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Pianist-Composer Gunnar Johansen Dead at 85

May 28, 1991

BLUE MOUNDS, Wis. (AP) _ Gunnar Johansen, a prolific pianist-composer and one of the first musicians to be an artist in residence at a U.S. university, has died. He was 85.

Johansen produced hundreds of solo piano pieces, sonatas, three concertos, several choral works and a symphonic work for the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he once taught.

Johansen died of liver cancer Saturday at his Blue Mounds home, his family said.

Born in Copenhagen, Johansen was named artist in residence at the Wisconsin school in 1939 and held the post until 1976. In addition to teaching, he performed several concert series on the university’s radio station.

In the 1950s, Johansen shifted the focus of his career to recording and had his own label, Artist Direct. He produced a vast discography, including 50 albums of Liszt works and 43 albums of Bach.

Among his recordings are about 400 sonatas he improvised and called ″tape tapestries.″

In the 1930s, Johansen toured with a dozen concerts that traced the history of keyboard music. He played the series at the Wisconsin university in 1937 and the school invited him to become artist in residence.

Music wasn’t Johansen’s only interest.

In 1960, alarmed by what he considered an unhealthy trend toward specialization, Johansen founded the Leonardo Academy, an interdisciplinary study institute named for Leonardo da Vinci.

The academy, which didn’t have a permanent home, presented seminars at universities on cancer research, nutrition, aeronautics, fusion and other topics.

Johansen is survived by his wife, Lorraine, and two nephews.

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