Nicolas Nabokov

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Nicolas Nabokov (born 4 jul. / 17th April  1903 greg. In Lubcza in Minsk ; † 6. April 1978 in New York ) was an American composer of Russian origin.


The cousin of the writer Vladimir Nabokov grew up in Russia under privileged circumstances and had lessons from private tutors as a child. His family fled with him from the October Revolution to the Crimea, where he had his first music lessons with Vladimir Ivanovich Rebikov . In 1919 the family left Russia and Nabokov continued his training in Stuttgart and with Ferruccio Busoni in Berlin.

From 1923 to 1926 he studied in Paris at the Sorbonne . It was here that he composed his first important compositions, the ballet oratorio Ode for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1928) and his first symphony (1931).

In 1933 he came to the USA at the invitation of the Barnes Foundation . From 1936 to 1941 he was head of the music department at Wells College in New York, then music director at St. John's College in Maryland. In 1939 he became an American citizen.

From 1945 to 1947 he stayed in Germany on behalf of the American Military Government , after which he taught at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. From 1950 to 1951 he was music director of the American Academy in Rome . Between 1951 and 1967 he was general secretary of the CIA- funded Congress for Cultural Freedom . During this time he organized numerous international conferences and music festivals, including Masterpieces of the XXth Century (Paris, 1952), Music in our Time (Rome, 1954), Eastern and Western Musical Traditions , (Venice, 1956). East-West Music Encounter (Tokyo, 1961) and European and Indian Music Traditions (New Delhi, 1963). Between 1964 and 1966 he directed the art festivals in West Berlin .

After 1967 he taught at Princeton University , the City University of New York and the State University of New York . From 1970 to 1973 he was composer in residence at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies in Colorado.

Nicolas Nabokov has three sons from three marriages. With his first wife, the Russian Natalie Schachowskaja, son Ivan; with the second, the American Constance Holladay, son Peter and with the third, the Franco-American Patricia Blake, son Alexander.

In addition to his compositions, Nabokov wrote numerous articles for magazines, a book on Igor Stravinsky and two volumes of memoirs, a third volume remained unfinished. Nabokov received the Great Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and was a member of the West Berlin Academy of the Arts and the French Composers Association. In 1970 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters .


  • Ode , ballet oratorio, 1928
  • Lyrical Symphony , 1931
  • Union Pacific , ballet on a theme by Archibald MacLeish , 1934
  • The Last Flower , 1941
  • Rasputin's End , opera based on a libretto by Stephen Spender , 1958
  • Don Quixote , ballet, 1966
  • Love's Labor's Lost , opera based on a libretto by WH Auden , 1971


  • Igor Stravinsky , 1964
  • Old Friends and New Music , Memoir, 1951
  • Bagazh , Memoir, 1975
  • Two right shoes in the luggage . Memories of a Russian citizen of the world. Translated from the English by Claus H. Henneberg and Hellmut Jaesrich . Munich / Zurich 1975. Paperback edition: dtv , Munich 1979


  • Vincent Giroud: Nicolas Nabokov: a life in freedom and music , New York [u. a.]: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0-19-939989-5

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Members: Nicolas Nabokov. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed April 17, 2019 .