Lucas Foss Symphony of Chorales (Symphony No36:49

Lucas Foss Symphony of Chorales (Symphony No. 2)


Lukas Foss (1922-2009) was an American composer, conductor, and pianist. He began composing at age seven. Foss also studied composition at about eighteen years old with Paul Hindemith. He had a wide variety of compositions ranging from orchestral, concert band, and choral music. His Symphony No. 2 "Symphony of Chorales" (1955-1958) demonstrated some of his orchestral writing with a revisitation to Bach Chorales.

An outline of his Symphony of Chorales, pairing each movement with a Bach chorale, was as follows:

1. Toccata (Hilf, Gott, lass mir's gelingen. S. 343)

2. Andante sostenuto (Herr, ich habe misgehandelt. S. 330 & 331)

3. Contrapunctus (using notes B-A-C-H)

4. Allegretto tranquillo (Nun ruhen alle Wälder. S. 392)

5. Introduzione - Vivace - Allegro (Nun danket allee Gott. S. 386)


This symphony was very busy. Much of the time the texture was very thick with full instrumentation. The inspiration of Bach's chorales can very much be heard amidst the thickness of this symphony. This piece represented part of the neo-classical style of writing in which Foss composed during the early period of his compositions. Much of the time this piece does retain a tonal center. Much of this symphony reminded me of Hindemith's compositional style, but definitely a more modern approach to his style. 


I compared this work to Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis, since Foss studied with Hindemith. The most noticable difference lied within the harmonies of each piece. Foss used much more dissonance and moved out of pitch centers rather quickly. Hindemith usually dwells in a certain key area for a little while. I also felt that the melody in Symphonic Metamorphosis was more present than that of the Symphony of Chorales. The melody certainly reoccurs more frequently than in Foss's Symphony. 


I enjoyed researching this work, and I thought a symphony based on Bach chorales would prove interesting. I am a fan of most of Hindemith's works, and it was interesting to compare him to one of his students.


Chase, Gilbert and David Wright. "Foss, Lukas." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 2, 2014.

Foss, Lukas. "Lucas Foss: Symphony of Chorales (Symphony No. 2)" (video). Accessed May 2, 2014.

Hindemith, Paul. "Paul Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis" (video). Accessed May 2, 2014.

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