epic "Revolution" (1985). While Corigliano's score was acclaimed, earning BAFTA's Anthony Asquith Award for Distinguished Achievement in Film Composition, the critical and popular failure of the film led to the score album going unreleased, and consequently, the disappointed Corigliano disappeared from film for well over a decade.

A prolific composer with two Grammy Awards, countless other music industry honors and a slew of commissioned pieces to his credit, Corigliano kept busy with remarkable work as an orchestral, chamber and operatic composer while he was away from cinema scoring. A well-respected and decorated member of the contemporary classical community, he never lacked for creative outlets, with dozens of albums worth of his compositions performed by the industry's top names, including James Galway ("Pied Piper Fantasy") and the New York Philharmonic. In 1991, he fulfilled a commission for the first new work to premiere at NYC's Metropolitan Opera House in over 25 years with "The Ghost of Versailles". As with much of his best work, the composer employed a variety of styles ranging from modern atonality to classical stylings that recalled Rossini and Mozart.

The composer's triumphant return to film with 1998's "The Red Violin" (released in the USA in 1999) was preceded by a 1997 concert presentation of the music. Working with Francois Girard on "The Red Violin", Corigliano convinced the director that using a whole new score for the film rather than depend on existing pieces would be beneficial to the film's structure and movement. Drawn from a seven-note main melody, Corigliano's score adapts and changes for the five different historical and geographical settings that comprise the film. The violin spans the globe over four centuries, and his score follows suit, incorporating baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary touches. In addition to evincing time and place, the score also brings out important plot points. The 20th-century Shanghai segment of the score has an appropriate Eastern flavor, and also as this portion of the film is concerned with China's revolution, Corigliano employs a folk-inspired sound. More traditional and accessible than his impressionistic score for "Altered States" but just as moving and evocative, Corigliano's score for "The Red Violin" earned the composer his first Academy Award.


John Corigliano

concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic from 1943 to 1966 born on August 28, 1901 died on September 2, 1975


Columbia University

New York , New York
studied with Otto Luening

Manhattan School of Music

New York , New York
studied with Victor Giannini



Premiered Second Symphony in Boston


The film "The Red Violin", featuring Corigliano's score, debuted at Venice Film Festival; released theatrically in USA in 1999; received the Best Original Score Academy Award


"The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra" debuted at the San Francisco Symphony


"Chiaroscuro" debuted, his composition written for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart


Won second Grammy in the category of Best Classical Contemporary Compostion, marking the first time in the history of the award that a composer has won twice


Composed the AIDS-themed cantata "Of Rage and Remembrance"


Honored as Musical America's inaugural Composer of the Year


Debut as opera composer, "The Ghosts of Versailles"; opera was first newly commissioned work written for NYC Metropolitan Opera in more than 25 years; telecast on PBS in 1992


Named to the faculty of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music


Elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters


Was composer-in-residence at Chicago Symphony Orchestra; composed the Grammy-winning "Symphony No. 1" (1991), a response to the AIDS crisis


Scored Hugh Hudson's Revolutionary War epic "Revolution"


The "Pied Piper Fantasy: Concerto for Flute and Orchestra" introduced by James Galway


Composed the score of Ken Russell's thriller "Altered States"; received Oscar nomination for Best Original Score


Wrote "Piano Concerto"


His "Sonata for Violin and Piano" won the Spoleto Festival's chamber music prize, catapulting the young composer into the public eye; piece written for his father

Bonus Trivia


"It has been fashionable of late for the artist to be misunderstood. I wish to be understood. I think it is the job of the composer to reach out to his audience with every means at his disposal. Even when he decides to use advanced techniques that may be unfamiliar, communication should be a primary goal." --John Corigliano


Composer John Corigliano on adapting his score for "The Red Violin" into the concert piece "The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra": "Basically, when writing for a film, there are two types of scoring: the live action theme (when the actual soloist is playing) and the underscoring. For the concert work 'Chaconne', I decided to use 'Anna's Theme' (the film's solo violin melody), manipulate it through stylistic variations, and adapt 19th century techniques into the musical language of the 20th century." --quoted in music publisher G. Shirmer, Inc.'s November 1997 Shirmer News, www.schirmer,com


Corigliano on the problems surrounding his score for 1985's "Revolution" that kept him away from film for well over a decade: "The soundtrack never came out, the film was not a success and the mix in the film was not really what I wanted." --quoted in Daily Variety, April 30, 1999


On scoring "The Red Violin": "You needed a musical thread to carry through, not just in the underscoring, but in the whole piece. Even if it's in different styles, or earlier periods, the material should still come from the same source." Corigliano quoted in Daily Variety, April 30, 1999