Wyschnegradsky, Ivan (Alexandrovich)

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Wyschnegradsky, Ivan (Alexandrovich)

Wyschnegradsky, Ivan (Alexandrovich) , Russian composer, master of microtonal music; b. St. Petersburg, May 16, 1893; d. Paris, Sept. 29, 1979. He studied composition with Nikolai Sokoloff at the St. Petersburg Cons., and in 1920 settled in Paris. He devoted virtually his entire musical career to the exploration and creative realization of music in quarter tones and other microtonal intervals. He had a quarter tone piano constructed for him, and also publ. a guide, Manuel d’harmonie à quarts de ton (Paris, 1932). On Nov. 10,1945, he presented in Paris a concert of his music, at which he conducted the first performance of his Cosmos for 4 Pianos, with each pair tuned at quarter tones. Bruce Mather took interest in Wyschnegradsky’s music and gave a concert of his works at McGill Univ. in Montreal that included 3 premieres (Feb. 10,1977). With the exception of these rare concerts, Wyschnegradsky remains a figure of legend; few performances of his music are ever given in Europe or North America. He regarded his La Journée de l’existence for Narrator, Orch., and Chorus ad libitum (to his own text; 1916-17; rev. 1927 and 1940) as his germinal work, opening the path to microtonal harmony; he dated this “awakening to ultrachromaticism” as having occurred on Nov. 7,1918. At his death, he left sketches for a short opera in 5 scenes, L’Éternel Étranger, begun in 1939 but never completed. Also unfinished was the ambitious Polyphonie spatiale.


(all in quarter tones unless otherwise given): La Journée de l’existence for Narrator, Orch., and Chorus ad libitum (1916-17; rev. 1927 and 1940); Chant douloureux et étude for Violin and Piano (1918); 7 Variations on the Note C for 2 Pianos (1918-20; perf. in 1945 as 5 Variations; then 2 more were added); Chant funebre for Strings and 2 Harps (1922); Chant nocturne for Violin and 2 Pianos (1923; rev. 1972); 2 string quartets (1924; 1931-32); 2 Choruses for Voices and 4 Pianos (1926); Prelude et fugue sur un chant de l’Evangile rouge for String Quartet (1927); Prélude et Danse for 2 Pianos (1928); Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra for Orch. (1929-30; arr. for 4 Pianos, 1936); 2 ¿fudes de concert for Piano (1931; arr. for 2 Pianos, 1936); Étude en forme de scherzo for 2 Pianos (1932); Prélude et Fugue for 2 Pianos (1933); 24 préludes for 2 Pianos (1934; rev. 1958-60); 4 Fragments symphoniques for 4 Pianos (1934, final version, 1968; 1937; 1946; 1956); Le Mot for Soprano and Piano (1935; half-tones); Linnite, pantomime for 3 Women’s Voices and 4 Pianos (1937); Acte chorégraphique for Bass-baritone, Chorus, and 4 Pianos (1938-0; rev. 1958-59); Cosmos for 4 Pianos (1940; suppressed); Prélude et Fugue for 3 Pianos (1945); 2 Fugues for 2 Pianos (1951); 5 variations sans thème et conclusion for Orch. (1951-52); Sonate en un mouvement for Viola and 2 Pianos (1956; suppressed); Transparences I and 71 for Ondes Martenot and 2 Pianos (1956, 1963); Arc-en-ciel for 6 Pianos (1956); Étude sur le carré magique sonore for Piano (1956; based on the “magic square” principle of cyclical structure, written in a tempered scale without quarter tones); Étude tricesimoprimal for Fokker-organ (1959; for the Dutch physicist Adriaan Fokker’s 31-tone organ); Composition for String Quartet (1960); 2 pièces for Microtonal Piano (1960); Étude sur les mouvements rotatoires for 4 Pianos (1961; orchestrated 1964); 2 Compositions: No. 1 for 3 Pianos and No. 2 for 2 Pianos (1962); Prélude et étude for Microtonal Piano (1966); Intégrations for 2 Pianos (1967); Symphonie en un mouvement for Orch. (1969); Dialogues à trois for 3 Pianos (1973-74; sixth tones).

Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn /Dennis McIntire

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Wyschnegradsky, Ivan (Alexandrovich)

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