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Osvaldo Golijov
Born (1960-12-05)December 5, 1960
Mar del Plata, Argentina
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Composer

Osvaldo Noé Golijov (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈɡolixof]) (born December 5, 1960) is an Argentine composer of classical music.

Life and career[edit]

Golijov was born in and grew up in La Plata, Argentina, in a Jewish family that had emigrated to Argentina from Romania.[1] His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was a physician. He has acknowledged growing up listening to chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, as well as the new tango of Ástor Piazzolla. He studied piano at the local conservatory in La Plata and studied composition with Gerardo Gandini.

In 1983, Golijov moved to Israel, where he studied with Mark Kopytman at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy. Three years later, he moved to the United States. There he studied with composer George Crumb at the University of Pennsylvania before receiving his doctorate. In 1991, Golijov joined the faculty of the College of the Holy Cross at Worcester, Massachusetts, and was named Loyola Professor of Music in 2007.[2]

Golijov was one of the recipients of the 2003 MacArthur Fellowship and of the Vilcek Prize, among other awards and commissions. He has collaborated closely with conductors Robert Spano and Miguel Harth-Bedoya; soprano Dawn Upshaw; vocalists Luciana Souza and Biella de Costa; cellists Yo-Yo Ma, Alisa Weilerstein, Maya Beiser and Matt Haimovitz; clarinetists David Krakauer and Todd Palmer, the kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor and percussionist Jamey Haddad; ensembles including the Atlanta Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Kronos Quartet and Saint Lawrence String Quartet, the Silk Road Ensemble and eighth blackbird; young composers Michael Ward-Bergeman, Gonzalo Grau and Jeremy Flower; the artist Gronk, playwright David Henry Hwang, and directors Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Sellars. He has been composer-in-residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Merkin Hall in New York, the Spoleto Festival USA, the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Music Alive series, Marlboro Music School and Festival, Ravinia Festival, and several other festivals. In 2010, he composed a commissioned work for 35 American orchestras titled Sidereus, honoring the seventeenth century Italian astronomer Galileo.[3] and dedicated to an orchestra industry official, Henry Fogel. For the 2012-13 season, Golijov held the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall.

Golijov has been married twice. His first marriage produced three children.[4] He married architect and designer Neri Oxman in 2011.

Golijov's music[edit]

Golijov's works reflect his experiences with various types of music. His Romanian Jewish parents exposed him to the traditional Klezmer music and liturgical music of their faith. Growing up and going to public school in Argentina showed him the many musical styles of his family's adopted country, including the tango. Once Golijov traveled abroad to continue his studies, the influences of other people and other styles became part of him.

Golijov and composers Sofia Gubaidulina, Tan Dun, and Wolfgang Rihm were commissioned by the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart to write pieces for the Passion 2000 project in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach. Golijov's contribution was La Pasión según San Marcos (The Passion According to St. Mark).

He has also composed and arranged works for the Kronos Quartet and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. He frequently works with Venezuelan conductor María Guinand, who conducted the world premieres of Oceana (commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival, 1996) and La Pasión según San Marcos (Stuttgart's European Music Festival, 2000); classical and Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer; and American soprano Dawn Upshaw, who performed premieres of his new opera, Ainadamar (and Arias and Ensembles derived from it) at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (which commissioned the opera) in 2003, the Santa Fe Opera Festival in 2005, London's Barbican Arts Centre in 2006 and Opera Boston in 2007. Upshaw also performed the premiere of Golijov's song cycle Ayre in 2004 at New York's Zankel Hall. Azul, a work for cello and orchestra, was written for Yo-Yo Ma, who premiered the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2006. Golijov's first movie soundtrack experience was for Sally Potter's 2000 film The Man Who Cried. He has composed music for the films Youth Without Youth, Tetro and Twixt.

The composer has published a comprehensive list of his compositions with notes.[5] Some notable works include:

Ainadamar (2003, revised 2005): Golijov's first opera, Ainadamar ("Fountain of Tears"), received its premiere in Tanglewood in 2003, with a libretto by David Henry Hwang.[6] The revised, current version, premiered at the Santa Fe Opera in 2005. Ainadamar, subtitled "An Opera in Three Images", explores the life and death of playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, through the lens of his relationship with actress Margarita Xirgu and his play Maria Pineda. The opera has been produced worldwide, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Madrid, Granada, Darmstadt, Adelaide at Adelaide Festival, London, and Bogata, among others. 2013 saw the opera's Japanese premiere, as well as its third production in Spain. A 2006 recording for Deutsche Grammophon received Grammy awards for both Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

Ayre (2004): Ayre, a song cycle for soprano and ensemble, received its premiere in 2004 at New York's Zankel Hall, performed by Dawn Upshaw and The Andalucian Dogs. The work, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, was conceived as a companion piece to Luciano Berio's Folk Songs, which shared the program at the premiere. Just as Berio sought to honor the artistry and versatility of Cathy Berberian in his songs, Golijov and Carnegie agreed that Ayre should honor the artistry, love for folk music and versatility of Dawn Upshaw. Both works reimagine folk melodies and also "folk-like" pieces by other composers. Specifically, Ayre's texts and some melodies are based on Sephardic and Arabic folk songs, 12th-century liturgical poetry of Yehuda Halevi, a modern poem by Mahmoud Darwish, and two pieces by Gustavo Santaolalla.[7] As an additional homage to the Berio work, Golijov uses the same instruments as Folk Songs: flute, clarinet, harp, viola, cello, and percussion, to which he adds horn, double bass, accordion, guitar/ronroco, and laptop. Ayre was recorded and released on a 2005 Deutsche Grammophon CD, resulting in a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.[8] Additionally, the recording was included on numerous "Best of the Year" lists, including those of The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and San Jose Mercury News.

Azul (2006): Azul, for cello and orchestra, was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and written for cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who premiered the work at Tanglewood in 2006. In addition to the cello soloist, the orchestra is joined by a featured obligato group of hyperaccordion and ethnic percussion. As with many of his works, Golijov subsequently revised the work, leading up to its New York premiere in the opening concert of the Mostly Mozart Festival of 2007, with Alisa Weilerstein as the soloist.[9] Since then the work has been championed by both Weilerstein and Ma and various major orchestras. Azul was featured on the New York Philharmonic's 2013 season opening gala concert,[10] which was filmed and was televised nationally in the United States on December 31, 2013.

The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (1994): The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, written for klezmer clarinet and string quartet (and subsequently offered in a version for clarinet and string orchestra) is inspired by the writings and teachings of Rabbi Yitzhak Saggi Nehor — also known as Isaac the Blind — who lived in twelfth and thirteenth century Provence. The 33-minute work is presented in three movements, each stylistically inspired by one of the three main historical Jewish languages — Aramaic, Yiddish, and Hebrew — plus a prelude and postlude. The third, "Hebrew" movement is in fact an instrumental setting of a vocal work, K'vakarat (also 1994) that Golijov composed for cantor and string quartet using the text of a prayer from Yom Kippur. The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind has been recorded by the Kronos Quartet with David Krakauer (1997), and the St. Lawrence String Quartet with Todd Palmer (2002).[11]

La Pasión según San Marcos (2000): La Pasión según San Marcos, Golijov's interpretation of the Gospel According to St. Mark, was commissioned by the International Bach Academy and its director, Helmuth Rilling, as part of their observation of the 250th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach. The work received its premiere in Stuttgart on September 5, 2000, where it received a 25-minute standing ovation and was widely hailed by critics as establishing a new voice for classical music at the dawn of the 21st century.[12] Following Bach's tradition, Golijov adds interpolated texts that serve to frame and interpret the original words of St. Mark (sung in Spanish) describing the last days of Jesus's life. Specifically, he includes selected texts from the Hebrew Kaddish, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, Psalms 113-119, and the poetry of Rosalia de Castro.[13] Musically, he tells the story through a range of Latin musical idioms, including Cuban, Brazilian, and Flamenco. Since its premiere, the work has been presented in cities including Boston (2001 and 2014), Sydney at Sydney Opera House (for the 2002 Sydney Festival), Miami (2007), New York (2002, 2006, 2007 and 2013), Rome (2008), Milan (2008), Amsterdam (2008), and Los Angeles (2010). It has been recorded by Hänssler Classics (2001) and Deutsche Grammophon (2010).

Oceana (1996): Oceana, for Vocalist, Boy Soprano, Chorus, and Orchestra, was commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival for its 1996 concert series, Cantatas of the Americas. The commission, awarded to four composers, sought modern choral works in the spirit of Johann Sebastian Bach. The work uses as its text poems of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda; the solos were written for vocalist Luciana Souza, who performed the work at its premiere. According to Golijov, his aim was "the transmutation of passion into geometry" which he feels is a hallmark of both Bach's and Neruda's work. A recording of Oceana featuring Ms. Souza and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robert Spano was released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2007.

Yiddishbbuk (1992): Yiddishbbuk, for string quartet, was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation and the Tanglewood Music Festival, and premiered at Tanglewood by the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The work takes its inspiration from a quote from a letter by Franz Kafka: "No one sings as purely as those who are in the deepest hell. Theirs is the song which we confused with that of the angels." The work's movements bear the initials of those it commemorates. First movement: three children interned by the Nazis at the Terezin: Doris Weiserova, Frantisek Bass, and Tomas Kauders, whose poems and drawings appear in the book ...I never saw another butterfly.... Second movement: writer Isaac Bashevis Singer. Third movement: composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Yiddishbbuk has been recorded by the St. Lawrence String Quartet on a disc of the same title that was nominated for Classical Album of the Year at the Juno Awards of 2003 and Best Chamber Music Performance in the Grammy Awards of the same year.

Collaboration with Dawn Upshaw: Golijov has written many works for American soprano Dawn Upshaw, with whom he has had a long collaboration, and who has been widely described as his muse.[14][15] The following works were composed for, and premiered by, Upshaw:

Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra (2002): Orchestrations of these three songs were commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra for its 100th anniversary, and received their premiere with conductor Alan Gilbert. They were recorded by Upshaw, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano, conductor, and included on the disc "Oceana" released in 2007.
Three songs includes:
  • Night of the Flying Horses. Text by Sally Potter.
  • Lúa Descolorida. Song originally commissioned by Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, and written for Upshaw in 1998 on a text by Galician poet Rosalía de Castro. Also arranged in versions for soprano and piano and soprano and string quartet. Lúa Descolorida is frequently programmed on its own and as the 'Peter's Tears' Aria in La Pasión según San Marcos.
  • How Slow the Wind. Text by Emily Dickinson. Also arranged in version for and soprano and string quartet.
Ainadamar (2003-2005): The premieres of the original and revised versions of this opera were composed for, and featured, Upshaw. She recorded the work in 2006.
Ayre (2004): A song cycle for soprano and ensemble, commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered by Upshaw in New York and recorded by her in 2005.
She Was Here (2008): An orchestration of four songs by Franz Schubert, commissioned and premiered by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Douglas Boyd, conductor. The included songs are: Wandrers Nachtlied (Wayfarer's Night Song), Nur Wer Die Sehnsucht Kennt (Only He Who Knows What Longing Is), Dass Sie Hier Gewesen (That She Was Here), Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams). The work is dedicated to writer and director Anthony Minghella, with whom Golijov planned to collaborate on a commission of a new work for the Metropolotain Opera.[16]
Tetro (soundtrack) (2008): Upshaw appears in several sections of Golijov's score for Francis Ford Coppola's 2008 film, including the main title sequence and "El Glaciar".

Film scores: Golojov has written the scores for feature films as well as music for documentaries and shorter films. In particular, he has worked with Francis Ford Coppola on several of his films, as well as with filmmakers such as Alejandro González Iñárritu, Laura Poitras, and Sally Potter.

Films scored by Osvaldo Golijov:

  • The Man Who Cried (2000). Written and directed by Sally Potter.
  • 11'09"01 September 11 (2002). In collaboration with Gustavo Santaolalla, Golijov scored the segment of this film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
  • Youth Without Youth (2007). Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novella by Mircea Eliade. Directed by Mr. Coppola.
  • Tetro (2009). Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
  • The Oath (2010). Documentary directed by Laura Poitras.
  • Twixt (2011). Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Music by Osvaldo Golijov and Dan Deacon.

Deadline and plagiarism controversy[edit]

Golijov has been the nexus of several controversies around his work, including missed deadlines and accusations of plagiarism. He came under scrutiny in 2011 for a series of high-profile commissions that were either delayed or cancelled. A violin concerto written for the Los Angeles Philharmonic was not completed in time, Golijov missed a second deadline the following year in Berlin,[17] and a third delay followed in November 2012, and missed its January 2013 premiere at Disney Hall.[18]

This followed a similar cancellation in 2010, when a scheduled song cycle had to be removed from the program when it was not complete in time.[19] The March 2011 premiere of a new string quartet for the St. Lawrence Quartet was also delayed due to a missed deadline,[20] though the work, Qohelet, was completed later that year and premiered by the quartet in October 2011.

Questions of musical plagiarism were leveled at Golijov after Tom Manoff, a composer and critic, and Brian McWhorter, a trumpeter, alleged that Sidereus consists mainly of music from the Michael Ward-Bergeman composition Barbeich. Alex Ross of The New Yorker reviewed both scores and wrote, "To put it bluntly, 'Sidereus' is 'Barbeich' with additional material attached". Ross did add that Ward-Bergeman was aware of Golijov's borrowings.[21] A consortium of thirty-five orchestras had paid Golijov $75,000 to write a 20-minute work; a fee supplemented by a $50,000 grant approved by the then board of the League of American Orchestras.[22] The final work that Golijov produced and gave to the consortium of orchestras is a 9-minute work. Golijov also used that same musical material in his 2009 composition Radio. Golijov responded to these questions by explaining that he composed the original musical material jointly with Ward-Bergeman for a film score which in the end did not include the material, and that he used it by agreement with Ward-Bergeman. He also cited Claudio Monteverdi, Franz Schubert and Gustav Mahler as other composers who have shared existing musical material to create new music.[23]

Awards and Appointments[edit]


  • 2003, Yiddishbbuk, Best Chamber Music Performance (nominated)
  • 2006, Ayre, Best Classical Contemporary Composition (nominated)
  • 2007, Ainadamar, Best Opera Recording (won)
  • 2007, Ainadamar, Best Classical Contemporary Composition (won)



  • Tetro (soundtrack) (Deutsche Grammophon, 2009)
  • Youth Without Youth (soundtrack) (Deutsche Grammophon, 2007)
  • Oceana (Deutsche Grammophon, 2007)
  • Ainadamar (Deutsche Grammophon, Dawn Upshaw, Robert Spano, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)
  • Ayre (Deutsche Grammophon CD 00289 477 5414)
  • La Pasión según San Marcos The Passion according to St. Mark (Hänssler Classic 98404, 2001)
  • La Pasión según San Marcos The Passion according to St. Mark (two versions: live performance on DVD, Holland Festival, Amsterdam, 22 June 2008 and studio CD, Caracas, both performances are on Deutsche Grammophon B0014008-00)
  • Yiddishbbuk (EMI Classics 57356-2)
  • The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind performed by the Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch 79444)
  • Nuevo arrangements for the Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch 79649)
  • The Man Who Cried (soundtrack) (Sony Classical SK 61870)[25]
  • Caravan arrangements for the Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch 79490)
  • Voices of Light Golijov's composition Lúa Descolorida sung by soprano Dawn Upshaw (Nonesuch 79812)
  • Night Prayers Golijov's composition K'vakarat on recording of the Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch 79346)
  • World to Come Golijov's composition Mariel played by cellist Maya Beiser (Koch Int'l Classics B0000CABC4)
  • Goulash composition Oración Lucumí on recording by the cellist Matt Haimovitz (Oxingale)
  • Anthem Golijov's composition Omaramor on recording by cellist Matt Haimovitz (Oxingale 1238)
  • Klezmer Concertos and Encores composition Rocketekya on recording of klezmer music (Naxos B0000C508L)
  • Borromeo String Quartet Living Archive February 29, 2004 (CD/DVD/VHS) Golijov's compositions Yiddishbbuk and Tenebrae
  • Voices of Our Time – Dawn Upshaw (DVD) Golijov's composition Lúa Descolorida (TDK VTDU)


  1. ^ Terauds, John (2010-02-25). "Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov follows his intuition". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  2. ^ "Osvaldo Golijov Named Loyola Professor of Music at Holy Cross". Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  3. ^ Horsley, Paul. "HOMAGE TO HENRY: Orchestras, League commission top composer to honor visionary leader". Kansas City Independent. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Beggy, Carol; Shanahan, Mark (2006-10-27). "Newton composer bowls over Bowie". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  5. ^ Osvaldo Golijov. "Osvaldo Golijov: Works". osvaldogolijov.com. Retrieved 2015-10-16. 
  6. ^ Laura Barnett (2008-04-02). "'I love it when music brings people to blows'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-12-25. 
  7. ^ Kozinn, Allan (6 February 2006). "CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEW; Skipping Across the Globe and Through Time". The New York Times. p. 4. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "Holy Cross Music Professor Nominated for Grammy Award". Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  9. ^ Smith, Steve (31 July 2007). "Concerto Retinkered (for Youthful Soloist)". The New York Times. p. 3. 
  10. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (23 January 2013). "Philharmonic Steals a Page From the Art World With a New-Music Biennial". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Golijov's Yiddishbbuk". ClassicsToday.com. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  12. ^ "Osvaldo Golijov's 'St. Mark' Passion finally reaches Los Angeles". Los Angeles Times. 25 April 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  13. ^ Kozinn, Allan (20 August 2007). September 2013 "La Pasión según San Marcos; A Work Unbounded By Musical Categories" Check |url= value (help). The New York Times. p. 1. 
  14. ^ Daniel J Wakin (Spring 2013). "Joyful Noise". College of the Holy Cross Magazine. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Schweitzer, Vivien (17 April 2007). "Singers and Composers in a Stylistic Mix and Match". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Carr, David (19 March 2008). "Anthony Minghella, 54, Director, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "Osvaldo Golijov Violin Concerto delayed again". The Strad. 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2014-12-25. 
  18. ^ Ng, David (29 November 2012). "Osvaldo Golijov misses yet another deadline for violin concerto". Los Angeles Times. 
  19. ^ "Los Angeles Philharmonic hit by Wave of Cancellations by Artists". Los Angeles Times. 2011-03-14. Retrieved 2011-03-15. 
  20. ^ Kozinn, Allan (2011-03-09). "St. Lawrence String Quartet At Zankel Hall Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-15. 
  21. ^ Alex Ross (2012-02-21). "The Golijov Issue: Borrowed Music, or Stolen?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-12-25. 
  22. ^ Daniel J Wakin (2012-03-07). "Musical Borrowing Under Scrutiny". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-25. 
  23. ^ Weininger, David (2012-03-16). "Longwood gets its turn with ‘Sidereus’". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  24. ^ "New Music News Wire". NewMusicBox. Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  25. ^ Crebo, Anna (2002-11-01). "Osvaldo Golijov: A busy composer finds it all a little 'scary.'". American Record Guide. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 

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