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Biography



In his “Bio-Bibliography” of Irwin Bazelon, who died on August 2, 1995 Professor David Cox, chair of music at University College Cork, Ireland wrote: “The qualities of integrity and vision, characteristic of the true artist, are perfectly exemplified by Irwin Bazelon.  He devoted his life to the art of composition.  He followed his vocation without any support from one of the most common sources of artistic patronage in the twentieth century, a post in a university.  He was instead, one of the first composers to use extensive freelance commercial activities to support the composition of art-music.  He did not compromise his artistic integrity in either genre.  The two aspects of his creative personality are strongly linked; his music is not academic, in the sense of being erudite for its own sake, and although his musical language is unique, elements of rhythmic vitality and a remarkable sense of instrumental color give it an immediate appeal.  His artistic vision was inspired by his experience of the energetic pace of city life, specifically Chicago and New York.  This is expressed through a highly developed rhythmic language, a language that he could demonstrate vocally, and is evident in his music through the unmistakable Bazelon pulsation of a series of unpredictable accents and syncopations that create a powerful and aurally challenging rhythmic drive.”

Born in Evanston Illinois on June 4, 1922, Irwin Bazelon, nicknamed Bud, graduated from DePaul Unversity with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music.  After studying composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale for a short time, he went to Mills College in Oakland, California to work with Darius Milhaud.  In 1948 he moved to New York City..

In his early years in New York, Bazelon supported himself by scoring documentaries, art films and theatrical productions. During the 1950’s and 1960’s he composed more than fifty scores of this kind, which proved to be invaluable preparation for his orchestral music. A long-time horse racing enthusiast, one of his best -known works “Churchill Downs Concerto” is named for the home of the Kentucky Derby, and his ninth symphony (subtitled Sunday Silence for the 1989 Derby winner) is dedicated to the horse.  “Sunday Silence (for Solo Piano ) (Albany Troy 602, Scott Dunn soloist) preceded the orchestral version (Troy 174, Bournemouth Symphony, Harold Farberman, conductor).

In a small way the race track helped launch Bazelon’s symphonic career.  With money from a big win at Aqueduct racetrack, he recorded a concert ballet with 16 member of the New York Philharmonic, the tape of which led directly to his conducting his “Short
Symphony No. 2” (subtitled Testament to a Big City) with the National Symphony in Washington D.C. in 1962. This was his major orchestral debut.

In 1960 he married artist Cecile Gray. On their Paris honeymoon they bought a Yorkshire terrier, Mr. Clem, named for one of Bud’s favorite racehorses. With Mr. Clem’s demise at age 15, they acquired Miss Clementine, half  Llhaso-Apso and half Schnauzer.  Both dogs were devoted to Bud and sat at his feet while he composed.  They often summered in the Hamptons and in 1990 bought a small house in Sagaponack.  They continued to reside in New York  but eventually divided their time between the city and the country. Bud is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Sagaponack.
 
The Bazelon archives are housed in the Library of Congress. “ Irwin Bazelon--A Bio-Bibilography”   written by David Harold Cox,  Dean of Music at University College Cork was published by Greenwood Press 2000.

All told, Irwin Bazelon composed nine symphonies and over sixty orchestral, chamber and instrumental pieces which have have been performed throughout the United States and Europe. He was working on his tenth symphony, from which “Prelude to Hart Crane’s’The Bridge’” was performed and recorded in 1992 (Albany Troy101, Chicago String Ensemble, Alan Heatherington. conductor).

The most recent orchestral performances have been with the American Composers Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony.  The latter played “Memories of a Winter Childhood, Leon Botstein conducting.  The Albany Troy recording 101 is with the Vancouver Symphony, Harold Farberman conductor. 

As reviewer Stephen Ellis said in the 2000 Fanfare’s Most Wanted List,  “ The complete cycle of Irwin Bazelon’s symphonies is nearly complete and the Fourth Symphony is an  astonishing achievement…at once wigged out and head-knocking in typical Bazelon manner. (Albany Troy 262—Rousse Philharmonic, Harold Farberman, conductor).

 Also in same issue of FANFARE critic William Zagorski wrote, “Irwin Bazelon is a splendid composer—one thoroughly classically trained but honed by the exigencies of the musical commercial world.  I cite that fact not as a criticism but as a virtue.  Like Haydn, he knew the importance of engaging an audience, and like that Austrian master he also understood the importance of finding and exploiting a universally acceptable classical language.  Like Haydn, he also knew, deep in his gut, the need to push the envelope.  This release not only underscores those points, but does so extraordinarly well…The results are revelatory.” 

Bazelon’s percussion writing is known and performed by percssionists the world over.and is truly unique. With this compact disc Albany Records continues its commitment to present  Bazelon works (the sixth his since death) and the first to be devoted solely to chamber works with percussion being the binding element.

In a eulogy at his funeral fellow composer Richard Rodney Bennett said “Buddy and his music were both totally unpredictable, one never knew what thought was coming next, even if one was familiar with some of his characteristic states of mind…Both the man and his music were profoundly eccentric, in the best and most fascinating sense.  He was absolutely uncompromising and entirely original both as a man and a composer.”





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This biography was most recently edited by...
cecile - 8 Jun 2009
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