Edison Wassiljewitsch Denisow

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Edison Wassiljewitsch Denisow biography

Edison Wassiljewitsch Denisovwas born on April 6, 1929, in Tomsk, Russia and died on November 24, 1996, in Paris. He was born in Tomsk, Siberia into the family of radio-physicist, who gave him the very unusual first name Edison, in honour of the great American inventor. He studied mathematics before deciding to spend his life composing. This decision was enthusiastically supported by Dmitri Shostakovich, who gave him instructions in composition.

In 1951-56 Denisov studied at the Moscow Conservatory – composition with Vissarion Shebalin, orchestration with Nikolai Rakov, analysis with Viktor Zuckerman and piano with Vladimir Belov. In 1956-59 he composed an opera Ivan-Soldat (Soldier Ivan) in three acts on a subject from Russian folk fairy tales.

After graduating from the conservatory, he worked there as a professor and gave private instruction in composition to Evgeni Kostitsyn. He began his own study of scores, which were difficult to obtain in the USSRat that time, including music ranging from Mahler and Debussy to Boulez and Stockhausen. He wrote a series of articles giving a detailed analysis of different aspects of contemporary compositional techniques and at same time actively experimented as a composer trying to find his own way.

The cycle for soprano and chamber ensemble Le soleil des Incas(1964), setting the poems by Gabriela Mistral and dedicated to Pierre Boulez, gave him an international recognition. This happened after the series of successful performances of the work in Darmstadt and Paris (1965). Igor Stravinsky liked the piece, discovering the “remarkable talent” of its composer. However, the piece was harshly criticised by the Union of Soviet Composers for its “western influences”, “erudition instead of creativity”, and “total composer's arbitrary” (Tikhon Khrennikov). Aftern that, performances of his works were often banned in the Soviet Union.

Later he wrote a flute concerto for Aurèle Nicolet, a violin concerto for Gidon Kremer, works for the oboist Heinz Holliger, clarinettist Eduard Brunner and a sonata for alto saxophone and piano for Jean-Marie Londeix, that became highly popular among saxophone players. In 1979 he was blacklisted as one of the “Khrennikov's Seven” at the Sixth Congress of the Union of Soviet Composers for unapproved participation in some festivals of Soviet music in the West. His sombre but striking Requiem, setting a multi-lingual text (English, French, German and Latin) based on works by Francisco Tanzer, was given its first performance in Hamburgin 1980.

Among his major works are the operas L'écume des joursafter Boris Vian (1981), Quatre Filles after Pablo Picasso (1986) and ballet Confession after Alfred de Musset. Denisov became a leader of the ACM – Association for Contemporary Music reestablished in Moscowin 1990. Later Denisov moved to France, where after an accident and long illness he died in Paris hospital in 1996.

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