Born in Berlin, Germany on July 3, 1907 as Romeo Maximilian Eugene Ludwig Gutschë, young Gene received little musical encouragement from his parents. At age 18 and with $500 in his pocket, he left his family and boarded a boat for America. There, working his way northward as a migrant farmer, he was finally able to train in music composition at the University of Minnesota (MA, 1950) and the University of Iowa (PhD, 1953). Best known for his orchestral repertoire, which includes six symphonies and numerous programmatic works, Gene Gutchë's catalog also includes four string quartets, five concerti, and numerous smaller works for chamber ensembles. His music, performed nationally and internationally, was commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Florida Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, among others. His awards include the Minnesota State Centennial Prize, the Oscar Espla International Composition Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. He died in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, in 2000.
Though writing in an atonal idiom, Gutchë's music was not typical of his time. Called "refreshing" (New York Times, 1964), "unusually attractive" (St. Paul Pioneer Press), and "highly individual" (Music Courier), Gutchë's vivid music is often imbued with lyricism, romance, and a healthy dose of humor.