famed musicologist, pianist, composer, and conductor nicolas slonimsky died
on christmas day 1995, at the exceptional age of 101.
born nikolai leonidovich slonimsky in st. petersburg, russia, on april 27,
1894, slonimsky was a self-described "failed wunderkind" who came to
the u.s in 1923, by way of turkey, bulgaria, and then paris, where he served as
"secretary and piano pounder" to the noted conductor serge
koussevitzky. in his considerable lifetime slonimsky conducted; wrote music
articles for newspapers and magazines; was lecturer at harvard, not in music,
but in slavonic languages; composed orchestral works and commercial jingles; and
compiled big books. a tireless champion of the new, he introduced edgard
varese's ionisation, in addition to conducting the premieres of works by charles
ives, henry cowell, and other noted contemporary composers. he was famed for his
reference works, most notably the "tireless tomes" of baker's
biographical dictionary of musicians, editions 5-8 (and a couple of concise
versions as well!); that "exhaustive chronological survey of all things
musically relevant" in the twentieth century, music since 1900, fifth
edition (schirmer books, 1994); thesaurus of scales and melodic patterns
(schirmer books, 1975); and the delightful lexicon of musical invective (1952).
his autobiography, perfect pitch, was published in 1988.
both the new york times (december 27, 1995) and the new yorker magazine
(january 15, 1996) acknowledged the passing of nicolas slonimsky.