Eugene Zádor—As I Saw Him

by David Ewen

What most impressed me about Eugene Zádor whenever I spent an evening with him was his integration as a human being, his healthy sense of values, his capacity always “to see things steadily and see them whole.” I never heard him complain (as do so many other composers) of not being performed often enough, or of conspiracies out to destroy him. When he was getting performed he was quietly grateful, and when works lay silent on his shelf for years there were no audible complaints. He just kept on with his business of writing music the best and most honest way he could. Nor was he egomaniacal (as most composers are) about his music. He was not talking about himself and his music continually, or about his victories or defeats. I recall one evening in a motel room in Miami when we spent the time discussing only literature and the international and national political scene. Not one word about his composition that was soon to get its world premiere. If, on occasion, he wanted to tell me something about what he was working on, or about his artistic direction, he was not preaching gospel. It was as if he were explaining his diet.

As a composer, too, he was thoroughly integrated – all of one piece. He never tried to sail with the wind. Let others use serialism, or aleatory practices, or electronic devices and computers because that was the fashion of the day. From his beginnings, and up to the end, he adhered to his own artistic credo of writing only that music that moved him personally, using only those techniques he had faith in and which he had mastered and which could best serve his message, trying only to speak from the heart and reach the heart. It probably never occurred to him that he was old fashioned or behind the times; and if it ever did occur to him, I am sure it did not bother him overly. He pursued his artistic career with dignity and the highest integrity. Because, in the last analysis, this was the kind of man he was, and with him artist and man were one.

David Ewen wrote prolifically on a wide range of musical genres. Profiles of Eugene Zádor are included in two of his books: The World of Twentieth Century Music and Composers Since 1900.