When honoring him with its Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters noted that “A rare economy of means and a strain of religious mysticism distinguish the music of James Primosch… Through articulate, transparent textures, he creates a wide range of musical emotion.”
Primosch’s compositional voice encompasses a broad range of expressive types. His music can be intensely lyrical, as in the song cycle Holy the Firm (composed for Dawn Upshaw) or dazzlingly angular as in Secret Geometry for piano and electronic sound. His affection for jazz is reflected in works like the Piano Quintet, while his work as a church musician informs the many pieces in his catalog based on sacred songs or religious texts. Primosch’s instrumental, vocal, and electronic works have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe by such ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Collage, the New York New Music Ensemble, and the 21st Century Consort.
Among the honors he has received are a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three prizes from the American Academy-Institute of Arts and Letters, a Regional Artists Fellowship to the American Academy in Rome, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the Stoeger Prize of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and a fellowship to the Tanglewood Music Center where he studied with John Harbison. Recordings of 25 compositions by Primosch have appeared on the Albany, Azica, Bard, Bridge, CRI, Centaur, Innova, and New World labels.
Born in Cleveland OH in 1956, James Primosch studied at Cleveland State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. He counts Mario Davidovsky, George Crumb, and Richard Wernick among his principal teachers. Since 1988, he has served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania.