Thomson, Virgil

Thomson, Virgil, 1896–1989, American composer, critic, and organist, b. Kansas City, Mo. Thomson studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Until about 1926 he wrote in a dissonant, neoclassic style, but after his 16-minute quintet Sonata da chiesa (1926) he began to employ a highly simplified style that shows the influence of Erik Satie. He wrote two operas, Four Saints in Three Acts (1928) and The Mother of Us All (1947), for librettos by Gertrude Stein; music for films including The River (1937) and Louisiana Story (1948); the ballet Filling Station (1937); an opera, Lord Byron (1972); and numerous works for voice, organ, piano, and chamber ensembles. Thomson was music critic for the New York Herald Tribune from 1940 until 1954. His books include The State of Music (1939), The Musical Scene (1945), The Art of Judging Music (1948), and American Music since 1910 (1971).

See T. Page, ed., Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles, 1940–1954 (2014) and Virgil Thomson: The State of Music and Other Writings (2016); Thomson's autobiography (1966); biography by A. Tommasini (1997).

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