Magazine article Musical Opinion

Boris Blacher

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Boris Blacher

Article excerpt

A Centenary Appreciation by Robert Matthew-Walker

Few 20th-Century composers can claim to be more truly international in their provenance than the greatly gifted Boris Blacher, who was born on 19 January 1903 in Niu-Chang in China: "half-German, quarter-Russian and quarter-Jewish" as Nicolas Slominsky so carefully detailed Blacher's ancestry. When Blather was 11 his family moved to Siberia, where they remained until 1920.

Blather himself thereafter went to Berlin, initially to study architecture, but soon added and later changed to composition, after studies with the noted German pedagogue and cellist Friedrich Koch. Blather was one of Koch's last pupils, the older master insisting upon a thorough application of the larger dramatic forms; yet he also encouraged appreciation of the latest developments in music from his students.

This duality in Koch's teaching found a ready response in Blacher, who became a very prolific composer. He died in Berlin on 30 January 1975, soon after his 72nd birthday, leaving no fewer than 12 operas, 8 ballets and a vast amount of music for orchestra including a dozen concertos, much chamber and vocal music, but little for solo piano, apart from two Sonatinas, a Sonata and a set of 24 Preludes.

Blather became a leading musical pedagogue in what was then West Berlin: between 1948 and 1970 he was Professor of Composition at the Hochschule fur Musik, where he had originally studied from 1924 to 1826, contributing much to the development of the latest factions in musical expression, initially through his own system of what he termed "variable meters" which were constantly changing groupings of constant pulses, best shown in his fine Second Piano Concerto of 1952, written for his wife, the gifted pianist Gerry Herzog, which she recorded for Deutsche Grammophon with the Berlin Philharmonic under Hans Rosbaud. …

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