Robert Fleisher

(photo: Darsha Primich)

Robert Fleisher attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City, graduated with honors from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and earned his M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in composition at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). The recipient of eight grants from the Illinois Arts Council, his work has also received support from the Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and through resident fellowships at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences, Millay Colony for the Arts, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Montalvo Arts Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo. Author of Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture (1997), Fleisher is also a contributing composer and essayist in Theresa Sauer's Notations 21 (2009). He has served on the music faculties of the University of Illinois (1978-1980), UCLA (1980-1982), and Northern Illinois University (1983-2014), where he is Professor Emeritus.

Fleisher's music is regularly performed in the U.S. and has been heard in more than a dozen other countries. His acoustic music has been described as "eloquent" (Ann Arbor News), "lovely and emotional" (Musicworks), "astoundingly attractive" (Perspectives of New Music), and "ingenious" (Strad); his electro-acoustic music as "rich, tactile" and "endearingly low-tech" (New York Times). Recordings appear on Albany, Capstone, Centaur, Navona, PnOVA, Sarton, and SEAMUS labels.

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"The highlight, however, is Gregory Beyer's performance of Robert Fleisher's Maniondala for solo MalletKAT. It is a combination of prerecorded performances from different Fleisher works and several battery sounds from the malletKAT. Much of what the soloist plays relates to the other new works on the album, either through motivic materials or the soundscape. This makes it an appropriate ending to an impressive percussion release." -- Kyle Cherwinski, Review of Long Roll, University of Illinois Percussion Ensemble (Albany Records), in Percussive Notes Vol. 56, No. 2 (May 2018): 66.

"Things improved after the interval, with Robert Fleisher's ingenious Ma mère for solo cello, using only the cello line from Jeux de vagues, the central section of Debussy's La mer." -- Bruce Hodges, The Strad (August 2015): 74-75.

"This is an exemplary recording. It is difficult to imagine anyone being ultimately disappointed with a disk featuring well nigh perfect performances of such intriguing repertoire. The remainder of the disk features works that are more accessible, yet still tremendously interesting and engaging. Robert Fleisher's set of five poems by Carl Sandburg are particularly apt in how they embody the spirit of the texts so convincingly, with an openness that never feels empty." -- Gregory Berg, Journal of Singing (March/April 2011), review of "Portraits" (CD)

"Loretto Alfresco is endearingly low-tech: its sounds are drawn entirely from recordings of a friend striking pots, pans and other items, which Mr. Fleisher sped up, slowed down, and overlaid to create a rich, tactile texture." -- Allan Kozinn, New York Times (June 18, 2010)

"Ma mère for solo cello by Robert Fleisher mixes material from the second movement cello parts of Debussy's orchestral work La mer as well as brief appearances of other works, creating snapshots of what is at once familiar and new. An incredible performance by Katri Ervamaa made this work shine." -- Jenni Brandon, Society of Composers, Inc. Newsletter XL/4 (July-Aug 2010)

Amongst all the fine performances, there were several that should not have been missed. Highlights included . . . Robert Fleisher's Ma mère for solo cello. -- Matthew C. Saunders, Society of Composers Inc. Newsletter, XXXIX/2 (March-April 2009)

"Five excerpts from Carl Sandburg's "Cornhuskers" formed the basis of Robert Fleisher's Prairie Songs, interpreted by soprano Emily Truckenbrod and pianist Amy I-Lin Cheng. From the subtly shifting "I was born on the prairie" to the angular and unsettling "I am here when the cities are gone" with its haunting refrain "I am dust of man," this excellent cycle concluded with Truckenbrod's transcendent delivery of "I speak of new cities and new people." -- Guy Vollen, Society of Composers, Inc. Newsletter XXXIV/3 (May-June 2004)

"Robert Fleisher provides Two Movements for Violoncello (1973), which were originally for bassoon but perfectly suit the singing quality of the cello." -- Sarah Freiberg, Strings Magazine (January 2000), review of "Soliloquy" (CD)

"Robert Fleisher's 10-minute, brooding Secrets from 1974 is the oldest and longest cut here; it makes use of eloquent silences, sprinkles and bursts from the full range of the keyboard." -- Bruce Martin, Ann Arbor News (November 27, 1999), review of "Syncopated Lady" (CD)

The lovely and emotional opening flute solo planted the seed for everything that followed. You could clearly hear the passage breaking into a beautiful chaos as the other instruments came in. Harmonics played a large part in this piece, and added to the overall feeling of suspense." -- Lia Pas,Musicworks-Toronto 70 (Spring 1998)

"tightly crafted and accessible." -- David Gobeil Taylor, Vue Weekly (November 6 - November 12, 1997)

"The program performed by the instrumental ensemble Tone Road Ramblers was one of the festival's finest." "Phyllotaxis by Robert Fleisher employed astoundingly attractive vertical sonorities." -- Lisa R. Dominick, Perspectives of New Music 21 (Fall-Winter 1982 and Spring-Summer 1983)


Six Little Piano Pieces (2018)

Beginning and Ending (2016) for flute

Five Pieces for Flutes and Percussion (2016)

Variations and Soliloquies (2013) for violin, cello, and piano

Altro Alfresco (1970/2010), fixed media

Gig Harbor (2010), solo piano

Loretto Alfresco piccolo (1970/2010), fixed media

Dans le piano (1970/2010), fixed media

Maniondala (2009), solo malletKAT

Loretto Alfresco (1970/2009), fixed media

Memoranda (2005), solo cello

Five Songs from Carl Sandburg's "Prairie" (2004), soprano voice and piano

Ma mere (2004), solo cello


Loretto Alfresco (1970)--fixed media
Loretto Alfresco is one of several brief musique concrète tape pieces created in my teens. Recorded under a tree on a small Wisconsin farm, it features my childhood friend Thomas Loretto playing an array of "found” percussion objects. Its premiere, four decades later, was during the inaugural NYCEMF (2009). More than a dozen U.S. performances include the American Composers Alliance festival (NYC), ÆPEX (Ann Arbor, MI), CMS national, Electronic Music Midwest, SEAMUS, SoundCrawl: Nashville, VU Symposium, and Earth Day Art Model (IUPUI). International performances include the Noise Floor Festival (U.K.), Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, Forum Wallis Ars Electronica (Switzerland), and BEAST FEaST (University of Birmingham, U.K.). Loretto Alfresco was previously included in the SEAMUS digital release “Electroacoustic Miniatures 2012: Re-Caged.” The slightly shorter (“piccolo”) version in several “60x60” mixes has also been heard extensively in the U.S. (including ICMC) as well as in Australia, Canada, Italy, Mexico, and Taiwan. I'll be re-releasing Loretto Alfresco on a CD of Music for Flutes and Percussion currently nearing the end of its editing process. It will be dedicated to Tom Loretto, who passed away in 2016.