William Bolcom

American composer and pianist William Bolcom was born in Seattle on 26 May 1938, and began studying at the age of eleven - composition with John Verrall and George Frederick McKay, and piano with Berthe Poncy Jacobson. Later he studied composition with Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen.

Bolcom has recorded many albums as a pianist with his wife, American mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. He has also recorded his own piano music, plus music by Gershin, Milhaud and several ragtime composers.

As a composer, Bolcom's goal has been to erase the boundaries between popular music and art music.  He has written operas - McTeague, A View from the Bridge, A Wedding, Dinner at Eight and Lucrezia. He has also written nine symphonies, plus violin, flute and clarinet concertos, string quartets, violin sonatas, piano rags, Gospel Preludes for organ, cabaret songs and musical theatre works. He has collaborated extensively with American 'theatre poet' Arnold Weinstein.

William Bolcom won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988, and the National Medal of Arts. Since 1994 he has been the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan. His students include Gabriela Lena Frank, Carter Pann and Derek Bermel.


A selection of articles about William Bolcom

Classical music news - January Newsletter and December Obituaries - Our January 2023 PDF newsletter has just been published, along with a summary of those the classical music world lost in December 2022

Profile. Opera is a Whole New World - As rehearsals begin for her new opera, Gabriela Lena Frank talks to Ron Bierman

Classical music news. Obituary - Leon Fleisher (1928-2020)

CD Spotlight. Fresh and Engaging - Villa-Lobos, Bax and Bolcom from Kerry Duwors and Futaba Niekawa, recommended by Geoff Pearce. '... the sheer musicianship, combined with flawless technique and imaginative programming, never fails to impress me.'

CD Spotlight. Spiritual and Emotional Depth - Piano trios from the Delphi Trio by Beethoven, Brahms and Bolcom, recommended by Gerald Fenech. 'An invigorating mixture of past and present, brilliantly executed and sumptuously recorded, which is truly worth investigating.'

CD Spotlight. December Celebration - New American carols, heard by Keith Bramich. '... this collection of new works is interesting and different.'

Wacky and Serious - Mike Wheeler is impressed by Ben Bloor's command of the Derby Cathedral organ

CD Spotlight. Hit and Miss - Songs by American composers, heard by Howard Smith. '... likeable off-Broadway expertise.'

CD Spotlight. A Sure Affinity - Jocelyn Swigger plays American piano music, and impresses Howard Smith. '... bold dissonances, conveyed with commanding assurance.'

Ensemble. For King, Country and Sex - Marco Tutino's 'Senso', experienced by Giuseppe Pennisi

Ensemble. Unmistakably American - William Bolcom's 'A View from the Bridge', heard by Giuseppe Pennisi

CD Spotlight. Utmost Clarity - William Appling plays Joplin and Bach, heard by Howard Smith. '... consistently four square, honest, unpretentious ...'

Ensemble. Sparkling Performances - Yvonne Kenny and Iain Burnside at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Robert Hugill