Arthur Lourié

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Portrait by Bruni, 1915

Arthur-Vincent Lourié, born Naum Izrailevich Luria (Russian: Наум Израилевич Лурья), later changed his name to Artur Sergeyevich Luriye (Russian: Артур Серге́евич Лурье) (14 May 1892 in Propoysk – 12 October 1966 in Princeton, New Jersey) was a significant Russian composer. Lourié played an important role in the earliest stages of the organization of Soviet music after the 1917 Revolution but later went into exile. His music reflects his close connections with contemporary writers and artists, and also his close relationship with Igor Stravinsky.

Russian career[edit]

Born into a prosperous Jewish family, he converted to Catholicism while still in Russia. An admirer of van Gogh, from whom he derived the name 'Vincent', Lourié was partly self-taught, but also studied piano with Barinova and composition with Glazunov at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, graduating in 1913. He became friendly with the Futurist poets and particularly Anna Akhmatova,[1] whose poetry he was among the first to set. He was also acquainted with Vladimir Mayakovsky, Nikolai Kulbin, Fyodor Sologub and Alexander Blok; and was deeply influenced by contemporary art. His early piano pieces, from 1908 onward, take on from the late works of Scriabin but evolve new kinds of discourse, arriving in 1914 at an early form of dodecaphony (the Synthèses) and in 1915 at the Formes en l'air, dedicated to Picasso, a rather Cubist conception using an innovative form of notation in which different systems are placed spatially on the page in independent blocks, with blanks instead of bars' rest. At this stage of his career he seems a parallel figure to Nikolai Roslavets, though Lourié's aesthetic appears more 'decadent'. Essentially he was the first Russian Futurist in music, and in 1914 was the co-signatory, with the painter Georgy Yakulov and the poet Benedikt Livshitz, of the Petersburg Futurist Manifesto, 'We and the West', proclaiming principles common to all three arts.

Revolutionary Russia[edit]

After the October Revolution of 1917 Lourié served under Lunacharsky as head of the music division (Muzo) of the Commissariat of Popular Enlightenment (Narkompros). For a while he shared a house with Serge Sudeikin and his wife Vera Sudeikina. His tenure proved to be contentious. When he suggested renaming his music department "The People's Tribune for Civil Music", and to style himself the "People's Tribune", Lunacharsky allegedly replied: "No, Artur Sergeevich, this does not suit us." Alexander Goldenweiser and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov complained to Lenin himself about him.[2] Though his sympathies were Leftist he became increasingly disenchanted with the Bolshevik order in Russia.

Into exile[edit]

In 1921 he went on an official visit to Berlin, where he befriended Busoni, and from which he failed to return. His works were thereafter proscribed in the USSR. In 1922 he settled in Paris, where he became friends with the philosopher Jacques Maritain and was introduced to Stravinsky by Vera Sudeykina. Maritain championed his work early on, viewing the young Lourié not only as an important composer, but as a composer with an important capacity to express Catholic theology and philosophy in music.[3] Lourié dedicated a number of his works to Maritain, including the Gigue from 4 Pièces Pour Piano (1928).[4] From 1924 to 1931 he was one of Stravinsky's most important champions, often becoming part of the Stravinsky household as he wrote articles about his fellow composer and preparing piano reductions of his works.[5] He and the Stravinskys eventually parted company over a feud with Vera, and Stravinsky seldom afterwards mentioned his existence. In his works of the Paris years Lourié's early radicalism turns to an astringent form of neoclassicism and Russophile nostalgia; a dialogue with Stravinsky's works of the same period is evident, even to the extent that Stravinsky may have taken ideas from the younger composer: Lourié's A Little Chamber Music (1924) seems to prophesy Stravinsky's Apollon musagète (1927), his Concerto spirituale for chorus, piano and orchestra (1929) the latter's Symphony of Psalms (1930). Certainly in his later works Stravinsky adopted Lourié's style of notation with blank space instead of empty bars. Lourié also composed two symphonies (No. 1 subtitled Sinfonia dialectica) and an opera, The Feast in a Time of Plague. A man of very wide culture, who cultivated the image of a dandy and aesthete, he set poems of Sappho, Pushkin, Heine, Verlaine, Blok, Mayakovsky, Dante, classical Latin and medieval French poets. He was also a talented painter.

American years[edit]

When the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, Lourié fled to the USA, assisted by Serge Koussevitzky. He settled in New York. He wrote some film scores but gained almost no performances for his more serious works, though he continued to compose. He spent over ten years writing an opera after Pushkin's The Moor of Peter the Great called The Blackamoor of Peter the Great, so far unperformed, though a lapidary orchestral suite has been recorded. He also composed a setting of sections from T. S. Eliot's Little Gidding for tenor and instruments (1959): this could be seen as another instance of pre-Stravinsky-ing Stravinsky, who set one of the same texts as the anthem The Dove Descending in 1962.


This list is based on that of the Arthur Lourié Society.[6]

Works composed by Arthur Lourié
Title Year Medium
Délie/Madrigal funèbre Voice, piano
5 Préludes fragiles, Op. 1 1908–1910 Piano
2 Estampes, Op. 2 1910 Piano
Intermède enfantine, Op. 3 1910–1911 Piano
3 Études, Op. 4 1910–1911 Piano
Mazurkas, Op. 7 1911–1912 Piano
Doroenka/Fusspfad 1912 Voice, piano
Verlaine 1912–1919 Voice, piano
Prélude, op. 12/2 1912 Quarter-tone keyboard
2 Poèmes, Op. 8 1912 Piano
Salomé-Liturgie, Op. 11 bis 1912–1913 Piano
2 Poèmes, op. 5 1912 Voice, piano
4 Poèmes, Op. 10 1912–1913 Piano
Spleen empoisonnée 1913
Masques (Tentations), Op. 13 1913 Piano
Menuet 1914 Piano
Chetki (Rosary) 1914 High voice, piano
Quasi Valse 1914 Voice, piano
Grecheskie Pesni 1914 Voice, piano
Synthèse, Op. 16 1914 Piano
String Quartet No. 1 1915 2 violins, viola, cello
Corona Carminum Sacrorum (Ave Maria, Salve Regina, Inviolata) 1915–1917 Voice, piano
Suite japonais 1915 Soprano, piano
Triolety/Triolets 1915 Voice, piano
Pleurs de la Vierge, Op. 26 1915 Voice, violin, viola, cello
5 Rondeaux de Christine de Pisan 1915 Women‘ voices, harp, cembalo or piano
Formes en l'air 1915 Piano
Dvevnoi uzor (Order of the Day) 1915 Piano
Rodestvo Bogorodicy/Naissance de la Vierge (Birth of the Virgin) 1915 Voice, piano
Tri svetlych tsaria (The Three Kings) 1916 Voice, piano
Pastorale de la Volga 1916 Oboe, bassoon, 2 violas and cello
Oshibka baryshni smerti (Death's Mistake), Op. 40 1917 Piano
3rd Sonatina, Tret'ia sonatina dlia roialia 1917 Piano
Rondel de Stéphane de Mallarmé 1917 Voice, piano
Upmann/Smoking Sketch, Kuritel'naia shutka 1917 Piano
Azbuka/Dve pesenki dlia detei (text by Leo Tolstoy) 1917 Voice, piano
Roial'v detskoi/Piano Gosse/Klavier im Kinderzimmer 1917 Piano
Nash Marsh (Our March) 1918 Piano und speaker
Bolotnyi popik/Das Sumpfäffchen 1919 Voice, piano
Golos Muzy/Voix de la Muse/Voice of the muse 1919 Women's chorus
V kumirniu zolotogo sna (In the Temple of Golden Dreams) 1919 Chorus a capella
Chetyre Narodnye Pesni Ninei Bretany/4 Chants populaires de Basse Bretagne 1920 Voice, piano
Uzkaia lira/die schmale Leier/La Lyre étroite 1920–1941 Voice, piano
Elisium/Vosem' stichtvoreniia Pushkina 1920–1921 Voice, piano
Shagi Komandora/The Commander’s Stride 1920 Voice, piano
Lament from Dante's Vita Nouva 1921 Women's chorus, strings
Canzone de la Vita Nuova de Dante 1921 Women's chorus a cappella
Pesni o Rossii: Korshun 1921 Chorus
Dvě kolybelnyia/2 Berceuses 1921 Voice, piano
Prochitanie/Chant des Gueuses/The Beggar Woman 1922 Soprano, contralto, English horn
Chant funèbre sur la mort d'un poète/Pogrebal'nyi plach na smert' poeta/Funeral Song on the Death of a Poet 1922 Chorus
String Quartet No. 2 'A little Chamber Music' 1923–1924 2 violins, viola, cello
Nos (The Nose) 1923 Opera
String Quartet No. 3 'Suite' 1924–1926 2 violins, viola, cello
Toccata 1924 Piano
Regina Coeli 1924 Contralto, trumpet, oboe
Sonata 1924 Violin, double bass
Capriccio sur un thème de J. S. Bach / For pipe smokers 1924 Voice, piano
2 chants 1926 Voice, piano
Sonnet de Dante 1926 Voice, 2 violins, viola, cello
Valse 1926 Piano
Petite suite en fa 1926 Piano
Obriadovaia / Svadebni Prichet (poslě Bani) 1926 Voice, piano
Improperium (pour l'office du Dimanche des Rameaux) 1926 2 violins, baryton, double bass
Marche 1927 Piano
Sonnet de Dante 1927 Voice, piano
Gigue 1927 Piano
Intermezzo 1928 Piano
Nocturne 1928 Piano
Sonate liturgique 1928 Chorus, piano und chamber ensemble
Deuxième Tzigane (Sérénade) 1928 Voice, piano
Concerto Spirituale 1928–1929 Piano, 3 choruses, brass, 10 double basses, timbales and organ
Divertissement 1929 Violin, viola
Le Festin durant la Peste/Das Festmahl während der Pest/Pir vo vremia chumy (ballet in 2 acts) 1929–1931 Orchestra, chamber chorus and 2 soloists
Sinfonia Dialectica: Anno Domini MCMXXX/Symphonie 1930 1930 Orchester
Procession 1934 2 women's voices, piano
Tu es Petrus (Motet) 1935 Chorus a capella
Berceuse de la chevrette 1936 Piano
Naissance de la Beauté 1936 6 sopranos, piano (or cembalo), clarinet, bassoon, crotales
Symphony No. 2 'Kormtchaïa' 1936–1939 Orchestra
La Flûte à travers le Violon 1935 Flute, violin
Allegretto 1936 Flute, violin
Dithyrambes 1938 Flute
A Christo crucificado ante el mar 1938 Baritone, mezzo-soprano, piano
Phoenix Park Nocturne 1938 Piano
Symphony No. 2 'Kormtchaïa' (in 10 movements) 1939 Orchestra
A Hamlet Sonata 1941–1944 2 violins, viola, cello
2 Poems 1941 Voice, oboe, Klarinette (in A), bassoon and strings
Toskà - Vospominaniia (Memories of the Past) 1941 Voice, harp (or piano)
De Ordinatio Angelorum 1942 Chorus, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba
2 Études sur un sonnet de Mallarmé 1945–1962 Voice, flute, piano
Little Gidding 1945 Tenor, flute, oboe, clarinet in A, basson, piano, cymbals, and strings
Concerto da camera 1946–1947 Violin solo, string orchestra
Paysage de sons 1948–1958 Voice, piano
Ave atque vale/Drei Dionysos-Dithyramben (Die Sonne sinkt) (text by Friedrich Nietzsche) 1948 Voice, piano
Epilogue 1948 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass
Arap Petra Velikogo/Der Mohr Peter des Grossen (opera) 1949–1961
Anathema/Motette 1951 Tenor, baritone, bass, men's chorus, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones
Postcommunion 1952 5 women's voice a capella
The Mime 1956 Clarinet
Sunrise 1956 Flute
The Flute of Pan 1957 Flute
Iva/Die Weide 1958 Voice, piano
Ernste Stunde 1958 Voice, piano
Zaklinaniia/Beschwörungen 1-4 1959 Voice, piano
Ten' (Schatten)/Madrigal 1962 Voice, piano
Sibylla dicit (cantata) 1964 Women's voices, 4 instruments, cymbals
Funeral Games in Honor of Chronos 1964 3 flutes, piano, crotales

Selected recordings[edit]

  • Arthur Lourié Songs & Choruses: The Rosary, Voice of the muse, on poems of Anna Akhmatova. Cantata In the Sanctuary of a Golden Dream on collected texts of Alexander Blok Natalia Gerassimova, Vladimir Skanavy et al., rec. 1994, reissued by Brilliant (2010)
  • Futurpiano: Synthèses (Op. 16), Formes en l'air (for Pablo Picasso). Daniele Lombardi, piano. Rec. 1995. Issued by LTM (2009)
  • 12 Greek Songs to Texts from Sappho, translated by Viacheslav Ivanov (1914) on: Viacheslav Ivanov in Music of Miaskovsky, Lourié, Shebalin, Gretchaninov Ludmila Shkirtil (mezzo-soprano), Northern Flowers (2010)
  • Solo Piano Works, plus Der Irrtum der Frau Tod/Death's Mistake for speaker and piano; 3-CD set, Moritz Ernst (piano), Oskar Ansull (speaker), Capriccio (2016)


  1. ^ Everdell, William R. The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought. University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  2. ^ дня, Человек дня. "Человек дня: Артур Лурье". Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  3. ^ Shadle, Douglas (5 July 2017). Messiaen's Relationship to Jacques Maritain's Musical Circle and Neo-Thomism. Messiaen the Theologian. pp. 83–99. doi:10.4324/9781315091228-8. ISBN 9781315091228. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  4. ^ Lourié, Arthur-Vincent (1928). "Gigue, from 4 Pièces Pour Piano" (PDF). IMSLP.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Igor Stravinsky, Selected Correspondence, ed. with commentaries by Robert Craft, 3 vols (London: Faber and Faber, 1982–5), vol. 1, 217n.
  6. ^ Arthur Lourié Society - Works.

Л.Корабельникова.Там,за океаном ... В кн: Русские евреи в Америке,кн.1. Ред.-сост. Э.Зальцберг. Иерусалим-Торонто-Москва.2005. С.125-142.

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