Composer Istvan Anhalt dies at 92

Hungarian-Canadian Istvan Anhalt, an innovative classical composer who is considered a founding father of electroacoustic music in Canada, has died at 92.

Hungarian-Canadian Istvan Anhalt, an innovative classical composer who is considered a founding father of electroacoustic music in Canada, has died. He was 92.

Queen’s University, where he was head of the music department from 1971-81, posted news of his death in Kingston, Ont., on its website Friday.

Anhalt also established the electronic music studio at McGill University, where he taught from his arrival in Canada in 1949 until 1971.

Over the years, he created more than 25 new classical compositions, including operas, large-scale orchestral works, choral pieces and work for piano and electronic instruments. He received commissions from the Esprit Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver New Music Society and the CBC, according to his biography at the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music.

Among his compositions are La Tourangelle, Millennial Mall (Lady Diotima's Walk), Fantasia (1954) for piano and the symphonies Simulacrum, Sparkskraps and Sonance-Resonance.

Anhalt also guided many young composers such as William Benjamin, John Fodi, Clifford Ford, Keith Hamel, Hugh Hartwell, John Hawkins, Alan Heard, Jack Sirulnikoff and Alexander Tilley.

Studied in Budapest, Paris 

Born in Budapest on April 12, 1919, Anhalt studied with Zoltan Kodaly at the Royal Hungarian Academy of Music but was conscripted into a forced-labour unit of the Hungarian Army. After the Second World War, he studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Soulima Stravinsky before receiving a Lady Davis Fellowship, which had been set up to bring stateless intellectuals to Canada.

Anhalt arrived in 1949 and immediately joined the music faculty at McGill University where he developed a composition program and became interested in the burgeoning field of electronic music.

After working at the Electronic Music Laboratory of the National Research Council in Ottawa, the Columbia-Princeton Center in New York and the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., he established McGill's Electronic Music Studio in 1964. He remained its director until 1971.

That year, Anhalt moved to Kingston and served as head of the department of music at Queen’s until 1981. He retired from the university in 1984, but continued composing.

Robin Elliott and Gordon E. Smith wrote a study of his life and composing style, titled Istvan Anhalt.

In 2003, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.