Leon Schidlowsky


Prof. (emeritus) Leon Schidlowsky



The composer and painter Leon Schidlowsky was born on 21 July 1931 in Santiago de Chile.
Schidlowsky pursued his secondary studies at the Instituto Nacional de Chile in Santiago from 1940-47 and studied the piano with Roberto Duncker at the Conservatorio Nacional de Chile in Santiago from 1942-48. He later studied composition with Juan Allende-Blin and Fré Focke, as well as harmony, philosophy and psychology at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago from 1948-52. He completed his studies in Germany at the Nordwestdeutsche Musikakademie Detmold (läter Hochschule für Müsik Detmold) from 1953-54. After his return to Chile he was a member of the avantgarde ensemble Grupo Tonus in Santiago and served as its director from 1958-59. In 1956 Schidlowsky produce Nacimiento (Birth), considered the first electroacustic work composed in Chile and Latin America. Between 1956 and 1959 he was member of the British Council and between 1956 and 1961 a musical adviser of the pantomime ensemble Grupo Noiswander. He served as director of the music library at the Instituto de Extención Musical, Chilean University in 1961-62 and as secretary-general of the Asociación Nacional de Compositores from 1961-63. He also served as director-general of the Instituto de Extención Musical from 1962-66. In 1964 he was, together with Luigi Dallapiccola and Alberto Ginastera, a member of the jury in a composers' competition in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The same year he took part in the music symposium “Latin America and the music of our time” (América Latina y la música de nuestros tiempos) in Lima, Peru. In 1965, Schidlowsky was appointed Professor of Composition at the Conservatorio Nacional. In 1966 he participated in the Inter-American Festival in Washington D.C., USA, as well as the Festival Interamericano de Música in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1967 he took part in the Festival of Music from Spain and Latin America, in Madrid, Spain. He participated in the “Festival of the Three Worlds” in Mérida, Venezuela in 1968, with lectures and discussions with the composers Krzyztof Penderecki and Luigi Nono. In the same year he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in order to write an opera, which he completed in Germany.

Israel 1969-2017

In 1969, he was appointed Professor for Composition and Music Theory at the Samuel Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. In 1979 he was granted a Sabbatical Year, which he spent in Hamburg. Schidlowsky received several fellowships from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), and stayed in Berlin for various periods (1980-81; 1992-93; 1999-2000), where he composed and painted.
In 1999 his wife Susanne died in Berlin and she was buried in Tel Aviv.
Schidlowsky participated in several Festivals of music in America and Europe and received numerous honours and prizes, such as the First Prize in the 60th Anniversary Competition of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (1996, for his work Absalom), and the ACUM Prize (2000, for his entire oeuvre), which is given by the Israel Composers Association. He receives the Engel Prize for his original work and the investigation of Jewish music, given from the city of Tel Aviv in June 2007.
On the occasion of his 75th Birthday he received homages in Tel Aviv and Berlin, where three CDs of his music were published. One of these recordings was made at a concert given in his honour in September 2006 (it is possible to order the CDs from ingo.schulz@emmaus.de).
On the 21st of August Leon Schidlowsky was awarded the Chilean National Price for Music 2014 that was accompanied by several homages, press articles and interviews in the local press. In December 2014 he was awarded the prize at the presidential palace La Moneda in Santiago de Chile, with the participation of President Michelle Bachelet, the Education Minister Nicolás Eyzaguirre Guzmán, the Minister of the Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes (CNCA) Claudia Barattini and other personalities of public life.
Leon Schidlowsky has given various courses in Composition in several countries; and he has helped to form and influence a whole generation of composers in Israel.
Leon Schidlowsky passed away on 10 October 2022 in Tel Aviv.


His works have been played in numerous countries, such as Germany, Argentina, Chile, USA, France, Holland, England, Israel, Italy, Uruguay, Philippines, Venezuela, with different orchestras under conductors such as Aldo Ceccatto, Agustín Cullel, Errico Fresis, Clytus Gottwald, Robin Griton, Choo Hoey, Juan Pablo Izquierdo, Erhard Karkoschka, Herbert Kegel, Lukas Foss, Juan Matteucci, Zubin  Mehta, Hermann Scherchen, David Serendero, Ingo Schulz, Victor Tevah and Klaus Vetter.
As an admirer of Arnold Schönberg´s music, Schidlowsky began his carrier as a composer in the tradition of the Second Viennese School. Later he began to use serial techniques, and to experiment with various tonal concepts (atonal, aleatory, graphic notation), but always on the understanding that music has a deeper significance which transcends  absolute art, which can open up a path for a human being to find a way to himself (Schidlowsky: “Art itself has not only one meaning. It includes and encompasses all senses, questions and all answers. I think that art is a way to us.”).
Leon Schidlowsky has written dramatic and vivid works, like his orchestral pieces Caupolicán, Kristallnacht, Invocation, Llaqui, New York, Epitafio para Hermann Scherchen, In Eius Memoriam, Lux in Tenebris, Prelude to a Drama, Absalom, or his graphic music Misa Sine Nomine, (In Memoriam Victor Jara), Greise sind die Sterne geworden, and Deutschland ein Wintermärchen. His post-avantgarde music (after 1983) uses traditional notation again, and is composed in an atonal style.
Many of his works make reference to his Jewish-Israeli identity and to the history of the Jewish people, as well as to his interest in and protest against the political and social situation in Chile and Latin America. There is also in his works a musical response to his personal life and experience, such as the death of his wife Susanne (1999) and his son Elias (2004), or the destiny of many personal and professional friends, or personalities of his time. The scores of his graphic music have been shown in various exhibitions linked to concerts, such as in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (1979), Kunsthaus Hamburg (1980), the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen (1982), and the Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken (1996). Among his numerous works, three operas stand out: Die Menschen (1969, Opera in 4 Acts, after Walter Hasenclever), Der Dybbuk (1993, Opera in 3 Acts after Shlomo An-Ski), and Before Before Breakfast (1998, a Monodram after Eugene O'Neill).

On 24 June 2023 a tribute to Schidlowsky, "homage à leon schidlowsky (2031-2022)", was held at the Emmaus-Kirche in Berlin with a concert and an exhibition of his paintings.

On Schidlowsky have given their opinion:
-The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who said about Caupolicán, the music set by Schidlowsky to a poem of Neruda`s from Canto General: „In my opinion, this is a work of extraordinary significance and great beauty”.
-The conductor Hermann Scherchen, in a letter to Leon Schidlowsky after the premiere of Schidlowsky`s Llaqui by the Lugano Radio Symphony Orchestra under his direction: „Your work has character. It is passionate, hard and excitable. Really it belongs to the powerful expressionist world“.
-The conductor Hermann Scherchen, in a letter to the Russo-French litterateur, musicologist and music writer Pierre Souvchinsky, March 13, 1965: “… yesterday I premiered the first real current work. An uncompromisingly hard piece before a normal radio audience that acknowledged the violence of the piece with enthusiasm: (Llaqui) Elegy on the death (murder?) of a young Peruvian poet (Javier) Heraud by Leon Schidlowsky. I am proud of this, just as I can be proud of having “brought to life” Xenakis. Suddenly it turns out that Boulez, Nono, Stockhausen, and yes, partly Xenakis too, live from the new means... however they are actually entrenched in yesterday´s aesthetics and vanity. In a word, they are not the expression of our terrible time. Schidlowsky has come upon the audience like an elemental event. Again, I was able to open a door, and my sensitivity for nascence or coming into being is still alive, as it was 1903 with Mahler, 1908 with Schoenberg, and then for Webern, Stravinsky, Bartok, Prokofiev and the other pointers".
-The music critic and musicologist  H. H. Stuckenschmidt wrote in his memories “Born to hear” about the premiere of Schidlowsky`s New York in the Third Music Festival in Caracas, 1966: “The most convincing work was the piece New York by the Chilean Leon Schidlowsky, with eruptions à la Varèse, and whirring sounds undefined in their pitch, glissandos, and a powerful swelling sound on the timpani”.
-The Indian conductor Zubin Mehta described Schidlowsky as "a wonderful composer" during his last visit to Chile (August 2013).
-The Chilean conductor Juan Pablo Izquierdo (National Prize of Musical Arts 2012) stated that Schidlowsky was "one of the biggest names in music in Chile" at a concert in 2013 where music of Schidlowsky was performed.


León Schidlowsky’s manuscripts (musical scores as well as visual scores and other materials) are taken care of by the Archives of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, in their León-Schidlowsky-Archiv, find here: