Jelena Firssowa


Jelena Firssowa © Dmitri Smirnov
Jelena Firssowa © Dmitri Smirnov


Jelena Firssowa was born in 1950 in Leningrad and grew up in Moscow.
She received her first composition lessons at the age of 16. From 1970 to 1975 she studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexander Pirumov (composition ), Yuri Cholopov (music theory) and Nikolai Rakov (instrumentation). From 1975 she was in intensive musical contact with the composers Edison Denisov and Philipp Herschkowitz, a student of Anton Webern and Alban Berg who had emigrated from Vienna to Moscow.
In 1979 her works were performed in Western countries for the first time- with great success. In the same year, she and her husband, the composer Dmitri Smirnov, were attacked by the Russian Composers’ Union, who claimed they were “not worthy of the Soviet Union.” In the course of the Perestroika, Jelena Firssowa was granted permission to travel abroad for the first time. Together with Edison Denisov and Dmitri Smirnov, she founded the Association of Contemporary Composers ASM, which performed new music in Russia and abroad with an ensemble of their own. In 1990 Firssowa moved to England with her family.
From 1993 to 1997 Firssowa was visiting professor and composer in residence at Keele University and from 1999 to 2001 she taught composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Since then she has worked as a freelance composer.
Yelena Firssova has created well over 150 works to date, including operas, cantatas, concertos and orchestral works, as well as a large number of chamber music. She has received commissions from the BBC, WDR and ZDF, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and the Kissinger Sommer, Expo 2000 and the Hilliard Ensemble, as well as from the Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. In September 2003, her “Akhmatova Requiem” was premiered at the Berlin Konzerthaus. Most recently she wrote a double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra for the DSO Berlin and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and was composer in residence at the summer concerts in Rudersdal, Denmark.