Efim Golyshchev: The First Serialist?
Efim Golyshchev ( Golishev, Golyshcheff), who was an enigmatic figure, does not strictly belong here. He left Russia without producing any significant work, as far as we know, and even what he did abroad is now largely conjectural. But he is such a strange case among composers that I could not resist the temptation of saying a few words about him. Golyshchev was born in Kherson, Ukraine, on September 20, 1897 and died in Paris on September 25, 1970. He first studied the violin and was a child prodigy on that instrument, working with the great Leopold Auer, and going on tour with the Odessa Symphony Orchestra in 1905. His father was a friend of Wassily Kandinsky, and so the young violinist was exposed to both art forms from an early age. His painting tuition was at the Odessa Academy.
Golyshchev is a curious example of a composer whose reputation rests on only one work. It is his String Trio, which was published in Germany in 1925, and may or may not have been written in that year. It is sometimes claimed that it was composed as early as 1914. The date is of some importance, since the Trio is not only an early example of 12-tone composition, but concerns itself with durational rows as well.
Golyshchev's eventual reputation was as a painter. He was allied with the Dada movement, and the titles of some of his compositions of the time suggest at least something of their content (see works list). His association was with the Berlin "November Group," of which he was co-founder; he was also a signatory of the 1919 Dada manifesto.
Being Jewish determined two vital moves in his life. The first was leaving Russia in 1909, to get away from the pogroms which had proliferated in the country. The second was leaving Germany some years later, and for exactly the same reason. Unfortunately, during the second move, in 1933, it was quite likely that the Nazis seized and destroyed his paintings and musical scores. At any rate, they now seem irretrievably lost.
Between these two moves, Colyshchev made contact with Busoni in Berlin, where he first settled. He studied at the Stern Conservatoire, where he won the Reger Prize. In Berlin he first came into contact with the works of Schoenberg, and probably heard "Pierrot Lunaire" and other works from the Austrian master's expressionist period. Busoni provided him with much theoretical speculation. At this time, part of his Symphonic Poem ( 1920) was performed under Georg Weller, so it is possible that the parts are still extant in some library in Berlin. For his later compositions he invented