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Edison Vasilievich Denisov (Russian: Эдисо́н Васи́льевич Дени́сов) (April 6, 1929, Tomsk, Russia — November 24, 1996, Paris, France) was a Russian composer of so called "Underground" — "Anti-Collectivist", "alternative" or "nonconformist" division in the Soviet music.
Denisov was born in Tomsk, Siberia into the family of a radio physicist, who gave him the very unusual first name Edison, in honour of the great American inventor. He studied mathematics before deciding to spend his life composing. This decision was enthusiastically supported by Dmitri Shostakovich, who gave him lessons in composition.
In 1951-56 Denisov studied at the Moscow Conservatory — composition with Vissarion Shebalin, orchestration with Nikolai Rakov, analysis with Viktor Zuckerman and piano with Vladimir Belov. In 1956-59 he composed the opera Ivan-Soldat (Soldier Ivan) in three acts based on Russian folk fairy tales.
He began his own study of scores, which were difficult to obtain in the USSR at that time, including music ranging from Mahler and Debussy to Boulez and Stockhausen. He wrote a series of articles giving a detailed analysis of different aspects of contemporary compositional techniques and at same time actively experimented as a composer, trying to find his own way.
After graduating from the Moscow Conservatory, he taught orchestration and later composition there. Among his pupils were composers Dmitri Smirnov, Elena Firsova, Vladimir Tarnopolsky, Sergei Pavlenko, Ivan Sokolov, Yuri Kasparov, Dmitri Kapyrin and Alexander Shchetinsky.
Denisov became a leader of the ACM - Association for Contemporary Music reestablished in Moscow in 1990. Later Denisov moved to France, where after an accident and long illness he died in a Paris hospital in 1996.
The cycle for soprano and chamber ensemble Le soleil des Incas (1964), setting the poems by Gabriela Mistral and dedicated to Pierre Boulez, gave him an international recognition. This happened after the series of successful performances of the work in Darmstadt and Paris (1965). Igor Stravinsky liked the piece, discovering the "remarkable talent" of its composer. However, the piece was harshly criticised by the Union of Soviet Composers for its "western influences", "erudition instead of creativity", and "total composer's arbitrary" (Tikhon Khrennikov). After that, performances of his works were often banned in the Soviet Union.
Later he wrote a flute concerto for Aurèle Nicolet, a violin concerto for Gidon Kremer, works for the oboist Heinz Holliger, clarinettist Eduard Brunner and a sonata for alto saxophone and piano for Jean-Marie Londeix, that became highly popular among saxophone players.
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