K U R T R O G E R
1895 - 1966
Kurt Roger was born in Austria on 3 May 1895 to Viennese parents and studied in Vienna with Guido Adler, and in class with Arnold Schoenberg - though not following Schoenberg’s 12-tone system. He taught at the Vienna Conservatoire from 1923 to 1938 and his works were receiving high-profile performances (including the premiere of his String Quintet No.1 by the Rosé String Quartet) until the Nazi Anschluss forced his emigration to the United States via London. He became an American citizen in 1945 and held teaching positions in New York and Washington DC, lecturing at several universities and giving radio talks, notably on Bruckner and Mahler.
His music has received many notable performances including those by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik, the Rochester Philharmonic under Erich Leinsdorf, the New York Chamber Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Northern Orchestra under Sir Charles Groves and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Jac van Steen.
From 1948 onwards Roger was invited back to Austria on lecture tours, whose venues included the Academy of Music in Vienna and the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 1964 he accepted a guest professorship at Queen’s University Belfast. As Roger’s wife was born in Ulster, this proved to be a happy coda to his life. In 1965 the Austrian government conferred on him the Order of Merit first class in the field of art and science. He died on 4 August 1966 on a visit to Vienna and was subsequently given a grave of honour there. In a memorial address in Vienna given by Doctor Wilhelm von Waldstein of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Roger’s work was praised for ‘its individual style, its bold but tonally-based harmonic system, its faintly Romantic quality, its strict adherence to conventional form and its unconventional tone quality in both vocal and instrumental scores.’
His scores are preserved at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna and by his family.