Yvar Mikhashoff, an avant-garde pianist, composer and teacher who promoted contemporary music, has died at age 52.
Mikhashoff, who taught for the past 20 years at the University of Buffalo, died Tuesday at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, N.Y., after a long illness.
Critically acclaimed for a seven-hour concert of 20th-Century American piano music that he first presented in New York in 1984, Mikhashoff later presented similar programs around the world. He regularly performed throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia.
In the mid-1980s, Mikhashoff invited 110 modern composers, including John Cage and Aaron Copland, to submit short, contemporary tangos. Almost all did so.
"I just received a new one from Paul Attinello in Los Angeles. . . . He came up to me after a concert I played and said, 'Here's your tango,' " Mikhashoff told The Times when he introduced several of the pieces during a 1987 concert at UC San Diego.
He said he hit upon the tango project because he was a championship ballroom dancer as a teen-ager and the tango was his favorite dance.
"John Cage's piece sounds like an erased tango--like you are in a room and think you hear a tango in the next room," Mikhashoff said. "The challenge of the Cage tango is interpreting its bizarre notation. It's just a single line of music, which needs to be realized in an imaginative way."
Mikhashoff, in another typical performance, offered a concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art featuring player-piano and jukebox themes and titled "Machine Age in America 1918-1941."
Born Ronald Mackay in Albany, N.Y., Mikhashoff adopted his grandfather's name during his tenure at the University of Houston, where he received a bachelor's degree in piano and a master's degree in composition. He earned a doctorate in composition at the University of Texas at Austin and studied at the Juilliard School and the Eastman School of Music.
He was co-founder and director of the annual North American New Music Festival at the University of Buffalo. The festival has featured such guest performers as Philip Glass, Sun Ra and Virgil Thompson.