top of page


Richard Aldag is an American composer. He holds a Ph.D. in Music from the City University of New York, where he studied with Henry Weinberg, George Perle, Ralph Shapey, and Carlos Surinach. 

Aldag’s compositional style can be loosely described as Neo-Abstract Expressionism, combining lyricism with rhythmic energy in a post-tonal context that is complex, yet accessible at the same time. Influences include the music of Roger Sessions, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Ralph Shapey, as well as a variety of 1960s rock bands. He has received commissions from such diverse entities the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Queens Symphony’s “Sounds from the Left Bank,” Trio Versailles, Earplay, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, cellist Zuill Bailey, 

Richard Aldag and Zuill Bailey

Richard Aldag, left, with cellist Zuill Bailey, right

pianist Lara Downes, and Chamber Music San Francisco.  Aldag has served as Composer-in-Residence for the Sitka Summer Music Festival (2014) and the El Paso Pro Musica Chamber Music Festival (2015). Aldag was recently chosen as one of the 20 composers who will be contributing to Lara Downes' "Anniversaries for Lenny" project in commemoration of the Leonard Berstein Centennial (2018), which will be recorded for the Sono Luminus label.

In a review of a performance by Earplay, the San Francisco Chronicle stated: “The evening's most potent offering was the premiere of Sappho Fragments, a quartet of short settings for soprano and string trio by San Jose composer Richard Aldag. Aldag underscores the disconnected nature of his texts by writing seamless chordal textures for the strings, in all but one of the movementrsais, then punctuating them with brief, arrestingly rhetorical interjections by the singer. The effect is to leave the listener grasping at the tiny, elusive snippets of Sappho (all we have, tragically, of that unforgettable poetic voice). The string music, meanwhile -- now elegiac, now vivacious -- passes in wordless eloquence, as if hinting at all that has been lost.”
Aldag has served on the faculties of San Francisco State University and San José State University Schools of Music and Dance, Pacific Union College, the Center for Preparatory Studies in Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music of Queens College, Fordham University, and the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. He served as a special lecturer in music composition and contemporary American music at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1991 and 1992.


In addition to his work as composer and educator, Aldag has held administrative positions that include Executive Director of the Napa Valley Symphony (2006-2011); Executive Director of Lincoln Theater Napa Valley (2009-2011); Executive Director of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra (2002-2007), Executive Director of Los Lupeños de San José (1998-2000); and Director of the Silicon Valley Youth Conservatory at San José State University (1995-1998). Since Fall 2021, he has served as Executive Director of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

bottom of page