John Lessard


John Ayres Lessard (1920-2003) was an American composer and educator whose oeuvre concentrates on music for voice, piano, and large and small chamber ensembles for diverse combinations of instruments. Born July 3, 1920 in San Francisco, he showed an aptitude for music at a young age. His early music education centered on the piano, trumpet, and music theory, and included occasional composition lessons with Henry Cowell. From 1937-1940, he studied at the École Normale de Musique de Paris where his principal teachers were Nadia Boulanger, Alfred Cortot, and Georges Dandelot. Escaping from the German invasion of France, he returned to the United States and resumed composition studies with Nadia Boulanger at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1940-41) prior to joining the United States Army in 1941. On being discharged in 1945, he settled on Long Island where he taught privately and continued to compose, receiving two Guggenheim Fellowships (1946, 1953). He joined the American Composers Alliance in the mid-1940’s and took an active part in the organization for many decades. In 1962, he was appointed Professor of Music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he worked closely with the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players and taught music theory and composition until his retirement in 1990.

John (Jack) Lessard’s early works are in a neo-classic idiom, reflective of his studies with Boulanger and his esteem for the music of Stravinsky. In the mid 1960’s, he began exploring serial procedures and gravitated to a generally pan-chromatic tonal palette in which particular tones serve as focal points and experimental harmonies and piquant tone clusters abound. His music tends to be rhythmically fluid, and to create expressive tension between relatively calm and fairly agitated passages or motives. In keeping with his admiration for the music of J. S. Bach, textures are often contrapuntal and challenge listeners to follow multiple lines unfolding simultaneously in different registers. Collaborations with distinguished performers on the Stony Brook music faculty and with talented Stony Brook students led to series of challenging works for guitar, percussion, trumpet, piano, and mixed ensembles.  Among his noteworthy compositions are settings of Shakespeare and Herrick poems (1939-1951), a Sinfonietta Concertante (1961), Duet for Piano and Percussion (1984), five Bagatelles for piano (1986-1999), The Pond in a Bowl (poetry of Chinese poet Han Yu (768-824) for soprano with percussion and piano accompaniment, 1985), a Quintet for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1993), Music for Solo Harp and Chamber Ensemble (2000), and an elegiac Pavane for Two Marimbas (2002).



ACE Publications

78 title(s)
John Lessard BOX HILL OVERTURE orch: pic-2-2-2-2; 4-2-2-1; timp; str
John Lessard CANTILENA FOR OBOE & STRING ORCH solo oboe & str orch
John Lessard CONCERTO FOR FLUTE CLARINET BASSOON and STRINGS aka Concerto for Winds and Strings fl, cl, bsn, 4 solo str parts (vln1,vln2,vla,vcl) & string orch parts:2-1-1-1
John Lessard CONCERTO FOR HARP & ORCHESTRA hp solo & orch:2-1-2-1, 2-2-btbn-0,perc,str
horn, percussion
John Lessard FOUR PRELUDES piano

Additional Works

1940    Piano Sonata No.1    Piano solo (17 min.)
1941    Ariel's Song    Piano and voice, lyric from Shakespeare’s 'The Tempest.'  (2 min.)
1941    Concerto for Violin & Orchestra    Chamber orchestra with flute, clarinet and violin (20 min.)
1944    Lullaby    Piano and voice  (4 min.)
1944    Orpheus    Piano and voice – lyric from Shakespeare (2 min.)
1946    Box Hill Overture    Orchestra
1946    Cantilena for Oboe & String Orchestra    Mixed instrumental ensemble (6 min.)
1946    Little Concert: Suite for Piano    Piano solo (7 min.)
1946    Mask    Piano solo
1947    Little Concert for Orchestra    Orchestra (12 min.)
1948    Full Fathom Five    Soprano voice – lyric from Shakespeare’s 'The Tempest.'
1948    Three Movements For Violin And Piano    Piano and violin (17 min.)
1949     Amarillis    Piano and voice – lyric after Robert Herrick (2 min.)
1949    The Bag of the Bee    Piano and voice – lyric after Robert Herrick  (2 min.)
1950    Agenda     Piano and voice – lyric by Claire Nicolas White (3 min.)
1950    Morning Song    Piano and voice – lyric by Claire Nicolas White  (1 min.)
1950    Mother Goose (6 Songs)    Piano and voice (3 min.)
1951    Interior    Piano and voice – lyric by Claire Nicolas White   (2 min.)
1951    Toccata in Four Movements for Harpsichord    Large harpsichord – dedicated to Sylvia Marlowe
1951    When As In Silks My Julia Goes    Piano and voice – lyric after Robert Herrick (2 min.)
1952    Concerto for Winds & Strings    Chamber orchestra with flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and bassoon (15 min.)
1952    Partita for Wind Quintet    Wind quintet
1956    Sonata for Violoncello and Piano    Piano and cello
1956    Three Songs for St. Cecelia's Day    Piano and voice – lyric after W.H. Auden (8 min.)
1957    Recuerdo    Voice – lyric after Edna St. Vincent Millay
1957    Serenade For Symphony Orchestra    Orchestra (11 min.)
1957    Three Songs about Larr    Piano and voice – lyric after Robert Herrick (5 min.)
1959    Suite for Orchestra    Orchestra (12 min.)
1959    Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano    Flute, violin and piano
1960    Rose Cheek'd Laura    Piano and voice – lyric after Thomas Campion (1 min.)
1961    Sinfonietta Concertante    Chamber orchestra (15 min.)
1962    Epithalamion    Piano and voice – wedding song lyric after Edmund Spenser (4 min.)  
1963    String Trio    Violin, viola and cello (17 min.)
1964    12 Mother Goose Songs    Piano, voice, violin, viola and cello (18 min.)
1964    Get Hence Foule Griefe    Piano and voice (2 min.)
1966    New Worlds for the Young Pianist I    24 pieces for young pianists
1966    New Worlds for the Young Pianist II    16 pieces for intermediate piano students
1966    Trio in Sei Parti    Piano, violin and cello (18 min.)
1967    Quodlibets for Brass Trio    Trumpets and trombone  (8 min.)
1968    Perpetual Motion    Piano or harpsichord solo (3 min.)
1969    Fragments from the Cantos of Ezra Pound for Baritone And 9 Instruments    
1971    Brass Quintet    
1973    Trios of Consanguinity    Can be performed in various combinations of instruments: violin or flute, viola or clarinet, cello or bassoon (12 min.)
1974    Pastimes and an Alleluia    Orchestra
1974    Fantasy for Trumpet and Piano    Trumpet and piano (11 min.)  
1976    Movements for Trumpet & Various  Instruments I    Trumpet and vibraphone (4 min.)
1976    Movements for Trumpet & Various Instruments II    Trumpet and viola (4 min.)
1976    Movements for Trumpet & Various Instruments III    Trumpet and violin  (4 min.)
1976    Movements for Trumpet & Various Instruments IV    Trumpet, timpani and xylophone (7 min.)
1978    Movements for Trumpet & Various Instruments V    Trumpet, violin and cello (8 min.)
1978    Movements for Trumpet & Various Instruments VI    Trumpet solo, tom-toms, temple blocks, xylophone and crotales (15 min.)
1978    Movements for Trumpet & Various Instruments VII    Trumpet and cello
1980    For Aaron    Piano – dedicated to Aaron Copland (2 min.)
1980    Threads of Sound Recalled    Piano solo (20 min.)
1981    Concert Duo for Viola and Guitar    
1981    Divertimento for Guitar    
1982    Music for Guitar and Percussion    
1982    Concerto for Harp & Orchestra    Chamber orchestra with trumpet and harp (22 min.)
1983    Stars, Hill, Valley, Song    Piano and voice (6 min.)
1984    Duet for Piano and Percussion    Piano, marimba and vibraphone (6 min.)
1984    Movements for Trumpet & Various Instruments VIII    Trumpet, vibraphone and marimba (9 min.)
1984    Pond in a Bowl    Piano, vibraphone, marimba, bongos and voice – lyric after Han Yu (17 min.)
1985    Four Pieces for Violin and Percussion    Violin, xylophone, marimba, temple blocks and bongos (19 min.)  
1986    Album for Guitar    
1986    Bagatelle for Piano I     Piano solo (7 min.)
1988    Bagatelle for Piano II    Piano solo (7 min.)
1988    Drift, Follow, Persist    Solo horn, piano, percussion
1989    An Assembled Sequence for a Solo Percussionist    Glockenspiel, vibraphone, gongs, tam-tams, castanets, claves and guiro (30 min.)
1989    An Assembled Sequence VIII: Making A Collection     Vibraphone and marimba (10 min.)
1989    Bagatelle for Piano III    Piano solo  (7 min.)
1989    Ten Pieces for Piano Four Hands (Games and Pastimes)    Piano four-hands (16 min.)
1991    Bagatelle for Piano IV    Piano solo (10 min.)
1992    The Seasons    Piano, percussion and voice – lyric after T’ang Dynasty poems (25 min.)
1993    Quintet    Piano, flute, clarinet, violin, and cello (19 min.)
1994    Gather and Disperse    Chamber orchestra with piano, flute, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, violin and percussion (19 min.)
1995    Four Songs, on Poems by Claire Nicolas White    Piano and voice (19 min.)
1996    Three Indian Tales    Percussion and voice – lyric by Claire Nicolas White, adapted from American Indian Tales (18 min.)
1997    Five Inventions, Horn and Percussion    
1998    Bagatelle for Piano V    Piano solo  (7 min.)
2000    Music for Solo Harp and Chamber Ensemble    Chamber ensemble with piano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, harp and percussion (20 min.)
2002    Pavane for Two Marimbas    Marimbas – first performed posthumously in October 2003 (2 min.)