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Virgil Thomson (1896–1989)

One of the driving forces, both as critic and musician, of 20th century American music, Thomson studied music at both Harvard University and elsewhere in the Boston area before moving to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger in 1921. After spending a short time in his native land, he returned to Paris and remained there until 1940, working with many... See full bio »

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Known For

Louisiana Story
Louisiana Story Composer
The River
The River Composer
The Goddess
The Goddess Composer


Hide Hide Show Show Composer (10 credits)
 2000 Un siècle d'écrivains (TV Series documentary) (1 episode)
 1964 Journey to America (Documentary)
 1959 Power Among Men (Documentary)
 1953-1959 Omnibus (TV Series) (2 episodes)
- Power Among Men (1959)
- King Lear (1953)
 1958 The Goddess
 1954 Max Liebman Spectaculars (TV Series) (1 episode)
- Sunday in Town (1954)
 1945 Tuesday in November (Documentary short)
 1938 The River (Documentary short)
 1936 The Plow That Broke the Plains (Documentary short)
Hide Hide Show Show Music department (4 credits)
 1983 The Day After (TV Movie) (music from 'The River' by)
 1976 Suddenly an Eagle (TV Movie documentary) (musical supervision)
 1953 Omnibus (TV Series) (conductor - 1 episode)
- King Lear (1953) ... (conductor)
 1937 The Spanish Earth (Documentary) (music arranger)
Hide Hide Show Show Soundtrack (1 credit)
 1948 Louisiana Story (writer: "Louisiana Story")
Hide Hide Show Show Self (5 credits)
 1987 American Masters (TV Series documentary)
- George Gershwin Remembered (1987) ... Himself
 1983 The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (TV Special documentary)
Himself - Honoree
 1970 Gertrude Stein: When This You See, Remember Me (Documentary)
Himself / composer
 1966 Poem Posters (Short)
 1965 Música de América y España (Documentary short)

Personal Details

Other Works:

(book) "Virgil Thomson" (1966) See more »

Publicity Listings:

1 Print Biography | See more »


Did You Know?

Personal Quote:

[on 'Porgy and Bess'] A libretto that should never have been accepted on a subject that should never have been chosen [by] a man who should never have attempted it.. Folklore subjects recounted by an outsider are only valid as long as the folk in question is unable to speak for itself, which is certainly not true of the American Negro in 1935.


Always ready to demolish popular classical music "idols," Thomson was famous for his withering criticisms of conductor Arturo Toscanini, pianist Vladimir Horowitz, violinist Jascha Heifetz, and composer George Gershwin, whose opera "Porgy and Bess" he termed "fake folklore." He earned the undying enmity of Toscanini for his reviews. See more »

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