Yale University Press Release
New Haven, Conn.—The Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University announced that it has acquired the entire archive of renowned American composer Benjamin Lees. The comprehensive archive, which was a gift from the composer, includes manuscript sketches and scores for all of Lees's compositions, correspondence, concert programs, reviews, photographs, and biographical materials.
Born to Russian parents in Harbin, China in 1924, Benjamin Lees arrived in the U.S. in 1925. He and his parents settled in San Francisco where he began his piano studies at the age of five. After military service in World War II he attended the University of Southern California to study composition, harmony, and theory. Shortly after completing his studies he was introduced to the legendary American composer George Antheil and thus began almost five years of intense study in advanced composition and orchestration, during which the two formed a close and lasting friendship. Throughout his distinguished career, Lees has composed in a wide variety of genres. His works have been commissioned and performed by ensembles and soloists throughout the United States and Europe, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has commissioned two of his works, Piano Trio No. 2 "Silent Voices" and "Night Spectres" for unaccompanied cello. As a composer, Lees is especially renowned for his orchestral works, which are represented by five symphonies and numerous concertante works that feature soloist or small instrumental groups with orchestra. Writing in the August 2007 issue of The Strad, Robert Markow called Lees' Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, "an outstanding model of the form." Other concertante works for small ensembles include concertos for woodwind quintet, brass choir, percussion ensemble, all with orchestra. The composer's many awards include a Fromm Foundation Award (1953), two Guggenheim Fellowships (1954, 1966), a Fulbright Fellowship (1956), a UNESCO Award for String Quartet No. 2 (1958), and the Sir Arnold Bax Society Medal, the first awarded to a non-British composer (1958). He also received a Grammy nomination in 2004 for his Symphony No. 5. Benjamin Lees' music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.