Robert Palmer

Robert M. Palmer, the Given Foundation Professor Emeritus of Composition in the Department of Music, died July 3 in Ithaca after a long illness. He was 95.

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915, Palmer studied piano, violin and theory before entering the Eastman School of Music, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in composition. After studying with Roy Harris in 1939 and with Aaron Copland at the opening session of Tanglewood in the summer of 1940, Palmer taught composition, theory and piano at the University of Kansas before joining the Cornell faculty in 1943, replacing Harris.

Palmer founded the Doctor of Musical Arts program in composition at Cornell and guided it to national prominence. He retired in 1980.

A prolific composer, Palmer was influenced by another teacher, Quincy Porter, and by Béla Bartók. He composed more than 90 works, from piano and violin sonatas to chamber music and fully orchestrated symphonies. His many choral works include "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight" (1948) and "Portents of Aquarius" (1975). He continued to compose music for several years after his retirement. His body of work resides at Cornell in the Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance and in the University Archives in Olin Library.


Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1952 Quintet for A-Clarinet, String Trio and Piano 3.50 out of 5 stars  LP
Boston Symphony Orchestra cond. Michael Tilson Thomas Comments:
Arthur Bloom - Clarinet
Kees Kooper, Paul Doktor - Violin
Warren Lash - Cello
Mary Louise Boehm - Piano