Mario Davidovsky

Born in Medanos, Argentina, March 4, 1934, Mario Davidovsky is the son of immigrant Russian-Polish parents who arrived in Argentina at the turn of the century. Every member of the very large Davidovsky family was actively involved in the musical and theatrical events which took place in the small town in southern Buenos Aires Province. Mario’s father played the violin and clarinet; his mother was involved in the production of plays for children’s theater. Davidovsky himself began his musical education at age seven on the violin, and at nine was playing duets with his father. While continuing his study of the violin, at thirteen he began composing, and almost immediately composition became his main interest. He continued his education at the Collegium Musicum, and graduated from the Bartolomé Mitre School in Buenos Aires in 1952.

His primary teacher and early influence in composition was Guillermo Graetzer. By the mid-1950s and onward, a large variety of contemporary music was performed in the sophisticated environment of Buenos Aires. Jose Castro, who conducted the National Symphony there, presented a series of contemporary concerts on Sunday mornings to packed houses at the Colón Theater. Davidovsky’s first major work, his String Quartet No. 1, was performed in Argentina by the Wagnerian Society String Quartet, receiving First Prize by the Asociación Wagneriana. His Concerto for Strings and Percussion was later performed in Buenos Aires, where it was given an award by the Society of Friends of Music. Prior to his departure for the United States, Davidovsky co-founded the Sociedad de Jovenes Compositores with Alcides Lanza and others, which was established for the promotion, publishing, and recording of Argentinian contemporary music.  He also wrote music for short art films and experimental opera and theater, sometimes using manipulated tape sounds. He became familiar with currents in contemporary electronic music — Stockhausen, Berio and Maderna —  as early as 1956 via late-night Radio Argentina broadcasts.

When Aaron Copland invited Davidovsky as a Fellow to Tanglewood for a performance of his Noneto in 1958, the young man was already a well-established composer in Argentina. Working closely with Copland, Davidovsky met Milton Babbitt, and it was at this time that the composer’s introduction to the electronic music center was arranged. In 1960, he returned to the United States under a succession of Guggenheim and Rockefeller grants at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, and has remained there since.

Mario Davidovsky’s titles and awards are vast. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, director of the Koussevitzky Foundation at the Library of Congress, director of the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, director of C.R.I., and founder and vice president of the Robert Miller Fund for Music. Fellowships have included the Koussevitzky Foundation Fellowship, the Williams Foundation Fellowship, the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and the Walter Channing Cabot Fellowship. Davidovsky has received a Pulitzer Prize and awards from the Asociación Amigos de la Música, BMI, Brandeis University, Walter W. Naumburg Foundation, and the National Institute of Arts.

Davidovsky has received numerous commissions, including those from the Fromm Foundation, the Juilliard String Quartet, the Koussevitzky Foundation, Yale University, the New York Chamber Soloists, Parnassus, the Universities of Pennsylvania and Chicago, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Speculum Musicae, the San Francisco Symphony, MIT, the Naumburg Foundation, the Dorian Quintet, the Emerson Quartet, the New Music Consort, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and others.

Davidovsky is the Fanny P. Mason Professor of Music, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He is the former Director of the Columbia/Princeton Electronic Music Center and MacDowell Professor of Music at Columbia University. He has served for 29 years as the Director of the Composers’ Conference at Wellesley. He has held visiting professorships at the University of Michigan, Yale University, City University, the Di Tella Institute (Argentina), the Manhattan School of Music, and the University of Pennsylvania.