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Tristan Foison (*1961): Violin concerto

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Author Topic: Tristan Foison (*1961): Violin concerto  (Read 1422 times)
« on: December 15, 2012, 05:03:35 pm »


while searching for a Desenclos work I came across the name of the infamous Thomas Foison, who let a Requiem by Desenclos played under his name. This all just came up because of someone in the audience of the "world premiere" of the Foison requiem remembered that he was singing in a Requiem by Desenclos a few months ago that sounded exactly the same.... Foison stuttered several obscure explanations for this confusion and claimed days and weeks that the Requiem was composed by him. And then suddenly disappeared. Thats how I read the story, maybe there are some differences, so anybody you can give a more detailed version feel free to add some comments. In fact it was quite difficult to get information about Foison, because of this story I guess.

But thats just as a starter. My real question is something I read while reading the great articles about the Foison-Desenclos-Mix-up: I read that the Atlanta Community Symphony Orchestra commissioned a violin concerto from Foison (before he got a persona non grata) which Beth Newdome premiered under the conductor John Morrison. Unfortunately I could not find any information about this work or the performance. I wrote e-mails to both ACSO and also ASO (just in case its the other Atlanta SO), but received no answer.
I would love to know the work, especially with the Desenclos background and see which violin concerto Foison threw in as his own. Maybe the ACSO is ashamed to commissioned a work by an impostor and therefore sent no answer. Or this whole story is wrong as well - I just don't know.

So if anyone of you has more to tell about Foison, the violin concerto and a possible performance - I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and the real story.

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« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2012, 06:42:54 pm »

I happen to have a cd with the Requiem by Alfred Desenclos, performed by director Joel Shubiette, chamber choir Les Eléments and the organ played by Frédéric Desenclos in the Notre Dame du Taur in Toulouse (Hortus 009).
The work must be relatively wellknown then. Hard to believe anyone else could ever claim it as his own.  ???
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… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.  RVW, 1948
« Reply #2 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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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2012, 10:58:06 am »

continuation of the story...

Yet there were problems.

The Atlanta Community Orchestra, a volunteer group, commissioned a violin
concerto from Foison in 1998. Beth Newdome, an ASO violinist, was the
soloist and John Morrison the conductor. "We paid him four grand for that
piece," Morrison said. "The funny thing is that it was like he didn't write
it for us - there was too much music for us to learn in our rehearsal time.
And he wouldn't make any changes to accommodate us. We were in over our
heads. I recall that at the end he even asked for the score back."

As music director of the Rome Symphony in northwest Georgia from August 1995
to January 1998, Foison continued to live in Atlanta. "Some of us were taken
in by his charm," says Bayne Dobbins, the orchestra's principal French horn
player for the past 20 years. But he remembers Foison's work as
unacceptable. "As we waded through the first piece at that (first)
rehearsal, a Wagner prelude, he was unable to control our tempo or cue us.
Every concert was a disaster."

Mary Ann Bray, executive director of the Rome Symphony, says Foison was
music director for a little less than half of his five-year contract. She
would not discuss particulars of his departure, other than to say it was
"under amicable circumstances." She added that Foison was hired by a search
committee that had never heard him conduct but was dazzled by his resume.

Looks great on paper

That resume impressed a lot of people.

One short biography, written by Foison and found on the Internet, lists the
following elite achievements: "winner of the 1987 Prix de Rome . . . First
Prize in the Leningrad Conducting Competition, 1989; First Prize in the
Prague Conducting Competition, 1985; First Prize in the Busoni Piano
Competition, 1980; as well as numerous other prizes."

But the Prix de Rome, a historically important prize for French composers,
was last awarded in 1968, nearly two decades before Foison claimed to have
won it. The Busoni, Italy's most prestigious piano award, is held on an
irregular basis; there was no competition in 1980.

What boosted Foison's aura the most, perhaps, were his claims of a special
relationship with Olivier Messiaen (1908-92), one of the most original
composers of the 20th century and one of the most influential teachers in
music history.

In a 1993 interview with the Journal-Constitution, Foison boasted that
Messiaen was like a "spiritual father" to him and that the elderly composer
had written a hefty piano work for him. Foison also said he had studied with
Messiaen's wife, the celebrated pianist Yvonne Loriod, from age 5 to 17.

Yet in a book cataloging Messiaen's pupils (La Classe de Messiaen by Jean
Boivin, 1995), there's no Tristan Foison mentioned - though there is a
Michele Foison, who Tristan has told friends was his mother. The woman cited
in the book was a Messiaen student at the Paris Conservatoire from 1967 to
1971. And Foison told the Journal-Constitution that his mother, too, was a
conductor and had also won the Prix de Rome. Neither mother nor son is found
on a list of Prix de Rome winners. Tristan kept work attributed to Michele
Foison nearby, however. Among the various manuscripts he lent to friends in
Atlanta were photocopied works with her name on them.

Asked about his own connections to Messiaen and Loriod, Foison remained
silent. Asked whether he had ever met them, he hung up the telephone.

An elusive center

On his resume, Foison mentions studies with legendary choral conductor
Robert Shaw as his reason for coming to Atlanta. Yet Shaw's assistant for 26
years, Nola Frink, says Foison "might have attended a few open rehearsals,
but he was not Shaw's student."

Gradually, Foison met the leaders of the Atlanta musical community. ASO
concertmaster Cecylia Arzewski attended a dinner party where Foison cooked
(she remembers his chocolate mousse as the most delicious she'd ever had).
But, she says, she never could quite figure out what he was doing in
Atlanta. "People typically reveal themselves to you, but he never did. He
was pleasant, charming, a nice-looking guy. I tried to talk with him, but I
couldn't get a sense of him. I could never find his center."

On the day he met Carole Jacobsen in the early 1990s, Foison asked
permission to write something for her. What he produced for the
mezzo-soprano with the ASO Chorus was a spare, ethereal song, scaled to the
compass of her voice.

A bond soon developed: He played his ondes martenot at Jacobsen's daughter's
wedding, and Jacobsen's husband, Carl, was the narrator in Foison's L'Enfant
Musique ("The Music Child") at a concert in 1994. On visits to Foison's
apartment, Jacobsen saw piles of sheet music and composition pads scattered
about, an upright piano and two ondes martenots - evidence of a working
musician. "I looked around and figured, 'Here's a genius who can't market
himself,' " Jacobsen recalls. And she pieced together that he had moved to
Atlanta because "he needed to get out from under maman's skirt."

The last time they spoke, about a month before he left Atlanta, Foison told
Jacobsen, enigmatically, "I know this sounds strange, but I really believe
all this will turn out to be a very positive thing for me."

Binkholder, the Washington choral conductor, says that when he first checked
into the accusations, he was "praying that it wasn't true because I knew it
would totally destroy Tristan's life. But it's like he did it knowing he'd
be caught. This whole thing has brought up more questions about him than can
be answered."
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