One of the greatest composers of the 20th century whose intensely lyrical "Adagio for Strings" from 1936 became popular with successive generations. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice, first for the opera "Vanessa" from 1956-1957 and second in 1962 for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.
He composed his first work, a 23-measure solo piece, when he was seven. His 1947 soprano and orchestra piece "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" was beloved by performance groups around the world.
His compositions used odd timing and structure. He started one piece with violins striking on B-flat.
He was born into a socially and economically comfortable Irish-American family. His father was a physician and his mother was a pianist.
His compositions were largely commissioned or first performed by such famous artists as Vladimir Horowitz.