Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929

By Larry Sitsky | Go to book overview
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22
Iosif M. Schillinger: Gershwin's Teacher

Iosif (Joseph) Moiseevich Schillinger was born in Khar'kov on August 31, 1895 and died in New York City on March 23, 1943. His parents were prosperous business people. At the age of five he showed interest in aspects of drama, verse, and design; by age ten he was already experimenting in music and playwriting. The family hoped that he would go into business, and discouraged his interest in the arts; he did not have a piano until he was fourteen years old. In composition he was initially self- taught, experimenting at the piano, and reading all he could find about methods of composition. In 1914 he began to pursue systematic training by entering the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, where he studied with V. P. Kalafati and J. J. Wihtol (composition) as well as with Chernov and N. N. Tcherepnine (conducting). He graduated in 1917, receiving the highest prize in composition, and for a while was conductor of the Student Symphony Orchestra. He then embarked on serious study of pedagogic methods; this interest occupied him for the rest of his life. By the age of twenty-five, he had acquired a reading knowledge of many languages, including Latin, Hebrew, German, French, English, and Italian. History and philosophy fascinated him, and he was a voracious reader and student all his life.

From 1918 to 1924, Schillinger was senior instructor, then professor and finally dean of the faculty of composition at the Khar'kov Academy of Music, while simultaneously ( 1918-1922) fulfilling the role of head of the music department of the Board of Education in the Ukraine. During this same time he was also a consultant of the State Opera and composer for the State Academic Theater for Children; he was active in many military and workers' clubs. It was in Khar'kov that Nathan Milstein premiered Schillinger's Violin Sonata in 1922. Between 1922 and 1928 Schillinger acted as consultant to the Leningrad and Moscow Boards of Education, and from 1922 he also supervised the composition class at the State Institute of Musical Education in Leningrad. Between 1925 and 1928 Schillinger was a professor and member of the State Institute of the History of the Arts in Leningrad. In 1927 he was sent on a field expedition to gather folk material, under the auspices of the State Institute of the History of Art. His contribution was to record previously unknown folk songs of a number of tribes in Georgia, thus providing new anthropological material. Incredibly, he also found time to teach as senior instructor of the State Central Technicum of Music. From 1926 to 1928 he was the vice president of the Leningrad branch of the International Society for Contemporary Music ( ISCM). In 1928 he was appointed to

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