Today’s date marks the birthday of a significant American composer with an intriguing name, sounding at once both French and Slavic. Henri Lazarof was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, on April 12, 1932, and began his musical studies at the age of 6. He graduated from the Sofia Academy at the age of 16, studied composition in Rome with the Italian modernist Goffredo Petrassi, came to the United States in 1957 for further study, and eventually settled in California, securing a teaching position at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he taught not only composition, but French language and literature as well.
Lazarof organized L.A.’s first festival of contemporary music in 1963 and has continued enthusiastically promoting new music. In a Festival brochure, Lazarof once wrote that his music series was “dedicated to the presentation of the entire broad range of this historically evolving art without adopting a single ideology but the one of continuity—accepting tradition and altering it in terms of contemporary experimentation, which in turn is to become the legacy for the next generation to alter."
The American conductor Gerard Schwarz has championed Lazarof’s music on both coasts, making recordings with both the Seattle Symphony and New York Chamber Orchestra.