The American John Corigliano, Jr. has carved himself a unique niche in the world of contemporary composers, and is one of the few to have enjoyed long-lasting crossover appeal. He is especially known for ushering traditional formats such as the concerto and symphony into the modern era, as well as for several famous film scores, most notably The Red Violin. Corigliano’s works have been performed by many of the most notable orchestras and soloists in the world.
Corigliano is the son of New York Philharmonic concertmaster John Corigliano, Sr., and was thus exposed to music of the highest calibre at a very young age. As a veteran of the music industry his father initially discouraged Corigliano’s interest in composition, but he was not to be dissuaded and eventually enrolled at Columbia University and the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied composition with Otto Luening, Vittorio Giannini and Paul Creston. After graduating he first did odd jobs as a music programmer for radio stations before working with Leonard Bernstein on his Young People’s Concerts, which would prove to be a valuable lifetime association.
In 1964 Corigliano’s Sonata for Violin and Piano (1963) won the first place at the prestigious Festival of Two Worlds in Italy, which marked the beginning of his ascension to the international stage. The next decade would see the continued evolution of what is described as his first period, which is heavily influenced by American composers such as Copland and Barber, and relied exclusively on conventional notation. Although his music was heavily tonal, and can even be considered conservative in the context of other composers from the later 20th century, over time he would push musical boundaries in many other ways, including through his use of extended techniques and microtones.