Difficult when you have known someone not to bring to the surface all the details of this friendship and to keep only one aspect of it. Yet that is what I am going to do today to talk only about Ivan Wyschnegradsky and the pianist Matthieu Acar. The latter left us at the age of 34 on December 29.


I met him during his time in my class of first-reading at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional in St-Maur-des-Fossés, near Paris. I have kept the memory of a brilliant and warm student. His curious ear of everything was just asking to be fed, we shared the same love of fractions, irrational rhythms, music of today. He caught on the fly all the balls that were thrown at him, we could bring him everything to read, everything interested him. It is therefore not surprising that he entered the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris. However, the bond created has never been broken…


A few years later, engaged in the same project – the creation in concert and the recording of Racines by Alain Bancquart for 4 pianos in quarter tones (*), I was very happy to find « intact » the Matthieu that I had known: enthusiastic, delicate, deep, sparkling.


Again following this project, Martine Joste trusted us by offering to play in concert Wyschnegradsky’s Two Integrations opus 49 for two pianos in quarter tone and the Chant nocturne opus 11 with Léo Marillier on the violin. Our work in chamber music, the shared meals, allowed me to get to know Matthieu better. The pleasure we took in detailing each rhythm, each harmony, each melodic phrasing, the common concern to look at everything without losing sight of the general form, his demanding and competent ear, without forgetting the heart he had vibrating with emotions, made this period a moment of artistic achievement that I will never forget.


We had the firm intention of continuing this work as a duo by diving into the Two Studies on Densities and Volumes, but I had found him in recent years to be very busy, always current, never free, although always just as devoted to his students, to his sweet and tender, to his family…


This last project will remain unfinished, life/death having decided otherwise. I’m not a « believer » but I hope there is a somewhere where all those who love music can meet and continue to share it.


Matthew, you were a worthy servant of this art. Matthieu you have, alas – before him, there was Cécile, William, Lisandru and others still – joined the cohort of angels.
But did Wyschnegradsky believe in angels ?


Jean-Francois Ballèvre
February 2023


(*) This concert was released by the Shiiin label in 2017


Rehearsal of the 13 march 2018 concert at La Marbrerie, Montreuil-sous-Bois near Paris. From left to right: Matthieu Acar, Léo Marillier and Jean-François Ballèvre

Rehearsal of the 13 march 2018 concert at La Marbrerie, Montreuil-sous-Bois near Paris. From left to right: Matthieu Acar, Léo Marillier and Jean-François Ballèvre


17/02/2023 - Moscow (Russia): La Journée de l’Existence by Persimfans orchestra - Read

20/04/2023 - Basel (Switzerland): 24 Préludes op. 22, Transparences I et II - Read

19/11/2023 - Aalborg (Denmark): Préludes op. 22, Etude sur le Carré magique sonore op. 40, others - Read

All news on the page NEWS


I could have been a poet, a philosopher or a musician. I chose music: I am therefore a composer.’

Ivan Wyschnegradsky, born in Saint Petersburg in 1893, lived in Paris from 1920 until his death in 1979. Admired by numerous composers, amongst whom we can mention Olivier Messiaen, Henri Dutilleux, Bruce Mather, Alain Bancquart and Claude Ballif, Ivan Wyschnegradsky is recognized by the musical world as one of the pioneers in 20th century music.

Ivan Wyschnegradsky, 1979 - Photo René BlockPhoto René Block (1979)

Ivan Wyschnegradsky's 1/4 tone piano, which in 1927 he had ordered from the August Förster manufacture, first was in the home of Claude Ballif, to whom he had bequeathed it. Since 2009 it belongs to the Paul-Sacher Foundation in Basel. The piano has been fully restaured in 2018 by Pierre Malbos on Dagobert Koitka's request. It has been shown and played for the first time in public in the Haus zur Zwischen Zeit gallery, during several concerts in Basel from january 2018 to september 2019, in the L’Esprit de l’Utopie festival. If you wish to see it, would you please send an email to Simon Obert, at the Paul-Sacher Foundation in Basel: simon.obert@unibas.ch.

Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra op. 17 Sarah Gibson, Thomas Kotcheff, Vicki Ray, Steven Vanhauwaert, conductor Donald Crockett Concert on 16 juin 2019, San Francisco, Other Minds Festival 24.