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Michel Ellenberger

Michel Ellenberger (photo Tali)

This beginning of summer 2023 sees, simultaneously, the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the Ivan WYSCHNEGRADSKY Association and the disappearance of our great friend Michel ELLENBERGER with whom we created it under the presidency of Claude BALLIF.
Michel was a rare person, of extreme sensitivity and delicacy, of unfailing generosity, always available even in his last moments, to help us, either in the realization of projects, or in their formulation. Of an immense culture, without being a musician, but a writer and a great music lover, he had shared with his wife Yaffa moments that he said unforgettable with Ivan Wyschnegradsky, during the last years of the composer’s life. It is very difficult to persevere and maintain the life of the Association of his « dear Ivan », without the presence of Michel, his support and the warmth of his unfailing friendship…
Nevertheless, I am going to draw up a picture of the achievements of the Association during these forty years that we have spent together, working for the knowledge of the work and the thought of Ivan Wyschnegradsky, pioneer of microtonal music, now recognized throughout the world to be one of the most important composers of the 20th century.
The Association has been either associated or co-producer of the following achievements:
Records and CDs:
– 1983: publication of a double vinyl disc edited by René Block (Berlin), including the 1977 concert at Radio-France, supplemented by the Interviews of the composer with Robert Pfeiffer.
– 1990: publication of the complete String Quartets and Trios by the Arditti Quartet, edited by René Block (Berlin), accompanied by an important booklet. This CD is no more available.
– 1995: The Ensemble 2e2m publishes the first CD of the 2e2m collection label, devoted to the Ivan Wyschnegradsky concert held in 1991 at the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris.
– 2002: publication by the label Col Legno of a monographic CD comprising the Etude sur les Mouvements rotatoires and the 24 Preludes for 2 pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. CD no more available.
– 2009: publication on the Shiiin label of the composer’s founding work, La Journée de l’Existence. It contains the recording of the creation in 1978 in Paris in the Auditorium of the Maison de la Radio and includes a very important booklet in 3 languages, with the complete text of the author’s poem translated in English. This publication was crowned with a 4 star from Classica, a Diapason d’or and a Coup de coeur from the Académie Charles Cros.
– 2017: publication on the Shiiin label, of a CD with works for 2 and 4 pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart, Ondes Martenot and cello in micro-intervals, played at the concert in 2016 in Paris at the Auditorium of the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional of Paris: Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra, the 4th Fragment symphonique, the Meditation on 2 Themes of La Journée de l’Existence and two creations, by Alain Bancquart and Alain Moëne.
– 2022: publication on the Peewee label of jazz drummer Simon Goubert, who improvises on extracts from works by Wyschnegradsky on a microtonal drum set designed by and for him.
– 1985: in Paris, in the great hall of the Center Georges Pompidou, concert accompanied by an exhibition of scores, drawings, photos, documents and instruments (clarinet in quarter tone, harmonium) designed by the composer.
– 1988: concert-reading at Radio-France in Paris on the initiative of Alain Bancquart (Cosmos).
– 1989: as part of the Festival Estival de Paris, organized by Bernard Bonaldi, concert for 2 pianos.
– 1991: In co-production with the Ensemble 2e2m, concert at the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, which will give rise to the first CD of the 2e2m collection.
– 1993: in Prague, concert organized by the Society for New Music including unpublished works for the quarter-tone piano, scores found by the musicologist and composer Martin Smolka in the archives of Aloïs Haba.
– 2010: concert at the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris to welcome the publication of the CD of La Journée de l’Existence by the Shiiin label.
– 2016: concert with 4 pianos, Ondes Martenot and cello at the Auditorium of the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris (see above, publication of the CD of this concert in 2017).
– 2018: concert at La Marbrerie in Montreuil-sous-Bois for the publication of this CD: 2 pianos, ondes Martenot and violin in micro-intervals.
– 2019: Vitry-sur-Seine, as part of the Claude Helffer festival, concert presented and formatted by Alexia Guiomar.
– San Francisco: concert of the Arditti Quartet (Trio and Quartets) and concert with 4 pianos (Cosmos, Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra and solo piano pieces).
– Basel: Spirit of Utopia, designed and organized by Dagobert Koitka, numerous concerts, restoration of the Wyschnegradsky’s piano in quarter tones with three keyboards, exhibition.
– 2022: Bern: two Days of concerts, conferences, exhibition, organized by the Piano Duo Huber/Thomet.
– 2023: Moscow: First in Russia of La Journée de l’Existence.
The Association has also been co-producer of concerts in Berlin, Graz, Venice, Geneva, Heilbronn, Zurich, Bern, Moscow, St Petersburg…
You will find the details of all these informations on the sections of our site.
Seminars, conferences:
– In 2014, two International Study Days, conferences and concerts on the theme Ultrachromatism, between futurism and constructivism, at the Center for Documentation of Contemporary Music and at the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris with musicologists from Germany, Switzerland, Russia and France, organized by Pascale Criton.
– Many other conferences were held in St Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Basel, Bern, etc.
– 1985: First Cahier Ivan Wyschnegradsky, including unpublished texts by the composer and original articles by Claude Ballif, Jean-Etienne Marie, Philippe Leroux, Jean-Marc Arrachart, Serge Nigg, Elena Chalot, Michel Ellenberger.
– 1996: La Loi de la Pansonorité, Editions Contrechamps, with the participation of Pascale Criton and Franck Jedrzejewski.
– 2013: Ivan Wyschnegradsky – Liberation of sound – Writings 1916-1979 published by Editions Symétrie. This 528-page work brings together unpublished writings by the composer, collected and presented by Pascale Criton and translated from Russian by Michèle Kahn.
– 2017: Traduction and publication by Underwolf Editions (NY/USA) of the Manual of Quarter-Tone Harmony, by R. and N. Kaplan.
Music editions:
– From 1994 to 2000: revision for publication by Editions Belaïeff/Frankfurt of the two versions of the Etude sur les Mouvements rotatoires (two pianos version and chamber orchestra version) and Cosmos for 4 pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart.
– In 2013, revision and publication by Editions Jobert of the Méditation on two themes from La Journée de l’Existence for cello and piano, followed in 2018 by Le Chant douloureux and Etude op. 6 for violin and piano, in 2019, Three Pieces for piano p. 38, and in 2022 Ombres, for piano, all the latter published by Editions Jobert.
– 1985: at the Center Pompidou in Paris: instruments (clarinet, harmonium), scores, photos, writings.
– 2017: in Dunkirk (France) at LAAM and in Kassel in Germany (Documenta): chromatic drawings.
– 2019: Basel Spirit of Utopia, exhibition of scores, sketches, writings, Wyschnegradsky’s piano in quarter-tone…
– 2023: Moscow (at the Manege).
2011/2012: creation of the Association’s official website: www.ivan-wyschnegradsky.fr.
Several articles are signed by Michel Ellenberger, including the biography and the explanatory page of the chromatic drawings.
– We had developed in 1988 with Michel Ellenberger a project to show chromatic drawings by Wyschnegradsky at the Planetarium of the Cité des Sciences in Paris simultaneously with Cosmos for 4 pianos tuned at a distance of a quarter tone. Unfortunately, this project could not succeed due to a lack of interest from the managers at the time at the Cité des Sciences. In 2019 it was partially performed in Basel on the huge dome of the Grande Halle, simultaneously with the performance of Arc-en-Ciel for 6 pianos tuned a twelfth of a tone apart and other works for 3 pianos.
– Monographic CDs or CDs containing works by Wyschnegradsky have also appeared in Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, USA, Holland.
– Doctoral theses and memoirs have been written about Ivan Wyschnegradsky and microtonal music in Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Russia, England, Australia, Italy, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, USA, Brazil, Belgium.
All these informations are detailed in the Past News and Who are we sections on our site.
All my apologies for anything I may have inadvertently omitted…
Martine Joste
July 2023


28/09/2023 - Palermo (Sicily): Transcriptions by G. Damiani for synthesizer of Prélude et Etude op. 48 for Carrillo’s piano in third of tone, and Deux Pièces op. 44 for Carrillo’s piano in sixths of tone and in twelfths of tone - Read

29/09/2023 - Moscow (Russia): Trois Pièces pour piano op. 38 and La Journée de l’Existence, reduction for voice and piano - Read

13/10/2023 - New-York (USA): Deux Chants sur Nietzsche op. 9, A Richard Wagner op. 26, Deux Chants russes op. 29 - 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.


Association Ivan Wyschnegradsky - last update 25 september 2023