Presented by

JMWC HomeThe Jewish Music WebCenter

on behalf of

The American Society for Jewish Music

for the Conference
"The Art of Synagogue Music"
November 12-14, 2006
New York City


Biography of Yehudi Wyner

Composer Contact:

Yehudi Wyner Yehudi Wyner is an American composer, pianist, conductor and music educator. Yehudi Wyner is the 2006 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Piano Concerto: "Chiavi in Mano'. He was born in Calgary, Canada June 1, 1929, to a musical family, the son of Lazar Weiner and Sarah N. Shumiatcher Weiner. Although Wyner was born in Calgary in 1929, he was raised in New York City. His father, Lazar Weiner, was the preeminent composer of Yiddish art songs and a choral conductor.

Wyner attended Julliard and received a diploma in 1946. From there he went to Yale University, studied with Donovan and Hindemith, graduating AB (1950), B.Mus (1951), then with Piston at Harvard MA (1952), and then back to Yale with a M. Mus (1953). He attended the American Academy in Rome (1953-56) and later established himself as a pianist and conductor in New York.

In 1953, he won the Rome Prize in Composition. In 1958-59 and then again 1977-78 he had Guggenheim fellowships. He started teaching as a visiting associate professor at Hofstra (1959); and lecturer Queens College (1959-60); instructor Hebrew Union College (1957-59) and music director of Westchester Reform Temple (1959-68). He taught at music theory at Yale from 1963-77, and served as head of the composition faculty there(1969-1973). At SUNY Purchase (1978-89), he was also Dean of the Music Division. In 1986, he was visiting professor at Cornell. He joined Brandeis in 1989, where he was the Walter W. Naumburg Professor of Composition, since 1991. He has been a frequent visiting professor at Harvard (1991-93; 1996-98; 2003-04); at Duke (1995). In addition, he has been on the chamber music faculty at Tanglewood Music Center from 1975-1997. In 1998, Wyner received the Elise Stoeger Award from the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society for his lifetime contribution to chamber music. He was also a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio. In 1999, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Since 1968, Wyner has been a keyboard artist for Bach Aria Group.

Wyner himself has written in a variety of genres, including compositions for orcheestra, chamber ensembles, solo voice, and solo instructs, as well as theatrical music and settings of the Jewish liturgy for worship. Among his best-known works are the Friday Evening Service (1963) for cantor and chorus, and On This Most Voluptuous Night (1982) for soprano and chamber ensemble.

Yehudi's works include compositions for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo voice and instruments, music for the theater, and liturgical services for worship. Many works were created for his wife, Susan Davenny Wyner, including Intermedio, a lyric ballet for soprano and string orchestra and Fragments from Antiquity for soprano and orchestra. Some recent works include Prologue and Narrative for Cello and Orchestra (1994), commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic; Lyric Harmony for orchestra (1995), commissioned by Carnegie Hall; Epilogue for Orchestra (1996), commissioned by Yale School of Music. Recent works also include String Quartet; Toward the Center; Sweet Consort, Trapunto Junction; Horntrio (a finalist for Pulitzer in 1998); Madrigal (1999) and Oboe Quartet (1999).

His music, according to Baker's Biographical Dictionary, attempts "to synthesize and reconcile disparate elements of past and present, and of high and low art. Classical, chromatic, and serial elements coexist.In some of his output, melodic, rhythmic, and gestural infletions from his Jewish heritage are absorbed into the musical texture. The result is an eclectic but personal style, poetic and lyrical in its essence."

The Boston Globe, in an 2006 article, stated: "Yehudi Wyner taught for most of his career and recently retired from his professorship at Brandeis University. He and his wife, soprano and conductor Susan Davenny Wyner, moved to Boston 20 years ago. Wyner was never an academic composer and never merely an academic. He has earned considerable acclaim as a pianist and conductor; for nearly 40 years he has been the keyboardist for the Bach Aria Group, a prominent touring and teaching ensemble that specializes in music from Bach's cantatas. And he has produced a large catalog of music in many genres; his ''horntrio" was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998."

Several of his compositions were recently released on the Milken Jewish Music Archive Collection on the Naxos Label, which won a Grammy Award, including The Mirror, ; Passover Offering ; Tants un Maysele. "The music of Yehudi Wyner" was released on BRIDGE 9134 and Cello Concerto, Prologue and Narrative on TROY516 Albany Records. He's released works on CRI ( CD 701 CRI), New World Records (8059-2), Columbia and Pro Arte, and Naxos labels as well.

For more information about Yehudi Wyner:

Biographical information about Yehudi Wyner is found in:
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. Sixth edition. Revised by Nicolas Slonimsky. London: Collier Macmillan Publishers,
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Classical Musicians. By Nicolas Slonimsky. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997.
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Classical Musicians. By Nicolas Slonimsky. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997.
Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines. Volume 9: September, 1970-August, 1973. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1974.
Britannica Book of Music. Edited by Benjamin Hadley. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1980.
Composium Directory of New Music. Annual index of contemporary compositions. 1982/83 edition. Sedro Woolley, WA: Crystal Musicworks, 1983.
Contemporary American Composers. A biographical dictionary. First edition. Compiled by E. Ruth Anderson. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1976.
Contemporary American Composers. A biographical dictionary. Second edition. Compiled by E. Ruth Anderson. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982.
Dictionary of Contemporary Music. Edited by John Vinton. New York: Dutton, 1974. This book ignores prefixes in filing surnames.
The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. Composers and their music. Two volumes. By William H. Rehrig. Westerville, OH: Integrity Press, 1991. [
International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory. Eighth edition. Cambridge, England: International Who's Who in Music, 1977. Earlier editions published as Who's Who in Music and Musicians' International Directory.
International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory. Ninth edition. Edited by Adrian Gaster. Cambridge, England: International Who's Who in Music, 1980. Earlier editions published as Who's Who in Music and Musicians' International Directory.
International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory. 12th edition, 1990-1991. Cambridge, England: International Who's Who in Music, 1990. Taylor and Francis International Publication Services, Bristol, Pa.
The New American Dictionary of Music. By Philip D. Morehead with Anne MacNeil. New York: Dutton, 1991.
The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Four volumes. Edited by H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan Press, 1986.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 20 volumes. Edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1980.
Who's Who in America - 1994- 2007, 48th- 61st Editions (pub. 1993- 2006)
Who's Who in America - 1992-1993, 47th Edition (pub. 1992)
Who's Who in America - 1990-1991, 46th Edition (pub. 1990)
Who's Who in America - 1989-1990, 45th Edition (pub. 1988)
Who's Who in America - 1987-1988, 44th Edition (pub. 1986)
Who's Who in Entertainment - 1998-1999, 3rd Edition (pub. 1997)
Who's Who in Entertainment - 1992-1993, 2nd Edition (pub. 1992)
Who's Who in Entertainment - 1989-1990, 1st Edition (pub. 1988)
Who's Who in the East - 2001- 2007, 28th- 34th Edition (pub. 2000- 2006)


"3 Choir Festival Offers New Works,'Cherubic Hymn' and 'Melville Cycle' Are Sung at Concert Held at Temple Emanu-El," The New York Times. May 2, 1953. p12.

"12 Win Fellowships for a Year in Rome," The New York Times. Mar 9, 1953. p26.

Burge, D. "Three recent pieces," Keyboard, The World's Leading Music Technology Magazine. Oct 1981, Vol. 7, p64.

"Chronicle," 20th Century Music. Feb 1998, Vol. 5, p39.

Davis, Peter G. "Piano-Song Evening by Three in Family," The New York Times. Nov 29, 1973. p56.

______. "Music: Weiner And Wyner in Jewish Themes," The New York Times. Feb 19, 1980. pC9.

Ericson, Raymond. "Jewish Music is Inspiration for a Concert," The New York Times. Dec. 19, 1976. p61.

Gussow, Mel. "Issac Bashevis Singer's 'Mirror' Staged at Yale," The New York Times. Feb 7, 1973. p31.

"Here & There," American Record Guide. Sep/Oct2006, Vol. 69 Issue 5, p38-38.

Henahan, Donal. "Concert: A Fresh Breeze at Tanglewood," The New York Times. Aug 20, 1976. p46.

_____. "Music: Wyner Premiere," The New York Times. Dec 6, 1978. pC20.

Hershenson, Roberta. "Couple Offer Temple Service," The New York Times. April 17, 1994. pWC4.

Holland, Bernard. "Music: Woodwind Quintet in New Wyner Work," The New York Times. Feb 5, 1984. p46.

Hughes, Allen. "Concert: 8 American Composers," The New York Times. Feb 12, 1977. p13.

Kloss, Marilyn Bone. "Concurrent Premiere introduces a new trio," The Horn Call: Journal of the International Horn Society. May 1998, Vol. 28, p23-30.

_____. "Wyner 'Horntrio' update," The Horn Call: Journal of the International Horn Society. Nov 1998, Vol. 29, p15.

Kerner, L. "Music: Reflections in five movements," The Village Voice. Aug 26, 1981, Vol. 26, p94.

Kozinn, Allan. "New horn trio receives premieres in eight places," The New York Times. 12/09/97, Vol. 147 Issue 51001, pE7.

Moore, David W. "Guide to Records: WYNER," American Record Guide. Jan/Feb2001, Vol. 64 Issue 1, p220.

"Music by Wyner and Serebrier Played On Program of Composers Forum Here," The New York Times. Jan 20, 1958. p18.

"New Sabbath Liturgy Heard In Park Avenue Synagogue," The New York Times. May 4, 1963. p13.

"Pianist Marries Susan Davenny, Cornell Alumna," The New York Times. Jun 16, 1967. pFS48.

Porter, Andrew. "Narcissus and Deborah," New Yorker. 4/25/88, Vol. 64 Issue 10, p107-108.

Ross, Alex. "The Many Complexities Underneath the Notes," The New York Times. May 2, 1995. pC14.

Scanlan, Roger. "Spotlight on contemporary American composers: David Ahlstrom and Yehudi Wyner," NATS [National Association of Teachers of Singing] Bulletin. Vol. XXXI/1 (October 1974) p46-48, 51.

"Strings and things," Chamber Music: A Publication of Chamber Music America. 1988, Vol. 5 Issue n2, p43.

Swift, Richard. "Three short fantasies for piano," Notes. XXXI/2 (December 1974) p400-01.

Trimble, Lester. "Records," Nation. 5/27/1961, Vol. 192 Issue 21, p466-466.

Tsioulcas, Anastasia. "Wyner Concerto Wins Pulitzer," Billboard. 5/13/2006, Vol. 118 Issue 19, p44-44.

More Newspaper articles

(C.H.)"Weiner Leads Own Music, Capacity Audience at Town Hall Applauds His Program," The New York Times. Nov 2, 1947. p72.

(E.S.) "Jewish Music Heard in a Concert at 'Y'," The New York Times. Feb 29, 1960. p31.


Alexander, S. Elizabeth. Integration of diverse elements in Yehudi Wyner's 'On This Most Voluptuous Night.' diss. DMA, Music. Cornell University, 1990.

Anderson, Kenneth Winston. A pedagogical analysis of selected twentieth-century sacred songs accessible to the bass singer, by Leo Sowerby, Edmund Rubbra, William Wordsworth, Theron Kirk, Daniel Pinkham, Yehudi Wyner, and David Childs. diss. DMA, Voice pedagogy. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1992.

(Go Back to "American Judaism's Lost Legacy" Ten Composers Page)


The American Society for Jewish Music

The Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York, New York

ASJM phone: (212) 294-8328
ASJM FAX: (212) 294-6161

For more information about the Society, see ASJM website: or ASJM INFO

Return to Table of Contents


November 5, 2006

All content © 2006 The Jewish Music WebCenter