Robert Manno Home “...a composer of serious music of considerable depth and spiritual beauty”—Atlanta Audio Society
American composer Robert Manno’s music includes numerous chamber and orchestral works, as well as song cycles, pieces for chorus, solo piano pieces, art songs and arrangements. Composer Ned Rorem has described his music as “maximally personal and expressive” and Fanfare Magazine has said: “his instrumental compositions are shot through with powerful lyrical impulses. Manno’s music, in whatever guise, always sings....his poetry settings are also successful, displaying an expansive, well-rounded sense of architecture and shape, a welcome relief to those contemporary song-composers who allow the verse to meander as if at will.” Records International in reviewing a CD of his music has said: “Whatever the medium and whether setting words or not, it is apparent that there is a tendency toward the passionately elegiac in Manno’s work. All these pieces share a feeling for nature and a sense of the inevitability and beauty of farewells.”

Currently Manno is working on a full-length opera based upon the life of Dylan Thomas, excerpts of which were performed in May 2008 at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts by the New York City Opera Orchestra with soloists Emily Pulley and Timothy Mix and conductor Zachary Schwartzman.

Robert Manno was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1944. His parents introduced him to music through the study of violin, piano and voice. After graduation from Haverford High School, he attended Temple University, the Granoff School of Music, and the Combs College of Music, and performed intermittently in the Philadelphia area as a jazz pianist. He first studied composition with Romeo Cascarino in 1964, then moved to New York City in 1965 and began writing music in 1966. He studied jazz piano with John Mehegan and Steve Kuhn, and composition with Vladimir Padwa. During this period he was torn between becoming a lieder singer, a jazz pianist or a composer. He then decided to continue his composition studies at the 28th Annual Composers Conference in Johnson, Vermont with Donald Erb and Mario Davidovsky.

Manno holds an undergraduate degree in voice from the Manhattan School of Music and an M.A. in music composition from New York University. He was a full-time member of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus from 1977 to 2001, and was previously a member of the New York City Opera Chorus. He was also a baritone soloist appearing in recital, chamber music programs, and with companies such as the Westchester Symphony Orchestra and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. In 2002 Manno served as an assistant conductor on the Metropolitan Opera Music Staff.

As a composer, he has been awarded the Ernest Bloch Award for This is the Garden for a cappella chorus, First Prize at the Delius Festival for Birdsongs for soprano and violin, and many Meet the Composer Grants and ASCAP Awards. His music has been performed throughout the New York City area and in St. Paul and Los Angeles, as well as in Florida, Vermont, Texas, throughout New York State and in Wales, U.K. His music has also been broadcast over many public radio stations and on the Armed Forces Radio Network overseas.

As a conductor he has led performances of La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Quiet City, the String Serenades of Elgar, Suk, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, as well as Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, Mahler’s Symhony #4, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (chamber versions) and Adagietto, works of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Grieg, Johann Strauss, Debussy, Bartok, Shostakovich, Puccini, Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, Holst, Joplin, Britten, Barber, Gerald Finzi and Romeo Cascarino, the first performance of his own transcription for 17 Strings of Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, and many of his own compositions. Recordings of many of his live performances have been broadcast nationwide over NPR’s “Performance Today” program. Manno is music director of the Windham Festival Chamber Orchestra and Catskill Mountain Chamber Orchestra and also appears as a pianist, usually in performances of his own music.

He is the father of Nina Manno Endler of Boulder, Colorado, Thom Manno of New York City; and the grandfather of Anna and Leah Endler of Boulder. He and his wife, violinist Magdalena Golczewski, make their home in the Northern Catskill Mountain town of Windham, New York, where, in 1997, the couple founded the Windham Chamber Music Festival.

See also, “Robert Manno, the Reluctant Composer