Obituary: Composer Gloria Coates Dies at 89

By David Salazar
(Image courtesy of Wise Music Classical)

Composer Gloria Coates passed away on August 19, 2023 at the age of 89. Per a press release issued by Edition Peters Group, Coates passed away in a hospital after being diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

Born in 1933 in Wausau, Wisconsin, she began composing from an early age before studying in Chicago, Louisiana, and eventually New York.

Since 1969, she primarily lived in Munich, Germany. Her first symphony was premiered by The Polish Chamber Orchestra and in 1986 that same symphony was a finalist for the Koussevitzky International Award. Coates experienced a breakthrough in 1980 when her first symphony became the first orchestra composition by a woman composer to be performed as part of Munich’s Musica Viva festival.

Since then, her music has been performed by such organizations as the Dresden Festival, Warsaw Autumn, Avanti (Finland), the Hans Werner Henze Festival in Montepulciano, Aspekte Salzburg, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, and Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, among many others.

Among her vocal compositions were “Dies Sanctificatus from Saint Joan,” “Missa Brevis,” “The Sighing Wind,” “Ophelia Lieder,” “Komplementär,” “Te Deum from Saint Joan,” “Der Schwan from Licht,” and “The Beatitudes.” She also wrote incidental music for “Hamlet” featuring choir, organ, and chamber orchestra, as well as “Stolen Identity,” a chamber opera for soprano, countertenor, bass-baritone, string quartet, piano, and percussion.

In sum, Coates composed 17 symphonies, 10 string quartets, chamber music, and solo and vocal music. She was signed with Edition Peters since 2021.