Bernard Rands

Bernard Rands


• Born 1934


The British-born American composer Bernard Rands has written accessible music in large forms, in a style derived from those of European avant-garde composers. Rands won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1984, and he has been honored with several other major prizes. Rands was born in Sheffield, England, in 1934. He studied literature and music at the University of Wales, choosing the latter field when he traveled to Darmstadt, Germany, to study with Pierre Boulez and Bruno Maderna. He went on to Milan, Italy, for work with Luigi Dallapiccola and Luciano Berio, and his own style -- combining lyrical qualities with intense drama -- reflects aspects of those of all his teachers. After completing his schooling, Rands began to find commissions for his music, including one for the orchestral work Per esempio from the West Riding Youth Orchestra in Yorkshire in 1969. Residencies at the University of Illinois and Princeton University instilled in Rands a taste for American life, and he moved to the U.S. in 1975. He became an American citizen in 1983. By that time, Rands was having his music performed by major ensembles on both sides of the Atlantic, and indeed his career has been notable for the degree of success he has achieved in both Britain and the U.S. Several major Rands works were performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, including Mésalliance (1972), conducted by Boulez. Madrigali (1977) was commissioned and performed by the National Symphony Chamber Orchestra in 1977. Another important American commission, for the orchestral song set Canti del sole, was conducted by Zubin Mehta leading the New York Philharmonic in 1983, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Music the following year. Rands was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. He served as composer-in-residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1989 to 1995, and he has continued to find performances with major ensembles including the Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras. He has written two operas, Belladonna (1999) and Vincent, based on the life of Vincent van Gogh, in 2010. In 2014, Rands' Concerto for piano and orchestra was premiered by the Boston Symphony and pianist Jonathan Biss to celebrate the composer's 80th birthday. Among the many recordings of his work was one of his tone poems, Chains Like the Sea, released by the BBC Philharmonic in 2019. Rands is married to composer Augusta Read Thomas, and the couple lives in Chicago; works by the two have occasionally been presented together in concert.