Composer Institute Director
Kevin Puts, who was appointed director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute in 2014, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his opera Silent Night, which was commissioned and premiered by Minnesota Opera. He has been hailed as one of the most important composers of his generation. His works include three operas, four symphonies and several concertos that have been commissioned, performed and recorded by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists throughout the U.S. and abroad. Among them are the New York Philharmonic, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra and the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Colorado, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, St. Louis and Utah; the Boston Pops; the National Symphony Orchestra; leading chamber ensembles such as the Mirò Quartet, Eroica Trio, eighth blackbird, Concertante, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; and vocal ensembles including Conspirare.
The Minnesota Orchestra commissioned and premiered Puts’ Sinfonia concertante in 2006 and has since performed his Symphony No. 4, From Mission San Juan; Two Mountain Scenes; Millennium Canons; and Rivers Rush. In November 2018 the Orchestra will perform his Inspiring Beethoven. In January 2019 he will direct his fifth Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, which culminates in a Future Classics: Emerging Composers Spotlight concert led by Osmo Vänskä, featuring works by the seven composer participants.
Other orchestras performing Puts’ music during the 2018-19 season include the Auburn Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt, Oregon Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and West Michigan Symphony, along with numerous collegiate ensembles.
Since the premiere of Puts’ Silent Night in 2011 by Minnesota Opera, the opera has been produced and performed at Opera Philadelphia, Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, the Wexford Festival Opera, Calgary Opera, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera de Montreal, Atlanta Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Santa Jose and Piedmont Opera, and at the Glimmerglass Festival. Minnesota Opera is performing Silent Night again in November 2018, while other upcoming productions are scheduled with the Washington National Opera, Opera North in Leeds, England—marking the opera’s premiere in the U.K.—and Austin Opera.
In 2015 Minnesota Opera collaborated with Puts a second time, premiering a commissioned adaptation of Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate, with libretto by Mark Campbell. September 2017 saw the world premiere of his first chamber opera, an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s gothic novel The Trial of Elizabeth Cree with libretto also by Campbell, commissioned and premiered by Opera Philadelphia. It has subsequently been performed by Chicago Opera Theater. Among his other major recent projects are Silent Night Elegy, an orchestral fantasy based on music from his opera Silent Night, to be premiered by the San Francisco Symphony in October 2018; an Oboe Concerto, Moonlight, commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony for its principal oboist Katherine Needleman, who premiered it in June 2018 and is reprising it in November 2018 with Marin Alsop conducting; Letters from Georgia, a work for soprano and orchestra based on the personal letters of Georgia O’Keefe, premiered in 2016 with Renée Fleming as soloist; and the orchestral work The City, co-commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony and Carnegie Hall and premiered in April 2016. He is currently at work on an orchestral song cycle based on the letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz titled The Brightness of Light, which will be performed by Renée Fleming and Rod Gilfry and several orchestras in the coming seasons.
In 2005, commissioned to write a new work in celebration of David Zinman’s 70th birthday, Puts composed Vision, a cello concerto premiered by Yo‐Yo Ma and the Aspen Music Festival Orchestra. That same year his Percussion Concerto was premiered by Evelyn Glennie with the Pacific and Utah Symphonies. He has also written concertos for Adam Walker, principal flute of the London Symphony, marimbist Makoto Nakura, violinist Michael Shih and clarinetist Bil Jackson, as well as a piano concerto commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and premiered in 2008 by pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane. The Mirò Quartet has premiered two major works of his, Credo and How Wild the Sea; the latter was commissioned jointly by the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra at Austin, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, City Music Cleveland, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.
Many recordings of Puts’ works have drawn critical acclaim, most recently a new recording of his music, Loves Comes in at the Eye, released by Albany Records in July 2018. In August 2015, Seascapes, the first entire recording of his chamber works, was released by BCMF Records through Naxos. In 2016, a CD was released that includes several of his works performed by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra with conductor Marin Alsop. His two a cappella choral works, If I Were a Swan and To Touch the Sky, were recorded by the choral group Conspirare for a 2013 album released by Harmonia Mundi, along with a recording of his Symphony No. 4, From Mission San Juan, with Marin Alsop conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Puts has received awards and grants from the American Academy in Rome, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, the Butler School of Music of the University of Texas at Austin, BMI and ASCAP. He has served as Composer in Residence with Young Concert Artists, the California Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and with festivals including Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Music from Angel Fire and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Puts received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, respectively, followed by a doctorate from Eastman. From 1999 to 2005, he taught composition at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2006, he has been a member of the composition department at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore.
For more information, visit kevinputs.com.