The Kennedy Center

Alexander Tansman



Biography

Alexandre Tansman, composer and pianist, was born in Lodz, Poland in 1897. He trained as a muscian at the Lodz Conservatory, but lived in France for most of his life and died in Paris in 1986.

He moved to Paris in 1919. In 1927 and 1929 made concert tours of the U.S. as pianist and composer. He fled Europe in 1941 because his Jewish background. He lived in Los Angeles and, through his friend Charlie Chaplin, came to know Arnold Schoenberg and Bela Bartok. He composed film music for Hollywood and his works were played by major American orchestras.

Tansman returned to Paris after the war, but his career seemed to slow down. Feeling a renewed pull to his Polish background as well as wanting to recognize his Jewish background, he went on to create some of his best works. Tansman's style has been called "neoclassical" (a style developed between the two World Wars that drew upon music of the 18th century), but he added the musical styles of Poland and of his Jewish heritage. He was a leading proponent of traditional Polish forms as the polonaise and mazurka and is known for his guitar pieces written for Andres Segovia.

His Fifth Symphony in D, written in 1942, was premiered in America by the National Symphony Orchestra. Other important works include: Quatre danses polonaises, 100 works for piano: sonatas, sonatinas, ballades, mazurkas, preludes, suites, Suite in Modo Polonico (1962), commissioned by and dedicated to "the king of guitarists," Andres Segovia, and nine symphonies.
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Compositions

  • Symphony No. 5 in D