I was once conducting the recording of a film score. At one particular point I asked the clarinetist to play the passage an octave lower. The producer objected, however, by exclaiming: "but I paid for the whole octave!".
Tansman on Hollywood

Aleksander Tansman, born in Lódz, Poland, 1897 is closely tied with the l'ecole de Paris, a group of East European composers who lived in Paris.
Tansman, who studied both composition and legal studies, started composing around 1913 and early 1916 he showed his skills in atonal and polytonal music. In 1919 he sends in three compositions under different names to the Polish National Music Competition and to his surprise he wins the the first, second and third prize. Disappointed by the poor response of his music, Tansman leaves Poland for France, Paris (1919).
Immediately he's swept into Paris's cultural life, where he eventually meets with Ravel. Ravel, charmed by the Polish composer, recommends him to his own publisher. Tansman also meets the 6 composers of Les Six and composers such as Marcel Mihalovici, Tibor Harsanyi, Bohuslav Martinu, Conrad Beck and Alexander Tcherepnin.
By 1920, Tansman's works are getting well known. Famous conductors like Jascha Horenstein and Otto Klemperer promote his work in Europe and America. Among his friends are Darius Milhaud, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, Gershwin, Albert Einstein and even the writer Thomas Mann. In the late 20s he tours in America and meets Charlie Chaplin (who becomes one of his closest friends). From 1931 to 1933 he tours the world, and back in Paris he sets his impressions to music in 'Le Tour du Monde en Miniature' (1933).
In 1938 he marries Collette Gras, a pianist and daughter of the composer Jean Gras. When his name is mentioned on the black list, Tansman decides to flee with his family. Until 1941, the family hides in Nice. Tansman's friend Chaplin, Tansman and family can board a ship to the United States.
In New York he is awarded a $5,000 prize for his (in Nice composed) composition of the Fourth Sonata (premiered on October 30, 1941 in the Library of Congress). The family decides to move to Hollywood where Tansman hopes to make money by composing film music. It is here where he renews his friendship with Igor Stravinsky and other emigrants like Thomas Mann and Darius Milhaud.
In 1946 Tansman returns to Paris and is invited to play and teach his works and music in several European countries. However Tansman, a leading guest at several festivals, doesn't join the post-serialist movement. His post war compositions retain the elements from his early works.
Between 1958 to 1970, Tansman produces several operas, choral and symphonic works and pays several visits (after a decade of absence) to his country of birth Poland (1967). In 1977, the Belgian Academy of Sciences, Literature and Fine Arts awards him an honorable membership and the seat left vacant by the death of Dmitri Shostakovich. Some years later he is made Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France for his lifelong contribution to the Parisian culture.
Alexandre Tansman dies in 1986, in his home in Paris, at the age of 89.

List of key works, ordered in style

  • Sonatine transatlantique
  • Suite pour Carnaval
  • Quatuor pour Clarinette et Cordes
  • Résurrection)
  • Le Tour du Monde en Miniature
  • Mélodies japonaises
Jewish tradition
  • Rapsodie hébraïque
  • Isaïe le Prophète
  • Suite dans le Style ancien
  • Suite baroque
  • Variations sur un Thème de Frescobaldi
  • Rapsodie polonaise
  • four books of Mazurkas
  • Suite dans le Style polonais
  • Sinfonietta no. 2

International Tansman Competition Poland

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