Aleksander Tansman, photography studio Alban Paris, 1932/ public domain; source: Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe

Aleksander Tansman

(11 June 1897 – 15 November 1986) composer and pianist, born in Łódź, died in Paris. Having studied piano with Wojciech Gawroński at the Łódź Conservatory in 1908-14, Tansman went on to study law at Warsaw University in 1915 and graduated in 1918. Meanwhile he took lessons of counterpoint from Piotr Rytel and of composition from Henryk Melcer-Szczawiński. In 1919 Tansman took part in a composition contest of the Polish Artistic Club in Warsaw, and achieved his first great success by winning three of the awards: the no. 1 award for Romance for violin and piano, an award for Impression for piano, and a prize for Prelude in B major for piano, all composed in 1918-19. Despite such evidence of recognition of Tansman's works, he was hardly a favorite of music critics.

The same year Tansman decided to leave Poland for Paris. His debut there was a solo recital of his own compositions played on 17th February 1920. While in Paris, Tansman met many music celebrities, including Maurice Ravel, Albert Roussel, Artur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Andres Segovia and Igor Stravinsky. Meanwhile he was made an honorary member of the Association of Young Polish Musicians. As a pianist and composer, Tansman travelled extensively with concerts across Europe, the United States, South America and the Far East. In 1927 and then again in 1929 he went on a concert tour across the United States and made the acquaintance of Charlie Chaplin and George Gershwin. Tansman's works got to be performed by the best orchestras, such as The Boston Symphony Orchestra directed by Sergey Kusevickiy, The Philharmonic Symphony Society Of New York directed by Arturo Toscanini, and The Philadelphia Orchestra directed by Leopold Stokowski. In 1932-3 concerts took Tansman on a round-the-world tour from America through the Hawaii, Japan, China, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaya, Ceylon, India, Egypt, Israel to Greece. While in Japan, Tansman was awarded the Jiji-Shimpo Gold Medal for his outstanding contribution to world art, and was made an honorary member of the Society of the Royal Academy of Music in Tokyo. In India Tansman had the honour of being a guest of Mahatma Gandhi's. In 1933, in recognition of Tansman's trip, the Marco Polo Club made him its honorary member. In addition to playing concerts, Tansman would often sit on juries in composing and performing competitions in the 1930s, such as the Paris Conservatoire Piano Competition in 1936 and the Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition in Brussels in 1937.

Tansman was made a French citizen in 1938. Following the outbreak of World War II, he was helped by Charlie Chaplin to emigrate to the United States, settling in Los Angeles in 1941. There he focused chiefly on composing film music. He was friends with other composers, notably Darius Milhaud, Bela Bartok, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky. His friendship with Stravinsky led him to writing Stravinsky's biography, published in Paris in 1948. It was not until 1946 that Tansman, now a recognized and established composer, returned to Paris. His music sounded in the concert halls of France as well as of Brussels, Geneva, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Oslo, Stockholm and other European capital cities. After the war Tansman took to composing "applied" music for the stage and radio theatre.

After his wife Colette Cras-Tansman died in 1952, Tansman became the sole custodian of their daughters, Mireille and Marianne, and family duties made him give up some of his concert tours, such as those to the United States and South America. In later years Tansman was made a member of the Belgian Academie Royale (1977), received the Badge of Contribution to the Polish Culture from Poland's Minister of Culture and Art (1983) and the Commander's Cross of the Order of Arts and Sciences from the Minister of Culture of the French Republic. In 1983, at the motion of Tadeusz Kaczyński, the Polish Composers' Union made Tansman its honorary member, and the Łódź Academy of Music awarded him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa.

Tansman was buried at the Saint-Monde cemetery in Paris.

 

Sourcewww.culture.pl, Małgorzata Kosińska, Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, June 2002.

Chamber works

  • 2 Elegies for chamber orchestra, 1948 – 1951 Buy

  • 2 Mouvements for cello quartet, 1935 Buy

  • 2 Pièces for cello and piano, 1931 Buy

  • 3 Pièces for clarinet, harp and atring quartet, 1970

  • 3 Pièces na klarnet, harfę i kwartet smyczkowy, 1970 Borrow

  • 3Fugi na fortepian na 4 ręce Buy

  • 4 Impressions for brass octet, 1945

  • 4 Impressions na oktet dęty, 1945 Borrow

  • 5 Pièces for violin and piano or small orchestra, 1930 Buy

  • 6 Mouvements for string orchestra, 1962 – 1963 Buy

  • Alla polacca for viola and piano, 1985 Buy

  • Carnival suite for 2 pianos or brass orchestra, 1942, excerpt from "Flesh and Fantasy"; first instrumentation for orchestra (1941 / 1942)

  • Carnival suite na 2 fortepiany Borrow

  • Chanson Berrichonne na obój, dwoje skrzypiec, altówkę i fortepian 1946, rękopis Borrow

  • Concertino for flute, string orchestra and piano, 1968

  • Concertino for oboe, clarinet and string orchestra, 1952 Buy

  • Concertino na flet, orkiestrę smyczkową i fortepian, 1968 Borrow

  • Divertimento for chamber orchestra, 1944 Buy

    Details:

    Details: second instrumentation for instrumental ensemble (1944); 2 flutes, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, percussion, piano, strings

  • Fantaisie for cello and orchestra or piano, 1931 Buy

  • Fantaisie for violin and piano, 1961 Buy

  • Fantaisie sur des valses de Strauss, 1961 na 2 fortepiany Borrow

  • II Mała suita z filmu „Flesh and Fantasy" na kwartet lub orkiestrę smyczkową, 1943 Borrow

  • Introduction et Danse gitane for chamber orchestra, 1946

  • Introduction et Danse gitane na orkiestrę kameralną, 1946 Borrow

  • Introduction et Fugue na dwa fortepiany 1938 Buy

  • La danse de la sorcière for wind quintet and piano or 2 pianos, 1923 – 1924 Buy

    Details:

    Details: excerpt from planned but not composed ballet Le jardin du paradis; first instrumentation for orchestra (composing date unknown)

  • La sulamite for chamber orchestra, 1946

  • Le cantique des cantiques for chamber orchestra, 1946

  • Le cantique des cantiques na orkiestrę kameralną, 1946 Borrow

  • Little suite No.2 from the movie "Flesh and Fantasy" for quartet or string orchestra, 1943

  • Miniatures pour trio de cuivre, 1976 Buy

  • Musica a cinque for string quartet and piano, 1955 Buy

  • Musique pour clarinette et quatuor à cordes, 1982 Buy

  • Musique à six for clarinet, string quartet and piano, 1977 Buy

  • Partita for cello and piano, 1955 – 1956 Buy

  • Partita for string orchestra, 1933

  • Prélude et quatre petites fugues, 1936 Buy

  • Romance for violin and piano, 1918 Borrow

  • Septuor for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, viola and cello, 1932 Buy

  • Serenada na skrzypce, wiolonczelę i fortepian, 1928 Borrow

  • Serenade No.2 for violin, viola and cello, 1937 Buy

  • Serenade No.3 for 2 pianos, 1943 Buy

    Details:

    Details: second instrumentation for orchestra

  • Serenade for violin, cello and piano, 1928

  • Sextuor, 1940 Buy

  • Sinfonietta No.2 for chamber orchestra, 1978 – 1979 Buy

  • Sonata No.2 for cello and piano, 1930 Buy

  • Sonata No.2 for violin and piano, 1917 – 1919 Buy

  • Sonata for 2 pianos, 1941 Buy

  • Sonata for 2 violins, 1950 Buy

  • Sonata quasi una fantasia for violin and piano, 1924

  • Sonata quasi una fantasia na skrzypce i fortepian, 1924 Borrow

  • Sonatina da camera for flute, violin, viola, cello and harp 1952 Buy

  • Sonatine No.2 for violin and piano, 1942 Buy

  • Sonatine for bassoon and piano, 1952 Buy

  • Sonatine for flute and piano or violin and piano, 1925 Buy

  • Sonatine transatlantique for 2 pianos, 1930

  • Sonatine transatlantique na 2 fortepiany, 1931 Borrow

  • String quartet No.1, 1917

  • String quartet No.2, 1922 Buy

  • String quartet No.3, 1925 Buy

  • String quartet No.4, 1935 Buy

  • String quartet No.5, 1940 Buy

  • String quartet No.6, 1944 Buy

  • String quartet No.7 "Musique à cordes”, 1947 – 1948 Buy

  • String quartet No.8, 1956 Buy

  • Suite for bassoon and piano, 1960 Buy

  • Suite for violin and piano, 1943 Buy

  • Suite in modo polonico for guitar and harp, 1976 Buy

    Details:

    Details: first instrumentation for guitar (1962)

  • Suite pour 3 flûtes à bec, 1956 Borrow

  • Suite pour 3 flûtes à bec, 1956

  • Suite pour trio d’anches, 1949 Buy

  • Suite-Divertissement for violin, viola, cello and piano, 1929 Buy

  • Symphonie de chambre, 1960

  • Toccata for string orchestra, 1929, first instrumentation for orchestra (1928 – 1929)

  • Tombeau de Chopin for string quintet, 1949

  • Tombeau de Chopin na kwintet smyczkowy, 1949 Borrow

  • Trio for piano, violin and cello, 1938 Buy

  • Trio for violin, viola and cello, 1946 Buy

  • Triptyque for string quartet or string orchestra, 1930 Buy

  • Variations on a theme of Frescobaldi for string orchestra, 1942, first instrumentation for orchestra (1937)

  • Wariacje na temat Frescobaldiego na orkiestrę smyczkową, 1942 Borrow

Piano works

  • 11 Interludes, 1955 Buy

  • 20 Pièces faciles sur des mélodies populaires polonaises, 1917 - 1924 Buy

  • 3 Préludes en forme de blues, 1937 Buy

  • 3 Études transcendantes Buy

  • 4 Danses miniatures Borrow

  • 4 Danses miniatures, 1923

  • 4 Danses polonaises, 1931 Buy

    Details:

    Deatils: first instrumentation for orchestra (1931)

  • 4 Impressions Borrow

    Details:

    wersja oryginalna na oktet dęty

  • 4 Impressions, 1945, first instrumentation for brass octet

  • 4 Nocturnes, 1952 Buy

  • 4 Piano Moods, 1944

  • 4 Piano Moods, 1944 Borrow

  • 5 Impressions, 1934 Buy

  • 5 Impromptus, 1922-1925 Buy

  • 6 Caprices, 1943 Buy

  • 6 Études de virtuositè, 1941 Buy

  • 7 Préludes, 1921 Buy

  • 7 Préludes, 1921 Buy

  • 8 Cantilenes for Piano. Hommage to J. S. Bach, 1949 Borrow

  • 8 Cantilenes for Piano. Hommage to J. S. Bach, 1949, manuscript

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • 8 Novelettes, 1936 Buy

  • Album d’amis, 1980 Buy

  • Arabesques, 1930 Buy

  • Ballade No.1, 1941 Buy

  • Ballade No.2, 1941 Buy

  • Ballade No.3, 1941 Buy

  • Berceuse, 1929 Buy

  • Burlesque, 1929 Buy

  • Canzone orientale, 1941

  • Etude-scherzo, 1922 Buy

  • Hommage à Arthur Rubinstein, 1973 Buy

  • IV Sonata, 1941 Buy

  • In the Contemporary Piano Literature, 1955

  • Intermezzi, 1939 – 1940 Buy

  • Intermezzi, 1939 – 1940 Buy

  • Intermezzi, 1939 – 1940 Buy

  • Intermezzi, 1939 – 1940 Buy

  • Le Géant Borrow

  • Le Géant, 1937

  • Le tour du monde en miniature. 15 feuillets de voyage, 1933 Buy

  • Mazurka [I], 1941

  • Mazurka [I], 1943 Buy

  • Mazurkas, 1915 – 1941 Buy

  • Mazurkas, 1915 – 1941 Buy

  • Mazurkas, 1915 – 1941 Buy

  • Mazurkas, 1915 – 1941 Buy

  • Moment musical, 1941

  • Petite suite, 1917 – 1919 Buy

  • Piano Miniatures, 1945

  • Prélude et Toccata, 1943 Buy

  • Rhapsodie hébraïque, 1933 Buy

    Details:

    Details: first instrumentation for orchestra (1933)

  • Rhapsodie polonaise, 1940 Buy

  • Sonata No.2, 1929 Buy

  • Sonata No.3, 1932 Buy

  • Sonata No.4, 1941

  • Sonata No.5, 1955 Buy

  • Sonata rustica, 1925 Buy

  • Sonatina No.3, 1933 Buy

  • Sonatina, 1923 Buy

  • Sonatine transatlantique, 1939 Buy

  • Suite dans le style ancien, 1929 Buy

    Details:

    Details: second version for small orchestra

  • Suite varié, 1953 Buy

  • Tempo americano, 1931 Buy

    Details:

    Details: transcription of 2nd movement of Symphony No.3 Concertante by Tansman

  • Valse Impromptu, 1940 Buy

  • Étude, 1967 Buy