Hailed by Gramophone as “a master of myriad styles” and “a pianist of exceptional fluency,” American composer Henry Dehlinger is helping shape the landscape of contemporary classical music.
His vocal, chamber and symphonic works reveal a modern musical language that is evocative yet familiar. His compositions also make use of eclecticism while being rooted in the American symphonic vernacular.
Noted musicologist James Melo writes, “Dehlinger has been one of the most successful practitioners of polystylism, a distinctly 21st-century musical style that draws from multiple influences, genres, traditions, and techniques.” Audiophile Audition’s Steven Ritter calls Dehlinger’s work “stunningly superb” and “formidably essential listening!”
In his major choral works, Dehlinger renders themes from a diverse palette of musical styles to amplify the texts he is setting. These fragments are then woven into meaningful aural experiences that are at once epic and intimate.
“Dehlinger shapes music to illuminate the meaning of the text,” explains Gramophone's Donald Rosenberg, “The songs are diverse in atmosphere and harmonic language... and the writing is rich, often rapturous.”
Dehlinger’s stylish jazz arrangements, with their melodic lines and edgy vocal and piano writing throughout, are equally celebrated. Fanfare Magazine calls them “superbly judged, from the lyricism through to the stride.”
“Just as impressive,” adds Journal of Singing’s Gregory Berg, “is how Dehlinger weaves together those fragile pastel shades with the bold brassiness of stride piano. In lesser hands, the result would be musical chaos; Dehlinger makes it work perfectly.”
Born and raised in San Francisco, Dehlinger studied piano and sang in the San Francisco Boys Chorus during his formative years. His mentors were piano virtuoso Thomas LaRatta, choral conductor William "Doc" Ballard, and voice teacher Edith Doe Ballard. All three helped shape him as a performer and an artist. He earned a reputation as a prodigious talent, singing with the San Francisco Opera and performing with major orchestras under conductors such as Riccardo Chailly and Edo de Waart. He graduated from Santa Clara University where he studied piano with Hans Boepple.
For the 2021-22 season and beyond, Dehlinger is composing numerous works for film and concert stage, including a symphonic suite for a non-verbal feature film integrating images, animations, and cutting-edge visualizations from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a violin concerto, and several major choral works for some of the world’s leading orchestras, soloists, and choruses.
Early in 2021, Dehlinger’s Amore (2019) kicked off National Philharmonic’s spring livestream concert, Amore & Mozart, which was broadcast on WETA PBS television in Washington, DC. Opera News called it, “a loving and clever duet, and a true gem of a song.” Dehlinger composed it for the nuptials of two close friends in Florence, Italy. What better text could he set than a beautiful love sonnet in Italian from La vita nuova by revered Florentine poet Dante Alighieri?
In October 2021, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (2017), Dehlinger’s sweeping rhapsody for voice and orchestra, kicked off National Philharmonic’s 2021-22 season opening concert. Composed for the voice of Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes and inspired by the famous poem by T.S. Eliot, Prufrock uses the melodic and rhythmic contours of the text’s stream of consciousness narrative to dictate mood and melodic character.
Kohelet (2019), a cantata in five movements for mixed chorus, soloists, and orchestra, is Dehlinger’s magnum opus to date and premieres in spring 2022 with two performances in Washington, DC and Santa Clara, CA. Composed for the Washington Master Chorale, Santa Clara Chorale and Santa Clara University Concert Choir, it combines lush, modal melodies, energetic meters, and colorful harmonic textures with Hebrew text from Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.
Dehlinger drew his inspiration for Kohelet, in part, from Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, a work he performed in his youth as a soloist with the San Francisco Boys Chorus. Like Chichester, Kohelet is an ecumenical blend of Judaic antiphonal singing and Christian choral tradition that is alternately boisterous and reverent.
Dehlinger’s latest works include Return to the Moon (2021), a new anthem for brass ensemble, timpani and percussion composed for NASA to commemorate its historic 2022 Artemis missions to the moon; Requiem (2021), Dehlinger’s seven-movement setting of the Latin Mass for the dead, or Missa pro defunctis, for mixed chorus, soloists, and orchestra, which premieres October 2022; and Serenade & Scherzo, a chamber work for viola quintet.
Other notable compositions include Fantasia in Groove (2021), a concert suite of urban impressions of Los Angeles for cello and piano; Ring Out, Ye Bells (2021), a setting of African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar’s reverent Christmas hymn; I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (2021), a new choral setting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous Christmas poem; Hodie! (2020), Dehlinger's thrilling Christmas concert opener for mixed chorus; Preludes of T.S. Eliot (2020), a setting of Eliot’s four-part poem that further explores themes of isolation in modern urban life and which Dehlinger wrote in response to the coronavirus pandemic; Memorial Day (2020), a setting of Joyce Kilmer’s eponymous poem for TTBB chorus, trumpet in C, and snare drum and Dehlinger’s tribute to the fallen men and women of the U.S. armed forces; Cello Sonata in C Minor (2020); Three Choral Songs on James Joyce (2019); At That Hour When All Things Have Repose (2019); Bahnhofstrasse (2019); On the Beach at Fontana (2019); Simples (2019); Alone (2019); Flood (2019); Strings in the Earth and Air (2019); Night Piece (2019); Tutto è sciolto (2019); A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight (2019); Questa fiamma (2017); Requiescat (2017); Fragrance (2016); and The Mount (2015).
Dehlinger’s latest album, At That Hour: Art Songs by Henry Dehlinger, was released in October 2020 by Avie Records. This world premiere recording of his vocal solo works adds to the list of critically acclaimed collaborations with soprano Danielle Talamantes and her bass-baritone husband, Kerry Wilkerson. It is featured on Spotify’s High Notes playlist, representing “the best new releases in opera and vocal music.”
Dehlinger’s other recordings include Evocations of Spain (2011), a solo recital of piano works by Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados; Canciones españolas (2014), a critically acclaimed recital of Spanish songs by Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Turina and Dehlinger’s first musical collaboration with Danielle Talamantes; and Heaven and Earth: A Duke Ellington Songbook (2016), also with Talamantes, featuring Dehlinger’s arrangements of Ellington jazz standards, which Audiophile Audition called, “a knock-your-socks-off performance that leaves you hankering for much, much more.”
Dehlinger is a voting member of The Recording Academy and ASCAP. Dehlinger, his wife Lauren, and their Shetland Sheepdogs, Spy and Summer, divide their time between Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, and Northern California.
His official website is: www.HenryDehlinger.com.
What the Critics Say
“Dehlinger shapes music to illuminate the meaning of the text. The songs are diverse in atmosphere and harmonic language... and the writing is rich, often rapturous”
“Henry Dehlinger is premiering musical magic”
“Henry Dehlinger has been one of the most successful practitioners of polystylism, a distinctly 21st-century musical style that draws from multiple influences, genres, traditions, and techniques.”
“stands out from the crowd for Henry Dehlinger's exquisite piano playing... and vibrantly colorful palette”
“disarming music...a master of myriad styles”
“In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Dehlinger approaches the voice as another instrument capable ofthe most varied and nuanced delivery.”
“Just as impressive is how Dehlinger weaves together those fragile pastel shades with the bold brassiness of stride piano...Dehlinger makes it work perfectly.”
“Henry Dehlinger is a gifted and versatile musician... a pianist of exceptional fluency,”
“Formidably essential listening!”
“Beyond his flawless playing, Dehlinger reveals himself to be an exceptionally skilled arranger”
“Dehlinger's own arrangement expands the envelope of the original to a more intense experience”
“The skill and splendour of his music belies the relatively brief number of years he has committed pen to paper to create a considerable oeuvre of orchestral, chamber and choral music.”
“Dehlinger’s compositional voice is tonal and extremely effective. He demonstrates a genuine lyrical impulse along with the ability to compose music that amplifies the words he has chosen to set.”
“Dehlinger rises to the challenge . . . especially effective in the driving harmony underscoring the voice”
— Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, Fanfare Magazine
“a stunning performance capturing the brilliance of these Duke Ellington songs”
— Kim McCormick, Pan Pipes
“I am stunned. This is easily one of the best recordings of the year.”
— Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition
— Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition
“It’s a loving and clever duet, and a true gem of a song [Amore].”
— Arlo McKinnon, Opera News
“Henry's modern yet tonal compositional voice shines through as he renders a diverse palette of musical styles to amplify the words he sets to music.”
— Russell Trunk, Exclusive Magazine
“Empoweringly sung, emotively ornate”
— Russell Trunk, Exclusive Magazine