Paul Zukofsky

(b Brooklyn, NY, 22 Oct 1943, d Hong Kong, 6 June 2017) American violinist and conductor, started music lessons when he was three and the violin at four. Two years later he first played in public, and at seven became a student of Ivan Galamian. He made his first orchestral appearance in 1953 with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, and a formal début recital at Carnegie Hall in 1956.

He specialized in 20th-century music, and premièred concertos by Sessions (for violin, cello and orchestra), Wuorinen (for amplified violin and orchestra), Feldman (for violin and orchestra), the Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, Philip Glass, as well as works by Babbitt, Cage, Carter, Crumb, Kondo, Leifs, Schnabel, Sveinsson, Xenakis, etc.

One of the original Creative Associates at the Center for Creative and Performing Arts, SUNY, Buffalo, in 1964, Zukofsky taught at the New England Conservatory, the Berkshire Music Center, The Manhattan School, The Juilliard School (where he taught chamber music, conducting and violin). He was program coordinator of the American Composers Series at the Kennedy Center. From 1976 to 1977, Zukofsky was a resident visitor at the Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey. He was conductor of the Colonial Symphony Orchestra (Madison, New Jersey) from 1978 to 1987. In 1977, he founded, in Reykjavik, Iceland, the Zukofsky Seminar, and after that the Icelandic Youth Orchestra (Sinfóníuhljómsveit Æskunnar), which gave a large number of Icelandic premieres of orchestral music, 20th century and otherwise. Zukofsky received the Minningarverdlaun D.V. (Cultural Achievement Award in Music) in 1988, and was also presented the Knight’s Cross, Icelandic Order of the Falcon by the President of Iceland. Zukofsky served as Artistic Director for the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) SUMMERGARDEN concert series from 1987 to 1992, and from 1992 to 1996, Zukofsky was director of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute at the University of Southern California. Zukofsky was honored by fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Fulbright Commission, among many others.

Zukofsky’s extensive list of recordings includes more than 60 first releases, among them Penderecki’s Capriccio and concertos by Sessions and William Schuman. In 1974 he recorded an anthology of American violin music written between 1940 and 1970; he also recorded the Bach solo sonatas and partitas. His recording of the Paganini Twenty-four Caprices was also well received. He edited works for violin by Cage and Steuermann, composed music, and wrote, in 1977, An All-Interval Scale Book. He founded Musical Observations, Inc. in 1976, and recorded extensively for various labels such as Vanguard, CBS, Victor Japan, but most especially for his own label, CP² Recordings.

Paul Zukofsky Chronology (1943-2017)

  • 1943
    Born 22 October in Brooklyn, New York to poet Louis Zukofsky (1904 - 1978) and musician Celia Thaew Zukofsky (1913 - 1980).
  • 1952
    Enrolls in the Juilliard School of Music (Pre-College Division) until 1958. Studies violin with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay.
  • 1954
    July – During a family summer trip, performs for Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeths, Washington, D.C., where the poet was then incarcerated.
  • 1956
    November – First solo recital at Carnegie Hall, NYC.
  • 1959
    February – Second recital at Carnegie Hall, program of Bach, Stravinsky and Glazunov.
  • 1960
    May – Diploma Violin, Juilliard School of Music.
  • 1961
    February – Third recital at Carnegie Hall, program includes Webern, Satie and Paganini.
  • 1963
    September – Premio Paganini competition, Genoa, Italy.
    November – Thibaud competition, Paris.
    Fromm Fellowship, Berkshire Music Center (also 1964).
  • 1964
    January – B.M., Juilliard School of Music.
    May – M.S., Juilliard School of Music.
    September – George Enescu Competition, Bucharest.
    November – Creative Associate with the founding of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1964 - 1965.
  • 1965
    Violinist, CCE, Rutgers University, 1965-1968.
    Jascha Heifetz Fellowship, Berkshire Music Center.
    Albert Spalding Prize, Berkshire Music Center.
    Young Concert Artist Award.
  • 1966
    Teacher and Assistant in Contemporary Music Department, Berkshire Music Center (summers 1966-71).
    Violin Teacher, Princeton University, 1966 - 1971.
    Associate in Performance, Swarthmore College, 1966 - 1974.
    Ingram-Merrill Award, New York.
  • 1967
    Enrolls in DMA program at Juilliard School of Music, until 1969 (apparently does not take degree). Studies composition with Vincent Persichetti and Roger Sessions.
  • 1968
    Violin Teacher, New England Conservatory, 1968 - 1971.
    March – U.S. premiere Krzysztof Penderecki: Capriccio, with Buffalo Philharmonic.
  • 1969
    Founder and First Violinist, New York String Quartet, Temple University, 1969 - 1971.
    "Musician of the Month" – High Fidelity/Musical America, March 1969.
  • 1971
    August – U.S. premiere, Giacinto Scelsi: Anahit, Berkshire Music Center.
    November – World premiere, Roger Sessions: Violin & Cello Concerto, Juilliard School of Music.
  • 1972
    Jury Member – Naumburg Foundation String Competition.
    Nominated for two Grammy Awards for recordings of Charles Ives, Chamber Music and William Schuman, Violin Concerto.
    January – U.S. premiere, Bruno Maderna: Violin Concerto, New York Philharmonic.
    August – World premiere, Charles Wuorinen: Concerto for Amplified Violin and Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra.
    September – World premiere, Iain Hamilton: Amphion, BBC Scottish.
  • 1973
    December – World premiere, Earle Brown: Centering, London Sinfonietta.
  • 1974
    Violin Faculty, Manhattan School of Music, 1974 - 1979.
    October – Active participant, International Working Conference on New Musical Notation, held jointly by the Index of New Musical Notation and the University of Ghent, Belgium
    Nominated for Grammy Award for recordings of Charles Ives, Sonatas for Violin and Piano.
  • 1975
    Founds Musical Observations, Inc., a non-profit corporation, and serves as President until his death.
    March – World premiere of Elliott Carter, Duo for Violin and Piano, Gilbert Kalish, piano.
    Member, Advisory Panel to the Instrumental Dept. of the Institut de Coordination Acoustique – Musique (IRCAM), Centre Beaubourg, Paris, 1975 - 1978.
    Pick of the Pack, Time Magazine, January 6, 1975.
    Best String Record of 1974, Record World Magazine, January 24, 1975.
    Pick of the Pack, Time Magazine, December 15, 1975.
  • 1976
    Principal Investigator and Project Director, "Limits, Correlations and Constraints on Motor Skills," a research project supported by the National Science Foundation grant #BNS76-80656 and BNS78-24727, 1976 - 1982.
    Resident Visitor – Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey; research on timing in musical performance, 1976 - 1986.
  • 1977
    Conductor and Director, Zukofsky Seminar in 20th century orchestral repertoire, Reykjavik College of Music, Iceland, August 1977 - 1983.
    May – Convener, Symposium on the Psychophysics of Musical Performance, Montclair State College, New Jersey.
  • 1978
    Conductor, Colonial Symphony, Madison, New Jersey, 1978 - 1987.
    Member, Advisory Panel on New Music, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York, 1978 - 1981.
    May – Convener, Second Symposium on the Psychophysics of Musical Performance, Montclair State College, New Jersey.
  • 1979
    Summer – Composition Faculty, Berkshire Music Center, Lenox, Mass.
    June – ASCAP - Community Orchestra Award to the Colonial Symphony, Paul Zukofsky, Conductor, "for Adventuresome Overall Programming of Contemporary Music during the season 1978 - 1979."
    ASCAP - Citation "for Consistent and Devoted Performance of New Music and Loyalty to its Creation."
  • 1980
    Program Coordinator, "American Portraits" Concert Series, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., 1980 - 1990.
    Chairman of the Jury, John F. Kennedy Center-Rockefeller Foundation International Competitions for Excellence in the Performance of American Music.
    Designer of the first programmable metronome; first prototype built 1980.
  • 1982
    February – U.S. premiere, Maki Ishii: Lost Sounds III, American Symphony Orchestra.
  • 1983
    Guggenheim Fellowship for "Studies in the production of rhythms," 1983 - 1984.
    National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.
    May – World premiere, Toshi Ichiyanagi: Violin Concerto "Junkansuru Fukei " Circulating Scenery), Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • 1984
    Conductor, Juilliard School of Music, October 1984 - March 1992. Teaches conducting (1984 - 1991), Chamber Music (1986 - 1991) and Violin (1988 - 1992).
    April – World premiere, Morton Feldman: Violin and Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.
  • 1985
    Founder, Principal Conductor and Music Director, Sinfóníuhljómsveit Æskunnar (Youth Symphony Orchestra of Iceland), March 1985 - March 1993.
    Japan-United States Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, Creative Artist Fellowship for Japan, 1985 - 1986 (unable to accept).
  • 1987
    Artistic Director, Museum of Modern Art (NYC) Summergarden concert series, summers 1987 - 1992.
    Director of Chamber Music Activities, Juilliard School of Music, 1987 - 1989.
    April – World premiere, Philip Glass: Violin Concerto, New York.
  • 1988
    Doctoral seminar, Manhattan School of Music.
    February – Menningarverdlaun D.V. 1988 Tonlist (Cultural Achievement Award in Music for 1988 given by Dagbladid/Visir), Reykjavik, Iceland.
    Summer – Artistic Director of MOMA Summergarden concert series featuring John Cage.
  • 1989
    Summer – Artistic Director of MOMA Summergarden concert series featuring Debussy and Bartók.
  • 1990
    March – Knight's Cross, Icelandic Order of the Falcon; presented by the President of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Reykjavik, Iceland, for contribution to the cultural and musical heritage of the country, as well as his support and work on behalf of the Icelandic Youth Orchestra.
    Summer – Artistic Director of MOMA Summergarden concert series featuring Igor Stravinsky.
  • 1991
    March – conducts world premiere of Jόn Leifs, Baldr, Sinfόníuhljόmsveit Æskunnar (Youth Orchestra of Iceland), Reykjavik, Iceland.
    Summer – Artistic Director of MOMA Summergarden concert series devoted to Erik Satie.
    October – The Partnership Award, in commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Iceland and the U.S. Inaugural presentation by Mr. & Mrs. Cobb, US Ambassador to Iceland.
    Research Fellow, Fulbright Commission, Reykjavik, Iceland.
  • 1992
    January – Director, Arnold Schoenberg Institute, University of Southern California (until 1996). Editor, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, 1992 - 1996.
    Professor of violin, chamber music and conducting, USC School of Music, 1992 - 1996.
    Summer – Artistic Director of MOMA Summergarden concert series devoted to John Cage.
  • 1993
    Creator and Host of a radio series of the complete music of Arnold Schoenberg (thirteen 2½ hour programs), KUSC-FM Los Angeles, January 4 - March 29.
  • 1994
    June - conducts world premiere of Jo Kondo, Hagoromo, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Florence, Italy.
  • 1995
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995 - 2003).
  • 1996
    June – Director, 20th Century Music Seminar, Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies; Conductor, Britten-Pears Orchestra, Aldeburgh Music Festival.
  • 2000
    Director, Musical Observations’ Concentrations, an annual series of seminar-workshops focusing on a specific modern composer: Milton Babbitt (2000), Artur Schnabel (2001), Jo Kondo (2002), Armin Loos (2003), John Cage (2004).
  • 2006
    May – External Examiner, Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts, School of Music.
  • 2008
    January – conducts Jose Maceda’s Siasid and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, Manila Symphony Orchestra, Manila.
  • 2011
    July – conducts Mid Summer Modern (Stravinsky, Babbitt, Schoenberg), Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, University of Hong Kong.
  • 2012
    April – conducts Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, 100 Years On, Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, University of Hong Kong.
    July – conducts Jo Kondo 65th Anniversary Portrait Concert, Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, University of Hong Kong.
  • 2013
    April – Lecture/Conversation between PZ and Bright Sheng, Intimacy of Creativity, Bright Sheng Partnership, Hong Kong.
  • 2017
    June 6, dies in Hong Kong of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.