Kurt Rohde



The music of composer and violist Kurt Rohde has been described as being “filled with exhilaration and dread. It’s a mirror of our times, It’s dark music, lit up by peckings, clackings, snaps and slides. It sounds eerie, but lyrical; sustained, but skittish; free-form, yet dancing.” (San Jose Mercury News, Richard Scheinin.)

Violist and composer Kurt Rohde is a recipient of the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies Fellowship, the Lydian String Quartet Commission Prize, and an Arts and Letters Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has received commission awards from New Music USA – Commissioning Music/USA, the NEA, and the Barlow, Fromm, Hanson, and Koussevitzky Foundations. Mr. Rohde has created new works for the Lyris Quartet, ZOFO Duet, the Lydian String Quartet, eighth blackbird, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Scharoun Ensemble, pianist Genevieve Lee, and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. A revised version of his opera, Death With Interruptions, based on the novel by José Saramago, was premiered in November 2017 by soprano Nikki Einfeld, tenor Joe Dan Harper, baritone Daniel Cilli, the San Francisco-based chorus Volti, conductor Matilda Hofman and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, alongside a new monodrama, Never was a knight…, based on Cervantes’s Don Quixote for tenor Joe Dan Harper. He recently completed song cycle for the Brooklyn Art Song Society using poems by Diane Seuss called It wasn’t a dream…. Kurt is a curator at the Center for New Music and serves as Artistic Advisor for the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble.

Beginning in 2017, Kurt embarked on a multi-year commissioning project to create and perform new works for solo viola/viola & electronics/viola & piano by over 30 underrecognized and underappreciated composers as part of his new music initiative, which is based in part on Cher’s decades long series of Farewell Tours, called Kurt’s Farewell Tour – Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6. In 2016, he also started the Kurt Rohde Emerging Composer Fund with Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in an effort to create an opportunity for young composers to create new work with a professional ensemble, with the hope of establishing enduring relationships between composers and performers.

Kurt is currently working on an additional opera projects with writer Dana Spiotta and artist David Humphrey. Mr. Rohde is also collaborating with artist/filmmaker Shelley Jordon on a new project following their highly successful and recently completed installation work [Lost] In The Woods. A CD of his chamber works, ONE – chamber music of Kurt Rohde, was released by Innova Recordings. His CD of large ensemble music, Oculus – music for strings with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, was released on the Mondovibe label.

Kurt has been in residence at Copland House, was guest composer in residence at the Bennington Chamber Music Conference in Vermont and the Cappadocia Music Festival in Turkey, and was the Keynote Speaker at the 2015 Festival of New American Music at Sacramento State University. Recently completed works include: a pick-pocket cello concerto commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition for cellist Michelle Kesler, a new work for the 2017 Pacific Rim Festival, a solo work for cellist Rhonda Rider, an ensemble piece for NY-based ensemble mise-en, and a new work for pianist Genevieve Lee for speaker, toy piano and harpsichord commissioned by the Fromm Foundation.

A Professor of Music Composition and Theory at the University of California at Davis Department of Music, where he was co-director of the Empyrean Ensemble until 2015, Kurt is a violist with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and was a member of The New Century Chamber Orchestra from 1994 to 2014. Mr. Rohde is a graduate of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the Curtis Institute of Music, and SUNY Stony Brook, and has attended the Willapa Bay, Montalvo, Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Programs. A native of the Hudson Valley, Kurt Rohde lives in San Francisco with his husband Timothy Allen and their poodle Hendrix.