American Academy of Arts and Letters
Academy Award in Music

When Chester Biscardi was awarded (in 1975) a Charles Ives Scholarship by the Academy, it was for a body of compositions that was predominantly and singularly vocal, reflecting the composer’s study of and devotion to literature, particularly Italian Literature. The music has changed but the poetry remains, not only in the vocal music but in the chamber and orchestral music, as the composer himself asserts in one of his later works: The Viola Had Suddenly Become a Voice. One can forsee that, in the shapeliness of creative things to come, there will be even longer lyrical lines, illuminating other lines and speech lines in a developing succession and contextual counterpoint unprecedented and unparalleled. – Milton Babbitt, May 16, 2007


Major Figures in American Music
Oral History of American Music

Table of Contents

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2000

Timbral and spatial concerns play an important role in Biscardi’s early works. Often a single word or poetic phrase generates the central idea of a composition, though his works are seldom overtly programmatic. The Italian tenzone [dialogue] inspired Tenzone (1975), while T.S. Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, with its interplay of form and time evoked At the Still Point (1977). In the 1985 opera Tight-Rope, and the song cycle The Gift of Life (1990–93) Biscardi’s lyrical impulses, pervasive in his later works, are more pronounced. Resisting Stillness (1996), an intimate, strikingly spare work, has autobiographical aspects, which are also a characteristic element of his mature music. His Piano Quintet (2004), written in memory of his father (who died when he was 12), uses elements from ‘The Odyssey,’ Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 44, and several of his own earlier works, all of which, in the composer’s words, “explore the passage of time, loss, recovery, and transcendence.” – James Chute



The First Edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music in the United States, 1985

Like the music of his most influential teacher, Takemitsu, Biscardi’s compositions are generally of a delicate nature, with transparent textures and understated events articulated by lengthy pauses; many of his instrumental pieces of the early 1980s include experimental playing techniques, but usually the nontraditional sounds are used only to create gentle resonances and purely sonic gestures. – James Wierzbicki


Biographical listings first appear in the The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2000, the First Edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music in the United States, 1985, the First Edition of Who’s Who in American Music, 1983, the Second Edition of Contemporary American Composers, 1982, Composium, 1981, the Eighth Edition of the International Who’s Who in Music, 1986 (and related publications), the Thirty-Ninth Edition of Who’s Who in America (and related publications), 1976, the Third Edition of Who’s Who in American Education, 1992, and Vol. XVI of the Dictionary of International Biography, 1979.