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Toshi Ichyanagi

It was the American composer Keith Robinson who introduced me to Stefan Wolpe around 1957. Keith was a student of Wolpe and composed twelve-tone music. Since I was also writing with the twelve-tone method at that time, I became interested in Wolpe's music. As to Japan, Stefan told me the strong impression he had when he met Shoji Hamada, one of the top ceramic artists of Japan who visited New York.

I first met David Tudor at his recital in New York in 1958. David later recommended me to play Stefan's three-piano work Enactments with him and Russell Sherman. The concerts took place in New York and Philadelphia in 1959. Enactments is similar to Wolpe's later Symphony, with complex rhythms and textures, and we struggled to master the piece. In the process of the rehearsals it gave me great pleasure when I began to hear the relation between the other two pianos. After the performance I felt as if I had stepped up to another musical level.

Wolpe was at that time teaching in a college in New York and his life seemed unsatisfactory. He complained that teaching left him very little time for composing. It was my impression that Wolpe had a rather isolated situation on the New York music scene in between the experimental composers like Cage and the academic composers. Nevertheless he was one of the most charming and humane persons I met during my stay in New York, and I was attracted by his personality as well as his music. After seeing some of my compositions he asked me to make a fair copy of his Symphony in the summer of 1959. It took me three months to complete the score. The hardest and most time-consuming part was to space correctly his complex rhythmic notation. But I learned a lot from this score-making.

I returned to Japan at the invitation of The Twentieth Century Music Institute for the contemporary music festival held in Osaka in August, 1961. I played the Japanese premiere of Wolpe's Form at this three-day festival. Although I was not taught by Wolpe directly, I was trained and learned very much through the performance and writing out of his music. And more than anything, his severe manner of composing and his artistic attitude influenced my later life as a composer and a musician.

Toshi Ichyanagi (b. 1933), Japanese composer and pianist. Went to New York to study at the Juilliard School. He met John Cage, who influenced his future path as composer and performer. He returned to Japan in 1961. His recent opera has been performed in Japan and Europe.


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