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American composer, critic, and teacher of music (1896-1985)
Roger Huntington Sessions (December 28, 1896 – March 16, 1985) was an American composer, teacher and musicologist.
Sessions married Barbara Foster in June 1920. They divorced in September 1936. He married Sarah Elizabeth Franck in November 1936. They had two children, John Porter (1938-2014) and Elizabeth Phelps (born 1940). John Sessions became a professional cellist. Roger Sessions died at the age of 88 in Princeton, New Jersey.
His works written up to 1930 or so are more or less neoclassical in style. Those written between 1930 and 1940 are more or less tonal but harmonically complex. The works from 1946 onwards are atonal and, beginning with the Solo Violin Sonata of 1953, serial although not consistently employing Viennese twelve-tone technique. Only the first movement and the trio of the scherzo of the Violin Sonata, for example, employ a twelve-tone row strictly, the rest employing a scalar-constructed dissonant style. Sessions's usual method was to use a row to control the full chromaticism and motivic-intervallic cohesion that already marks his music from before 1953. He treated his rows with great freedom, however, typically using pairs of unordered complementary hexachords to provide "harmonic" aspects without determining note-by-note melodic succession, or conversely using the row to supply melodic thematic material while freely composing the subsidiary parts.
Some works received their first professional performance many years after completion. The Sixth Symphony (1966) was given its first complete performance on March 4, 1977 by the Juilliard Orchestra in New York City.
Andrea Olmstead papers, 1970-2013 Music Division, The New York Public Library. Olmstead's papers include correspondence with Sessions, transcripts of interviews with Sessions, and other records of Olmstead's Sessions research.