Journals Higher Education
Important OUP's Response to COVID-19 Learn more

Libby Larsen

‘She's the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively.’
USA Today

‘Libby Larsen has come up with a way to make contemporary opera both musically current and accessible to the average audience.’
The Wall Street Journal

‘The music remains unremittingly tonal, in a liberated sort of way, and Larsen's harmonic and instrumental inventiveness reinforces that exceptional lyricism.’
Musical America

Libby Larsen (b. 24 December 1950, Wilmington, Delaware) is one of America’s most prolific and most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 200 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral and choral scores. Her music has been praised for its dynamic, deeply inspired, and vigorous contemporary American spirit. Constantly sought after for commissions and premières by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, Libby Larsen has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.

In April 2003, the Library of Congress announced Libby Larsen’s appointment as the first holder of the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education and Technology in the John W. Kluge Center. She has received numerous awards and accolades, including a 1994 Grammy as producer of the CD: The Art of Arlene Augér, an acclaimed recording that features Larsen’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. The first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra, she has held residencies with the California Institute of the Arts, the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, the Philadelphia School of the Arts, the Cincinnati Conservatory, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony. Larsen’s many commissions and recordings are a testament to her fruitful collaborations with a long list of world-renowned artists, including The King’s Singers, Benita Valente, and Frederica von Stade, among others. Her works are widely recorded on such labels as Angel/EMI, Nonesuch, Decca, and Koch International. Among recent releases on Koch International are Love After 1950, performed by mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer (for whom the song cycle was written) with Craig Rutenberg, piano; and an album of her orchestral works, including the world première recording of Solo Symphony, performed by the Colorado Symphony under the direction of Marin Alsop.

Libby Larsen is a vigorous, articulate champion of the music and musicians of our time. In 1973, she co-founded (with Stephen Paulus) the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composers Forum, which has been an invaluable advocate for composers in a difficult, transitional time for American arts. Larsen’s commitment to the wider issue of music in society has led her to activity on a national level: she has served on the boards of the American Symphony Orchestra League, Meet the Composer, and on the Music Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also been Vice-President of the American Music Center and a director of the College Music Society.

Recognized as a leader in the generation of millenium thinkers, Libby Larsen's music and ideas have refreshed the concert music tradition and the composer’s role in it.

More information on Libby Larsen can be found at