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Blacher, Boris

Blacher, Boris (b Niu-chang, China, 1903; d Berlin, 1975). Ger. composer. Worked in the opera house in China, 1919. Moving to Berlin 1922, studied architecture and mathematics, and comp., after 1924, with Friedrich Koch. Taught at Dresden Cons. 1938–9. Prof. of comp. Berlin Hochschule, from 1945; dir. 1953–1970. Prolific composer in many forms, Blacher's mus. is basically tonal, though he has used the 12-note method, and he developed (in Ornamente, Op.37, for pf., 1950) a rhythmical process called ‘variable metres’ whereby systematic changes of metre are planned according to mathematical relationships. Employed jazz styles in early works and elec. devices in later ones (after 1962). Works incl.:OPERAS: Fürstin Tarakanowa (1940; also orch. suite); Romeo und Julia (1943); Die Flut (1946); Die Nachtschwalbe (1947); Preussisches Märchen (1949); Abstrakte Oper No.1 (1953); Rosamunde Floris (1960); Zwischenfälle bei einer Notlandung, ‘reportage’ for elec. instr. and singers (1965); 200,000 Taler (1969); Yvonne, Prinzessin von Bergund (1972); Das Geheimnis des entwendeten Briefes (1974).BALLETS: Harlekinade (1939); Das Zauberbuch von Erzerum (on themes of Flotow) (1941; rev. as Der erste Ball, 1950); Chiarina (1946); Lysistrata (1950; also orch. suite); Hamlet (1949; also orch. suite); Der Mohr von Venedig (based on Othello) (1955); Demeter (1963); Tristan (1965; also orch. suite).ORCH.: Kleine Marschmusik (1932); Kurmusik (1933); Divertimento, str. (1935); Divertimento, wind (1936); Geigenmusik, vn., orch. (1936); Concertante Musik (1937); sym. (1938); Hamlet, sym.-poem (1940); conc., str. (1940); Partita, str., perc. (1945); Variations on a Theme of Paganini (1947); pf. conc. No.1 (1947), No.2 (1952); vn. conc. (1948); conc. for cl., bn., hn., tpt., hp., str. (1950); 2 Inventions (1954); va. conc. (1954); Fantasy (1955); Homage to Mozart (1956); Music for Cleveland (1957); Variations on a Theme of Clementi, pf., orch. (1961); Konzertstück, wind quintet, str. (1963); vc. conc. (1964); Collage (1968); conc., tpt., str. (1970); cl. conc. (1971); Stars and Strings, jazz ens., str. (1972); Poème (1974); Pentagramm, str. (1974).CHORAL: Der Grossinquisitor, oratorio after Dostoyevsky (1942); Träume vom Tod und vom Leben, cantata, ten., ch., orch. (1955); Die Gesänge des Seeräubers O'Rourke und seiner Geliebten Sally Brown, sop., female cabaret singer, bar., speaker, speaking ch., orch. (1958); Requiem, sop., bar., ch., orch. (1958).VOICE(S) & INSTR(S).: Jazz-Koloraturen, sop., alto sax., bn. (1929); Francesca da Rimini, sop., vn. (1954); 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, sop. or ten., str. (1957); 3(6 + x) oder For Seven, sop., perc., db. (1973).CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qts., No.1 (1930), No.2 (1940), No.3 (1944), No.4 (Epitaph) (1951), No. 5 (Variationem über einem divergierenden c-moll-Dreiklang) (1967); vc. sonata (1940); vn. sonata (1941); solo vn. sonata (1951); 4 Studies, hpd. (1967); pf. trio (1970); quintet, fl., ob., str. trio (1973); Tchaikovsky-Variations, vc., pf. (1974).PIANO: 2 sonatinas (1940); 3 Pieces (1943); Ornamente (1950); sonata (1951); 24 Preludes (1974).ELEC.: Multiple Raumperspektiven, pf., elec. (1962); Glissierende Deviationen, tape (1962); Der Astronaut, tape (1963); Elektronisches Scherzo, tape (1965); Ariadne, duodrama, 2 speakers, elec. (1971).

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Blacher, Boris

Boris Blacher (blä´khər), 1903–75, Estonian-German composer, b. Yingkou, China. Blacher lived for six years in Siberia. He studied in Berlin and in 1953 became the director of the West Berlin Conservatory of Music. Blacher wrote concertos for various instruments, numerous operas, including 200,000 Taler (1969; after Sholem Aleichem), ballets, chamber music, and song cycles. He experimented with variable meters or rhythmic rows, as in Ornaments (1953) for orchestra, sometimes producing a jazzlike effect, and with abstract operas concerned with human situations but without plot.

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Blacher, Boris

Blacher, Boris

Blacher, Boris, remarkable German composer; b. Newchwang, China (of half-German, quarter-Russian, and quarter-Jewish ancestry), Jan. 19, 1903; d. Berlin, Jan. 30, 1975. His family moved to Irkutsk, Siberia, in 1914, remaining there until 1920. In 1922 Blacher went to Berlin, where he studied architecture and then took a course in composition with F.E. Koch. From 1948 until 1970 he was prof. at the Hochschule für Musik in West Berlin, and from 1953 to 1970 served as its director. A prolific composer, Blacher was equally adept in classical and experimental forms and procedures. He initiated a system of “Variable meters”, with time signatures following the arithmetical progression, alternatively increasing and decreasing, with permutations contributing to metrical variety. For the theater he developed a sui generis “abstract opera,” incorporating an element of organized improvisation. In 1960 he was appointed director of the Seminar of Electronic Composition at the Technological Univ. in Berlin, and subsequently made ample use of electronic resources in his own compositions.

Works

DRAMATIC: Opera: Habemeajaja (1929; not extant); Fürstin Tarakanowa (1940; Wuppertal, Feb. 5, 1941); Romeo und Julia (1943; Berlin Radio, 1947); Die Flut (1946; Berlin Radio, Dec. 20, 1946; stage premiere, Dresden, March 4, 1947); Die Nachtschwalbe, “dramatic nocturne” (Leipzig, Feb. 22, 1948; aroused considerable commotion because of its subject, dealing with prostitutes and pimps); Preussisches Märchen, ballet-opera (1949; Berlin, Sept. 23, 1952); Abstrakte Oper No. 1 (Frankfurt Radio, June 28, 1953; stage premiere, Mannheim, Oct. 17, 1953; rev. version, Berlin, Sept. 30, 1957); Rosamunde Floris (Berlin, Sept. 21, 1960); Zwischenfälle bei einer Notlandung, “reportage in 2 phases and 14 situations” for Singers, Instruments, and Electronic Devices (1965; Hamburg, Feb. 4, 1966); 200, 000 Taler (Berlin, Sept. 25, 1969); Yvonne, Prinzessin von Burgund (1972; Wuppertal, Sept. 15, 1973); Das Geheimnis des entwendeten Briefes (1974; Berlin, Feb. 14, 1975). Ballet: Fest im Suden (Kassel, Feb. 4, 1935); Harlekinade (1939; Krefeld, Feb. 14, 1940); Das Zauberbuch von Erzerum (1941; Stuttgart, Oct. 17, 1942; rev. version as Der erste Ball, Berlin, June 11, 1950); Chiarina (1946; Berlin, Jan. 22, 1950); Hamlet (1949; Munich, Nov. 19, 1950); Lysistrata (1950; Berlin, Sept. 30, 1951); Der Mohr von Venedig (Vienna, Nov. 29, 1955); Demeter (1963; Schwetzingen, June 4, 1964); Tristan (Berlin, Oct. 10, 1965). incidental music:Romeo and Juliet (1951); Lulu (1952); Georges Dandin (1955); War and Peace (1955); Robespierre (1963); Henry IV (1970). ORCH.: Concerto for 2 Trumpets and 2 String Orchs. (1931); Kleine Marchmusik (Berlin, Nov. 22, 1932); Capriccio (1933; Hamburg, May 14, 1935); Piano Concerto (Stuttgart, Nov. 13, 1935); Divertimento for Wind Instruments (1936; Berlin, Feb. 24, 1937); Geigenmusik for Violin and Orch. (1936); Concertante Musik (Berlin, Dec. 6, 1937); Sym. (1938; Berlin, Feb. 5, 1939); Concerto da camera for 2 Violins, Cello, and Strings (1939); Hamlet, symphonic poem (Berlin, Oct. 28, 1940); Concerto for Strings (1940; Hamburg, Oct. 18, 1942); Partita for Strings and Percussion (1945); 16 Variations on a Theme of Paganini (Leipzig, Nov. 27, 1947); Concerto for Jazz Orch. (1947); 2 piano concertos: No. 1 (1947; Göttingen, March 20, 1948) and No. 2 (Berlin, Sept. 15, 1952); Violin Concerto (1948; Munich, Nov. 17, 1950); Concerto for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Trumpet, Harp, and Strings (Berlin, June 14, 1950); Dialog for Flute, Violin, Piano, and Strings (1950); Orchester-Ornament, based on “variable meters” (Venice Festival, Sept. 15, 1953); Studie im Pianissimo (1953; Louisville, Sept.4, 1954); Zwei Inventionen (Edinburgh Festival, Aug. 28, 1954); Viola Concerto (1954; Cologne, March 14, 1955); Orchester-Fantasie (1955; London, Oct. 12, 1956); Hommage à Mozart (Berlin, Dec. 10, 1956); Music for Cleveland (Cleveland, Nov. 21, 1957); Musica giocosa (Saarbrücken, April 30, 1959); Variations on a Theme of Muzio Clementi for Piano and Orch. (Berlin, Oct. 4, 1961); Konzertstück for Wind Quintet and Strings (Donauesch-ingen, Oct. 19, 1963); Cello Concerto (1964; Cologne, March 19, 1965); Virtuose Musik for Violin, 10 Wind Instruments, Percussion, and Harp (1966; Hanover, N.H., Aug. 19, 1967); arrangement of Bach’s Das musikalische Opfer (1966); Collage (1968; Vienna, Oct. 5, 1969); Concerto for Trumpet and Strings (1970; Nuremberg, Feb. 11, 1971); Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orch. (1971; Schwetzingen, May 12, 1972); Stars and Strings for Jazz Ensemble and Strings (1972; Nuremberg, Jan. 12, 1973); Poème (1974; Vienna, Jan. 31, 1976); Pentagram for Strings (1974; Berlin, April 4, 1975). CHAMBER: 5 string quartets: No. 1 (1930; Frankfurt am Main, Dec. 6, 1939), No. 2 (1940; Venice, 1941), No. 3 (1944), No. 4 (1951; Berlin, Jan. 25, 1953), and No.5, Variationen über einen divergierenden c-moll-Dreiklang (1967; Berlin, March 8, 1968); Cello Sonata (1940); Divertimento for Trumpet, Trombone, and Piano (Berlin, Jan. 23, 1948); Divertimento for 4 Woodwinds (Munich, Sept. 28, 1951); Violin Sonata (1951; Berlin, Jan. 27, 1952); 2 Poems for Vibraphone, Double Bass, Percussion, and Piano (1957; N.Y., Nov. 14, 1958); Perpetuum mobile for Violin (1963); Octet for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, and String Quintet (1965; Saarbrücken, Oct. 19, 1966); 4 Ornamente for Violin and Piano (N.Y., Nov. 5, 1969); Piano Trio (1970); Sonata for 2 Cellos and 11 Instruments (Berlin, Dec. 26, 1972); Blues espagnola and Rumba philharmonica for 12 Cellos (1972; Tokyo, Oct. 28, 1973); Duo for Flute and Piano (1972); Quintet for Flute, Oboe, and String Trio (1973); Tchaikovsky Variations for Cello and Piano (1974). Piano: 2 sonatinas (1940, 1941); 3 pièces (1943); Ornamente, 7 Studies (1950); Sonata(1951); 24 preludes (1974). VOCAL: Jazz-Koloraturen for Soprano, Saxophone, and Bassoon (1929); 5 Sinnsprüche Omars des Zeltmachers for Voice and Piano (1931); Der Grossinquisitor, oratorio (1942; Berlin, Oct. 14, 1947); 4 choruses to texts by Villon (1944); Es taget vor dem Walde, cantata (Berlin, June 29, 1946); Francesca da Rimini for Soprano and Violin (1954); Traume vom Tod und vom Leben, cantata (Wuppertal, June 5, 1955); 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird for Voice and Strings (1957; Vienna, Jan. 11, 1959); Après-lude, 4 Heder for Voice and Piano (1958); Die Gesänge des Seeraubers O’Rourke und seiner Geliebten Sally Brown for Soprano, Cabaret Singer, Baritone, Speaker, Chorus, and Orch. (1958; Vienna, Oct. 5, 1959); Requiem for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1958; Vienna, June 11, 1959); Jüdische Chronik for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1961; Cologne, Jan. 14, 1966; in collaboration with Dessau, K.A. Hartmann, Henze, and Wagner-Regeny); 5 Negro spirituals for Voice and Instruments (1962; Vienna, March 9, 1963); Parergon to Eugene Onegin for Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Ensemble (1966); Nursery Rhymes (1967); For 7 for Soprano, Percussion, and Double Bass (1973). ELECTRONIC: Multiple Raumperspektiven (1962); Elektronische Studie über ein Posaunenglissando (1962); Persische elektronische Impulse (1965); Elektronisches Scherzo (1965); Musik für Osaka (1969); Ariadne, duodrama for 2 Speakers and Electronics (1971).

Bibliography

H. Stuckenschmidt, B. B. (Berlin, 1973); H. Henrich, B. B., 1903-1975: Dokumente zu Leben und Werk (Berlin, 1993); J. Hunkemöller, B. B., der Jazz-Komponist (Frankfurt am Main, 1994); C. Grafschmidt, B. B.s variable Metrik und ihre Ableitungen: Voraussetzungen, Ausprägungen, Folgen (Frankfurt am Main, 1996).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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