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Tristan Foison (*1961): Violin concerto

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Author Topic: Tristan Foison (*1961): Violin concerto  (Read 1355 times)
« on: December 16, 2012, 10:57:10 am »

For those who don't know the whole story, here is the complete one from this source If you have the 10 minutes give it a try - its a marvelous story! Now I just want to know if it is true or not. I found so less about Foison that I am uncertain about the story. But it could be true as well that all the persons involved want to cover the embarrassment in a cloak of silence...

A Classical Puzzle Accused of Stealing Another Composer's Work, Tristan
Foison Takes Another Enigmatic Turn

Pierre Ruhe - Atlanta Journal-Constitution - 29 July 2001

He cultivated an image as a romantic hero, a misunderstood genius. He lived
off a reputation as a charming Frenchman with a mystique - a self-exiled
artist searching for his muse and public acceptance.

Since 1987, Tristan Foison has worked as a composer, conductor, pianist and
music teacher in Atlanta. Until, that is, the 39-year-old was caught in May
claiming credit for a piece of music that wasn't his. In the weeks that
followed, he dropped out of sight. On June 29, he left for his native Paris,
telling at least four friends that he needed to attend to his father, who he
said was dying of liver cancer.

Foison's story, pieced together from dozens of interviews with fellow
musicians and people in his social circle, is one of ambiguity. But it's
also a tale of pathos, of a man who likely suffered more than he let on.

Foison had faithful friends, highly rarified musical interests and, in some
areas, sparkling talent. His specialty is the ondes martenot, a primitive
electronic keyboard instrument that eerily evokes a child's singing in
angelic tones. Foison owns two of the rare instruments.

Yet he must not have found this distinguishing enough, because he apparently
embellished a great deal more. Reached by telephone recently in suburban
Paris, Foison was asked why he passed off another composer's music as his

"I was very tormented at that time," he said. "I try to survive, but it's
not that easy. It's been one thing after another for me. I finally think I
lost it. I think I wanted to be reassured about myself, that I could have a

Had he ever before copied another composer's work? "Of course not.
Absolutely never," he replied.

Foison's crafted persona began to unravel after a May performance of his
Messe de Requiem, sung by the Capitol Hill Chorale, an amateur group in
Washington. Dedicated to the late Robert Shaw, it was advertised as the
American premiere. The performers liked it; the audience liked it; a
Washington Post music critic liked it.

But an audience member identified the piece as being the Requiem Mass by
Alfred Desenclos (1912-71), published in 1967 by Durand, one of France's
leading music publishers.

Fred Binkholder, conductor of the chorale and a former colleague of Foison's
from the Peggy Still School of Music in Roswell, compared Foison's score
with Desenclos' and found them note-for-note identical. Confronted days
after the performance, Foison gave a complicated explanation that involved
mixed-up files at the Durand office in Paris. And, before disappearing, he
promised he could clear up the matter.

"My hunch is that Tristan did something childish to get recognition," says
Xavier de Gaursac, who describes himself as Foison's friend of more than a
decade. ". . . He was never comfortable with his situation. Tristan is a
misfit in our society."

Foison (pronounced fwah-zon) took another step away from Atlanta when he
quit a scheduled Aug. 4 performance with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He
was contracted by the ASO (before the Requiem scandal) for one specific
assignment: to play his ondes martenot in Olivier Messiaen's Trois Petites
Liturgies de la Pr�sence Divine, a joyous, 35-minute work, which ASO Music
Director Robert Spano will conduct.

Earlier this month, Foison left a message on ASO Personnel Manager Russell
Williamson's answering machine, explaining that his ondes martenot was
broken and he would not be able to perform. (The ASO has since hired another
ondes martenot player, Mary Chun, from San Francisco.)

Speaking by telephone from Paris, Foison said that the better of his two
ondes martenots was broken and he had shipped it to France for repairs. "I
don't know what's wrong with it," he said. "It might be something
electrical, something with the wires. But I'm not a technician."

A sketchy history

While Foison's cancellation may spare the ASO embarrassment, for the
embattled musician, it's the latest turbulence in his life.

Foison's basic biography, as relayed by several of his closest friends, is
hazy. According to what he told people, he was born and raised in France,
was an only child, and his mother was a Paris Conservatoire-trained

Why he immigrated to Atlanta isn't known. De Gaursac, a specialty foods
importer in Atlanta, says he met Foison at a meditation class in 1987.

In December 1989, Foison was sponsored by Georgia State University's school
of music for an H-1 temporary work visa. The plan was that he would develop
a class for children ages 5 to 14. He got the visa, but the program was
never developed, says John Haberlen, the school's current director. He says
he isn't certain why.

For the last two years at the Peggy Still School, Foison taught 30-minute
piano and music theory lessons, mostly to children. Still didn't respond to
requests for an interview. Her husband, Russell, says that Foison, like all
teachers at the school, worked as a subcontractor, "operating his own
students out of the company's location." There were no background checks, he
says; rather, Foison came recommended by a number of local musicians. On
June 8, when the scandal hit the press, Peggy Still ended Foison's
association with the school.

De Gaursac helped Foison financially, mostly in small amounts, sometimes
every month. He attributes his friend's lifelong struggles to his "harsh
difficulties at home." He says Foison told him that he grew up in foster
care until the Foisons legally adopted him at age 14.

Proud of Foison's Washington concert and feeling that her support of his
career was paying artistic dividends, Aimee Painter of Sandy Springs flew up
for the Requiem performance.

"Tristan hasn't come clean with me," says Painter, who describes herself as
Foison's friend and occasional benefactor over the last year and a half. "I
took him to be a very honorable person. . . . It was like being hit by a
baseball bat when I found out what he'd done."

Days before leaving Atlanta, Foison delivered his smaller ondes martenot,
which is also in disrepair, to Painter's house. It now sits in her hall
closet, unassembled, in packing crates.

'Every concert a disaster'

By the early 1990s, Foison had begun winning small prizes for his
compositions. ASCAP, a New York-based organization that oversees copyright
payments, issued Foison "ASCAP-Plus standard awards" every year from 1993 to
2000 for the ongoing "performances of his work and the prestige value of his
catalog," says ASCAP spokesman Ken Cicerale. Such awards typically amount to
no more than a couple of hundred dollars per year.

Over the past decade, music with Foison's name on it has been performed at
the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the Capitol City Opera Company of
Atlanta, the Peggy Still School and Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.
He has performed with the Louisiana Symphony in New Orleans and with the
Boston Soloists Orchestra, an ad hoc ensemble. For a multimedia, high-tech
arts organization called Visioneering, based in Atlanta, Foison wrote and
performed music used in the United Nations Pavilion at the 1992 World's Fair
in Genoa, Italy.

continues in next post..
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