Fickénscher, Arthur

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Fickénscher, Arthur

Fickénscher, Arthur, American pianist, teacher, and composer; b. Aurora, 111., March 9, 1871; d. San Francisco, April 15, 1954. He studied at the Munich Cons, with Rheinberger and Thuille, graduating in 1898. He toured the U.S. as accompanist to famous singers, among them Bispham and Schumann-Heink. From 1920 to 1941 he was head of the music dept. of the Univ. of Va., Charlottesville. In 1947 he settled in San Francisco. An inquisitive musician, he elaborated a system of pure intonation; contrived the “Polytone,” an instrument designed to play music in which the octave is subdivided into 60 tones. He publ. an article, ’The Polytone and the Potentialities of a Purer Intonation,” Musical Quarterly (July 1941). His major work was the Evolutionary Quintet, evolved from a violin sonata and an orch. scherzo written in the 1890s; the MSS were burned in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906; the musical material was then used from memory for a Quintet for Piano and Strings, in 2 movements; the 2nd movement, entitled The 7th Realm, became an independent work. He also wrote Willowwave and Wellowway for Orch. (1925), The Day of Judgment for Orch. (1927; Grand Rapids, Feb. 10, 1934), Dies irae for Chamber Orch. (1927), Out of the Gay Nineties for Orch. (Richmond, Va., Dec. 4, 1934, composer conducting), Variations on a Theme in Medieval Style for Strings (1937), The Chamber Blue, mimodrama (1907–09; rev. 1935; Charlottesville, Va., April 5, 1938), The Land East of the Sun for chorus and orch. (unfinished), and piano quintet (1939).


W. Jones, Life and Works of A. F., American Composer (1871–1954) (Memphis, Tenn., 1992).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire