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(b d, 12 June 1897; d Paris, 15 Nov 1986). French composer

and pianist of Polish birth. Following studies at the d
Conservatory (190814) with Wojciech Gawronski and others, he
moved to Warsaw where he completed the doctorate in law at the
University of Warsaw (1918). He continued his piano studies with
Piotr Rytel and took composition lessons with Henryk MelcerSzczawiski. Although he won three prizes in the Polish National
Music Competition of 1919 (for Impression, Preludium in B Major
and Romance), critics considered his distinctive chromaticism and
polytonality too bold. Disappointed with his reception in Poland, he
moved to Paris, giving a dbut recital in February 1920. Soon after
his arrival, he became friendly with Stravinsky and Ravel, both of
whom encouraged and advised him. Stravinsky's repetitive,
rhythmic patterns and Ravel's chords of the 11th and 13th
influenced much of his inter-war music. Acquainted with many
leading musical figures in Paris during these years, Tansman was
part of the circle of foreign musicians, known as the Ecole de Paris,
that included Martin, Alexander Tcherepnin, Conrad Beck and
Marcel Mihalovici. While his music retained many distinctively
Polish features, such as Mazurka rhythms and Polish folk
melodies, and while he wrote collections of Polonaises, Nocturnes,
Impromptus, Waltzes and other Chopinesque miniatures, neoclassical traits appear in works such as the Sonata rustica (1925),
the Sonatine for flute and piano (1925), the Symphony no.2 (1926)
and the Second Piano Concerto (1927). A more romantic approach
to neo-classicism is evident in his fairy tale ballet Le jardin du
paradis (1922) and the first of his seven operas, La nuit kurde
(1927). Although he never completely abandoned a diatonic
framework, critics of the 1920s and 30s described his harmony at
times as Scriabinesque and atonal. His Hebraic background
provided compositional stimulus for works including Rapsodie
hbraque (1933) and The Genesis (1944), although this influence
became more prominent in his postwar music.
Tansman was quick to achieve international success. Vladimir
Golschmann was an early champion of his music, conducting the
orchestral Impressions in 1921; Koussevitzky conducted Scherzo
sinfonico in 1923 and both piano concertos in Paris and Boston
with the composer as soloist. Thereafter Tansman's music was
performed under Toscanini, Mengelberg, Stokowski, Monteux,
Wood and Boult. During his first American tour as a pianist with
Koussevitzky and the Boston SO in 1927, Tansman became
acquainted with Gershwin. Later, he toured extensively in Europe,
Asia, Palestine and India, where he was a guest of Mahatma
Gandhi in 1933. Although awarded French nationality in 1938, he
and his family were soon forced to flee France. He settled in Los

Angeles in 1941 where he became acquainted with Schoenberg,

renewed friendships with other European migrs, including
Milhaud and Stravinsky, and composed a number of film scores.
He returned to Paris in 1946. In addition to his many compositions,
he completed a monograph on Stravinsky (Paris, 1948). His
honours included the Coolidge Medal (1941), election to the
Acadmie Royale of Belgium (1977) and the Polish Medal of
Cultural Merit (1983).
(selective list)

Ops: La nuit kurde (3, prol, after J.R. Bloch), 1927, French radio, 1927; La toison
d'or (ob, 3, 4 tableaux, after S. de Madariaga), 1938, Paris, 13 April 1947; Le roi qui
jouait le fou (2 parts, 13 tableaux, R. Laporte), 1948; Le serment (2 tableaux, D.
Vincent, after H. de Balzac), 1953, Paris, 1954; Sabbata Zvi, le faux messie (4,
prol, N. Bistritzky), 19578, Paris, 3 March 1961; L'usignolo di Boboli (1, 3
tableaux, M. Labroca), 1963, Nice, 21 July 1965; Georges Dandin (3, after
Molire), 19734, Sarlat-la-Canda, 25 July 1974
Ballets: Le jardin du paradis (4 tableaux, after H.C. Andersen), 1922 [arr. as Danse
de la sorcire, wind qnt, pf, 1923]; Sextuor (1, after A. Arnoux, choreog. O.
Preobrazenska), 1923; Lumires (4 scnes), 1927; Le cercle ternel (2 tableaux,
choreog. J. Borlin), 1929; Bric brac (3 tableaux, after Arnoux, choreog. W.
Ignatow), 1935; La grande ville (3 tableaux, choreog. K. Jooss), 2 pf, 1935, orchd
1944; He, She and I, 1946; Le train de nuit (Jooss), 2 pf, 1951; Les habits neufs du
roi (1, after Andersen), 19589; Rsurrection (4 tableaux, P. Mdecis, choreog. F.
Adret, after L. Tolstoy), 19612
9 syms: no.1, 1917; no.2, a, 1926; no.3 Symphonie concertante, pf qt, orch, 1931;
no.4, 1939, no.5, D, 1942; no.6 In memoriam (Tansman), SATB, orch, 1944; no.7
Lyrique, 1944; no.8 Musique pour orchestre, 1948; no.9, 19578
Other orch: Impressions, 1920; Int sinfonico, 1920; Lgende, 1923; 2 Scherzo
sinfonico, 1923; Sinfonietta no.1, chbr orch, 1924; Pf Conc. no.1, 1925; Ouverture
symphonique, 1926; Pf Conc. no.2, 1927; Suite, 2 pf, orch, 1928; Suite dans le
style ancien, 1929; 5 pices, vn, orch, 1930; Sonatine transatlantique, 1930;
Concertino, pf, orch, 1931; 4 danses polonaises, 1931; 2 moments symphoniques,
1932; Rapsodie hbraque, 1933; 2 intermezzi, 1934; 2 pices, 1934; 2 images de
la bible, 1935; Fantaisie, vc, orch, 1936; Va Conc., 19367; Fantaisie, pf, orch,
1937; Suite no.1, chbr orch, 1937; Variations sur un thme de Frescobaldi, 1937
Vn Conc., 1937; Etudes symphoniques, 194042; Rapsodie polonaise, 1940;
Ricercari, 19419; Carnival Suite, 1942; Srnade no.3, 1943; Divertimento, 1944;
Lied et toccata, 1944; Partita no.2, pf, orch, 1944; Short Suite, 1944; Concertino,
gui, orch, 1945; Le cantique des cantiques, chbr orch, 1946; Introduction et danse
gitane, 1946; Suite no.2, chbr orch, 1948; Musique de table, 1949; Suite dans le
got espagnol, 1949; Tombeau de Chopin, str orch, 1949 [arr. str qnt, 1949];
Sinfonia piccola, 19512; Concertino, ob, cl, orch, 1952; Capriccio, 1954; Conc. for
Orch, 1954; Hommage Manuel de Falla, gui, chbr orch, 1954; Suite lgre, 1955;
4 mouvements symphoniques, 1956;
Cl Conc., 1957; Album d'Isral, chbr orch, 1958; Suite baroque, chbr orch, 1958;

Chbr Sym., 1960; La lutte de Jacob avec l'ange, 1960 [after P. Gauguin]; Musique
de cour, gui, chbr orch, 1960; 6 tudes, 1962; 6 mouvements, str orch, 19623; Vc
Conc., 1963; Suite concertante, ob, orch, 1966; 4 mouvements, 19678;
Concertino, fl, orch, 1968; Hommage Erasme de Rotterdam, 19689; Diptyque,
1969; Stle in memoriam Igor Stravinsky, 1972; Elgie la mmoire de Darius
Milhaud, 1975; Les dix Commandements, 19789; Sinfonietta no.2, chbr orch,
1978; Musique, hp, str orch, 1981
8 mlodies japonaises, 1v, orch, 1918; 6 Songs (N. de Bragana), 1v, orch, 1934;
The Genesis (collab. A. Schoenberg, D. Milhaud, I. Stravinsky, M. CastelnuovoTedesco, E. Toch, N. Shilkret, Bible: Genesis), nar, orch, 1944; Sym. no.6 In
Memoriam (Tansman), SATB, orch, 1944; Ponctuation franaise (C. Oulmont), 1v,
orch, 1946; Isae le prophte (orat, Tansman, Bible), SATB, orch, 1950; 6 Sonnets
(W. Shakespeare), 1v, chbr orch, 1955; Prologue et cantate (Bible: Ecclesiastes),
female chorus, orch, 1957; Psaumes (Pss cxviii, cxix, cxx), T, SATB, orch, 1960
61; Apostrophe Zion (cant., ancient text), SATB, orch, 19767; 8 stles de Victor
Segalen (V. Segalen), 1v, chbr orch, 1979; many songs, choral works and vocal
music for children
chamber and solo instrumental
8 str qts: 1917, 1922, 1925, 1935, 1940, 1944, 1947, 1956
Pf Trio [no.1], 1915; Sonata [no.1], vn, pf, 1916; Romance, vn, pf, 1918; Sonata
[no.1], vc, pf, 1918; Sonata [no.2], vn, pf, 1919; 3 esquisses, str qt, pf, 1922;
Sonata [no.3], vn, pf, 1924; Sonatine, fl, pf, 1925; Sonatine, vn, pf, 1925; Pf Trio
[no.2], 1928; Suite-divertissement, pf qt, 1929; Sonata [no.2], vc, pf, 1930; Septet,
fl, ob, cl, bn, tpt, va, vc, 1932; 2 mouvements, 4 vc, 1935; Str Trio [no.1], 1937; Str
Trio [no.2], 1938; Str Sextet, 1940; Suite, vn, pf, 1943; Divertimento, ob, cl, tpt, vc,
pf, 1944; Fugue, str qnt, 1945; Wind Octet [no.1], 1945; Str Trio [no.3], 1946; Wind
Octet [no.2], 1947; Wind Trio, 1949; Cavatine, gui, 1950; Sonata, 2 vn, 1950;
Sonatina da camera, fl, vn, va, vc, hp, 1952; Sonatine, bn, pf, 1952; Partita, vc, pf,
1955; Musique 5, str qnt, 1955; Suite, bn, pf 1960; Fantaisie, vn, pf, 1963;
Hommage Chopin, gui, 1966; Studio ostinato, 6 perc, 1970; Variations sur un
thme de Scriabine, gui, 1972; Miniatures, hn, tpt, trbn, 1976; Suite in modo
polonico, hp, pf, 1976; Musique six, cl, str qt, pf, 1977; Hommage Lech Walesa,
gui, 1982; Musique, cl, str qt, 1982
solo pf, unless otherwise stated

Sonata no.1, 1915; Album polski, 1916; Impression, 1918; Preludium in B major,
1918; 3 tudes transcendantes, 1922; Sonatine, 1923; Sonata rustica, 1925;
Sonata no.2, 1928; Sonatine transatlantique, 2 pf, 1930; Sonata no.3, 1932; Le
tour du monde en miniature, 1933; Rapsodie hbraque, 1933; 3 prludes en forme
de blues, 1937; Rapsodie polonaise, 2 pf, 1940; Sonata, 2 pf, 1941; Sonata no.4,
1941; Sonata no.5, 1955; Visit to Isral, 1958; Fantaisie sur des valses de Johann
Strauss, 2 pf, 1961; Hommage Artur Rubinstein, 1973; Album d'amis, 1980; many
other solo pf works, incl. collections of Etudes, Preludes, Impromptus, Mazurkas,
Nocturnes, Ballades, etc
MSS in Association des amis d'Alexandre Tansman, Paris

Principal publishers: Billaudot, Editions Franaises de Musique, Eschig, Ricordi, Technisonor,


A. Carpentier: Alexandre Tansman y su obra luminosa, Social,
xiv/9 (1929); repr. in Obras completas de Alejo Carpentier, ix
(Mexico City, 1986), 1938
R. Petit: Alexandre Tansman, ReM, x/45 (1929) 4654
I. Schwerk: Alexandre Tansman, compositeur polonais (Paris,
C. Otero: Alexandre Tansman su vida y su obra para guitara
(Mexico, 1993)
A. Granat-Janki: Forma w twrczoci instrumentalnej Aleksandra
Tansmana [Form in the instrumental works of Alexandre
Tansman] (Wrocaw, 1995)
G. Hugon: Alexandre Tansman, catalogue de loeuvre (Paris,
J. Cegiella: Dziecko Szczcia Aleksander Tansman i jego czasy
[Child of fortune: Alexandre Tansman and his life and times] i,
ii (d, 1996)