A native New Yorker, composer Karen LeFrak began playing the piano at age three, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mt. Holyoke College and a Master’s degree in Musicology from Hunter College. In recognition of outstanding achievement, Hunter College Alumni Association elected Ms. LeFrak to the Hunter College Hall of Fame in 2010. She has studied composition privately with Robert DeGaetano, Jonathan Anderson and Daniel Boico, and was recently featured in Good Housekeeping's 10 Amazing Women In The Arts Over 50.
Her works have been performed at prestigious venues in the United States, Europe, Russia and Asia. Past performances include Five Brass Pieces performed by the New York Philharmonic Principal Brass at Make Music New York and Five Pieces for Percussion performed by the New York University and Juilliard School Percussion Ensembles. Commissioned by New York Philharmonic cellist Eileen Moon, Ms. LeFrak’s We’ll Never Say Goodbye was performed by New York Philharmonic Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and New York Philharmonic Principal Horn Philip Myers at the Bethel Woods Chamber Music Series.
Her ballet score Cake was commissioned by the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, was choreographed by Brian Reeder and performed at the Joyce Theatre in New York, the Long Island Mozart Festival, the Guild Hall Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, and by the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra of New York. Also commissioned by the American Ballet Theatre, her ballet score Pavlovsk, the pas de deux, was first choreographed by Roger Van Fleteren for the Studio Company of ABT and performed at the Joyce Theatre. The ballet has toured in the United States and Europe. Ms. LeFrak’s ballet score Gentle Memories, choreographed by Jiří Bubeníček and performed with Ekaterina Konderova at the Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center, and at the new Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, Prague, and the San Francisco Ballet; Her ballet Tous Les Jours, choreographed by Marcelo Gomes for Chase Finley, was performed on the main stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, and at Moscow's Kremlin for the 250th anniversary of the Bolshoi Ballet School.
Her children’s ballet score, Bark! In the Park, choreographed by Chase Brock, was commissioned and performed by New York Theatre Ballet in New York, and at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on Long Island.
The orchestral score of Pavlovsk was premiered by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in April 2013. In September 2013, a number of orchestral, chamber and solo works from Ms. LeFrak’s catalog was recorded by the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic. The Duet for Horn and Cello, a commission by the Young America Grand Prix, was performed at Lincoln Center's Koch Theatre in April 2014. September 2014 saw the world premiere of her String Serenade at the inauguration of the new Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s Chamber Music Hall. Her 3/4 Suite, a collection of piano miniatures, was performed by Anne-Marie McDermott in 2014 at Bethel Woods. The Trio for Oboe, Horn and Piano was performed at the Warwick Music Series by New York Philharmonic Principal players Liang Wang and Philip Myers with pianist John Novacek, as well as at the Bethel Woods Chamber Music Series in October 2014, with pianist Joyce Yang. An orchestrated version of the Trio was also performed by Liang Wang and Philip Myers as a double concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in April 2013.
The world premiere of A Bite of the Apple, Salute to New York, with the New York Philharmonic and with a special video presentation produced by New York City and Company, took place in January, 2015, at Avery Fisher Hall of Lincoln Center, and was followed by Should I Stay or Should I Go for Flute and String Quartet, performed at the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society Concert Series with flutist Eugenia Zuckerman. Windy Sand, a ballet score for the Joffrey Ballet, was choreographed by Alexei Kremnev and performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago in March 2015. Windy Sand had its second and third performances, back to back, in April 2015 by the Youth American Grand Prix, at the Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center, New York followed by a performance at the Joffrey Gala in Chicago. The premiere of Hungarian Folk Song for clarinet, viola, and piano took place in June 2015 at the Chelsea Music Festival of New York to great acclaim, and was followed by the premiere of Cat's Cradle, choreographed by Gemma Bond, featuring the score The Assembly with the New York Theatre Ballet, for Danspace Project, New York.
A Bite of the Apple, Salute to New York, was performed on July 9, 2015, while on tour with the New York Philharmonic, to celebrate the beginning of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy - a partnership of the New York Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
The premiere of Gloriosa, a piano trio, with the Gloriosa Trio, took place on September 23, 2015, at the New Jersey City University and at the Harvard Club in New York. Several piano solo works including Ombres d'été were performed by Yoonie Han of the Gloriosa Trio at Symphony Space's new piano series on November 12, 2015, and the Prelude for 8 Celli was premiered by the Sejong Soloists at a benefit concert at Alice Tully Hall on November 21, 2015. Duettino for violin and piano was performed at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York on November 22, 2015. On January 10, 2016, Gloriosa received an encore performance by the Gloriosa Trio at the Ridotto in Huntington, NY, on a program of piano trios by Haydn and Beethoven. Gentle Memories received its San Francisco Ballet premiere to critical acclaim on January 21, 2016 at the San Francisco Ballet's Season Gala. The Cello and Horn duet, choreographed by Gemma Bond for her Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, NY, was performed on February 4-6, 2016, as well as at Youth America Grand Prix at the Koch Theatre in New York. Gloriosa was recorded with the Gloriosa Trio on Colorado Public Radio on March 31, and received repeat performances at the Boulder Chamber Orchestra's Chamber Music Series on April 1 and 2, 2016. Gloriosa Trio (Yoonie Han, piano,Eric Silberger, violin, and Kevin Bate, cello) continue to feature Gloriosa on their programs around the world, and have recently recorded the work on Centaur Records.
The second setting of the Ballet Pavlovsk, choreographed by Maxim Petrov, received its world premiere on April 7, 2016 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The full orchestral score was recorded by the Mariinsky Orchestra, with costumes designed by Tatiana Noginova. The ballet was included in a group of works by emerging choreographers as part of the week-long XVI International Ballet Festival MARIINSKY. The work's success earned a place among the Mariinsky's general repertory and was repeated many times.
Urban Tango for piano and violin, was premiered on April 18 at the Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival at Symphony Space in New York.
The world premiere of Schubertia took place on May 13 and 14, 2016, with 1B1 ensemble at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. An orchestrated version of Nothing Left was premiered at the Miami Symphony on May 15, 2016.
Since its premiere in April 2016, Pavlovsk was repeated at the Stars of White Nights Festival at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg on June 19, and at the First International Mariinsky Far East Festival on the Primorsky Stage in Vladivostok on August 8, 2016. Light, a commission by the Miami Symphony, was premiered on November 20, 2016, and included a video installation celebrating the art of Sandra Muss.
Recent performances include a White House performance of the New Yorker Trio and Acceptance at the International Women's Day Lunceon, Ivan's Song for symphony orchestra was premiered at Mount Holyoke College on January 21, 2017. Tous les Jours II was performed with the Youth America Grand Prix on April 13, at the Koch Theatre in New York, the ballet Space, choreographed by Antonia Franceschi for Ballet Barnard College on April 21 and 22, Opus 1 with the Miami Symphony at the Miami design center, Creative Arts for clarinet and piano at Concert Artists Guild Gala at Tribeca Rooftop on June 6, and the California premiere of A Bite of the Apple took place at Festival Napa Valley on July 16. The piano trio New Yorker was performed by the Gloriosa Trio at Friends of Music in Stamford on October 15, at the Harvard Club on October 18, New Jersey City University on October 19,and at the Parrish Art Museum on October 20. Tous Les Jours saw a repeat performance at Gala Crescendo Con La Musica in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 19. Two repeat performances of Nothing Left, arranged by conductor Eduardo Marturet, were performed by the Miami Symphony on January 26 and 27, 2018. The ballet Pavlovsk received repeat performances at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on January 31 and February 28, 2018, and Questa Via, arranged by Bill Ross, was premiered by the Miami Symphony and Eduardo Marturet on April 29, 2018. Ivan's Song with the Boston Chamber Symphony and conductor Avlana Eisenberg was premiered on May 14, 2018, and an encore performance of Questa Via, arranged by Bill Ross, was given at Festival Napa Valley on July 20.
The ballet score Cake was performed by the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra of Ithaca, New York, as part of the subscription "Orchestra Series" on March 16, 2019, and two versions of Nothing Left, choreographed by Juliano Nunes, were performed by Young America Grand Prix at Koch Theatre of Lincoln Center on April 18, 2019, and the narrated multimedia children's score Sleepover at the Museum, orchestrated by Bill Ross, received its world premiere by the Miami Symphony on February 24, 2019. Named after Ms. LeFrak's children's book, it was published by Random House in 2019. It is her fourth children's book. Karenlefrakbooks.com
The California premiere of Sleepover at the Museum took place at Festival Napa Valley on July 15,2019, and a repeat performance of Pavlovsk, choreographed by Maxim Petrov, was given at the Mariinsky in Saint Petersburg on December 11, 2019. The New York premiere of Sleepover at the Museum at New York Philharmonic's first-ever family benefit, was performed by the New York Philharmonic on March 7, 2020, honoring Ms. LeFrak's dedication and contribution to the Philharmonic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sleepover at the Museum performance was streamed online on New York Philharmonic's "NY Phil Plays On" digital content, and was made available to millions of children around the world.
Future performances include a recording of Karen's mini piano concerto later next season, as well as performances the Glorisa Trio in New York, at the Morgan Library, Le Poisson Rouge, Consulate General of France and Parrish Art Museum. Sleepover at the Museum is scheduled to receive more repeat performances at the Beijing Music Festival on October 3, 2020, as well as with the National Symphony Orchestra, as part of the NSO Family Concerts, on February 28, 2021. The piano, cello and violin concerti will receive their world premieres at Festival Napa Valley in the summer of 2021.
Ms. LeFrak has been recently appointed to serve on the board of the Kennedy Center, and her children's book "Sleepover at the Museum" has been named a 2020 ILA-CBC (International Literacy Association Children's Book Choice) title.