Jaromír Weinberger

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Jaromír Weinberger (January 8, 1896 – August 8, 1967) was a Czech American composer.

Biography[edit]

Weinberger was born in Prague, from a family of Jewish origin. He heard Czech folksongs from time spent at his grandparents' farm as a youth.[1] He started to play the piano at age 5, and was composing and conducting by age 10. He began musical studies with Jaroslav Křička. Later teachers included Václav Talich and Rudolf Karel. He became a student at the Prague Conservatory at age 14, as a second-year student. There, he studied composition with Vítězslav Novák and Karel Hoffmeister. Later, at Leipzig, he studied with Max Reger and assumed into his own technique Reger's immense grasp of counterpoint. In September 1922, almost inexplicably, Weinberger moved to the United States where he took up a position as an instructor at Cornell University.[2] Between 1922 and 1926 he was professor of composition at the Ithaca Conservatory (currently Music School of Ithaca College), New York.

When he returned to Czechoslovakia he was appointed director of the National Theater in Bratislava, and later received appointments in Eger, Hungary, and Prague. In 1926 Weinberger completed Švanda Dudák (Schwanda the Bagpiper) which became one of the most popular operatic works between the wars, with thousands of performances in hundreds of theaters including the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. His operetta Frühlingsstürme was first performed at the Theatre im Admiralspalast in Berlin on 19 January 1933 with Jarmila Novotna and Richard Tauber in the leading roles. Mary Losseff took over from Novotna in February, but the show was closed down by the Nazis in March.

Although none of his subsequent European works captured audiences as Švanda Dudák had, such pieces as the Passacaglia for orchestra and organ, Six Bohemian Dances for violin and piano, the opera The Outcasts of Poker Flat and a grand oratorio Christmas reveal a versatile composer, making use of the widest variety of materials and approaches.[2]

In 1939, after extensive travels to the United States, Bratislava, and Vienna, he fled his native country to escape the Nazis and settled in New York State, teaching there and in Ohio. He wrote a number of works on commission from American orchestras. He became an American citizen in 1948.

During the 1950s, Weinberger moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. In later life, he developed cancer of the brain. This, together with money worries and the neglect of his music, prompted him to take a lethal drug overdose in August 1967. His wife, Hansi Lemberger Weinberger (also known as Jane), survived him until her death on 31 July 1968.

In 2004 Czech pianist Tomáš Víšek and cellist František Brikcius organized a tour celebrating Weinberger's work.

Major works[edit]

Weinberger composed over 100 works, including operas, operettas, choral works, and works for orchestra.[1] However, the only one which is still remembered is the opera Schwanda the Bagpiper (Švanda dudák), a worldwide success after its première in 1927. The opera is still performed occasionally, and the Polka and Fugue from it is often heard in a concert version. It was once considered by the artists of the Walt Disney studio to be made into a Fantasia segment for Fantasia 2000, but lost out to Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, in the form of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier".

It can be argued that Weinberger used a varied musical language. His studies in Prague and Leipzig stressed formal control and contrapuntal mastery; his teachers, Křička, Novák and Reger were concerned with a certain professional polish and control, but they were also somewhat playful, and that combination can be found in Weinberger's works. These were aspects of his output that alternately received critical acclaim (when they were regarded as somehow genuine) and also set the composer up for a good deal of criticism (when they were thought to be either too automatic or insufficiently profound). It is fair to say that, with the exception of Švanda Dudák, Weinberger frustrated his critics even as he pleased them.[2]

List of works[edit]

Opera and operetta
  • Schwanda the Bagpiper (Švanda dudák), Opera in 2 acts (1926); libretto by Miloš Kareš after Josef Kajetán Tyl
  • Milovaný hlas (The Beloved Voice; Die Geliebte Stimme), Opera in 3 acts (1930); libretto by the composer after the 1928 novel by Robert Michel
  • Lidé z Pokerflatu (The Outcasts of Poker Flat), Opera (1932); libretto by Miloš Kareš after the 1869 short story by Bret Harte
  • Jarní bouře (Spring Storms; Frühlingsstürme), Operetta in 3 acts (1933); libretto by Gustav Beer
  • Na růžích ustláno (A Bed of Roses), Operetta (1933); libretto by Bohumír Polách and Jiří Žalman
  • Apropó, co dělá Andula? (By the Way, What Is Andula Doing?), Operetta (1934); libretto by Bohumír Polách and Jiří Žalman
  • Císař pán na třešních (The Emperor Lord of Cherries), Operetta (1936); libretto by Bohumír Polách and Jiří Žalman
  • Valdštejn (Wallenstein), Musical Tragedy (Opera) in 6 scenes (1937); libretto by Miloš Kareš after Friedrich Schiller; German translation by Max Brod
Stage
  • Únos Evelynion (The Abduction of Evelyne; Die Entführung der Evelyne), Pantomime in 1 act (1915); libretto by František Langer
  • Kocourkov (Schilda), Puppet Show (1926); libretto by František Smažík
  • Saratoga, Ballet (1941); libretto by the composer
Orchestral
  • Lustspiel (Veseloherní ouvertura), Overture (1914); with popular song "Pepíku, Pepíku" as the main theme
  • Three pieces for small orchestra (Tři kusy pro malý orchestr) (1916)
  • Don Quijote (1918)
  • Scherzo giocoso (1920)
  • Kocourov (1923–1924)
  • Overture to a Marionette Play (Puppenspiel Ouverture; Předehra k loutkové hře) (1924)
  • Polka and Fugue (Polka a fuga z opery Švanda dudák) from the opera Schwanda the Bagpiper (1926, published 1928)
  • Furiant (Furiant z opery Švanda dudák) from the opera Schwanda the Bagpiper (1926, published 1931)
  • White Mountain Ouverture (Předehra k Bílé hoře) (piano arrangement 1926)
  • Dance rondo (Taneční rondo, 1927)
  • Vánoce (Christmas; Weihnachten) for orchestra and organ (1929)
  • Neckerei for chamber orchestra (1929); also for piano
  • 6 Czech Songs and Dances (České písně a tance) (1929); also for violin and piano
  • Overture to a Chivalrous Play (Ouverture zum einen ritterlichen Spiel; Předehra k rytířské komedii) (1931)
  • Passacaglia for orchestra and organ (UE 1932)
  • Chant hébraïque (Canto ebraico; Neima Ivrit; Hebrejský zpěv) (piano reduction 1936)
  • Valdštejn (Wallenstein), Suite from the opera (1937)
  • Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree (Pod košatým kaštanem), Variations and Fugue on an Old English Tune (1939, revised 1941)
  • Legend of Sleepy Hollow, 4 Movements from Washington Irving's Sketch Book (1940)
  • Song of the High Seas for chamber orchestra and organ (1940)
  • Prelude and Fugue on a Southern Folktune (1940); also known as Prelude and Fugue on "Dixie"
  • A Bird's Opera, Symphonic Suite (1940)
  • Česká rapsódie (Czech Rhapsody) (1941)
  • Lincolnova symfonie (The Lincoln Symphony) (1941)
  • Préludes Réligieux et Profanes (1952); composed in 8 parts, part 4 is titled Hymne an St. Wenzeslaus
  • Aus Tirol, Folkdance and Fugue (1959)
  • A Waltz Overture (1960)
Concert band
  • Homage to the Pioneers, Triumphant March (1940)
  • Mississippi Rhapsody (1940)
  • Prelude to the Festival, Concert March (1941)
  • Afternoon in the Village (1951)
Concertante
  • The Devil on the Belfry for violin and orchestra
  • Concerto for Timpani with 4 trumpets and 4 trombones (or 4 trumpets, 3 trombones and tuba) (1939)
  • Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra (1940)
  • The Raven for cello, bass clarinet, harp and string orchestra (published 1942)
Chamber music
  • String Quartet
  • Colloque sentimental, Prelude after the Poem by Paul Verlaine for violin and piano (1920)
  • Une cantilène jalouse (Žárlivá kantiléna) for violin and piano (1920)
  • 3 Pieces (Tři skladby) for violin and piano (1924)
  1. Banjos
  2. Cowboy's Christmas (Cowboyovy Vánoce)
  3. To Nelly Gray (Na Nelly Gray)
  • 6 Czech Songs and Dances (České písně a tance) violin and piano (1929); also for orchestra
  • 10 Characteristic Solos for snare drum with piano (1939–1941)
  • Sonatina for bassoon and piano (1940)
  • Sonatina for clarinet and piano (1940)
  • Sonatina for flute and piano (1940)
  • Sonatina for oboe and piano (1940)
  • Der Rabe for cello and piano
Organ
  • Bible Poems (1939)
  • Sonata (1941)
  • 6 Religious Preludes (1946)
  • Meditations, 3 Preludes (1953)
  • Dedications, 5 Preludes (1954)
Piano
  • Sonatina (1908)
  • Sonata, Op.4 (1915)
  • Étude in G major on a Polish Chorale "Z dymem pożarów" (1924; included in the 1942 collaborative album Homage to Paderewski)
  • Rytiny (Engravings; Gravures), 5 Preludes and Fugues (UE 1924)
  • Drei Klavierstücke (Tři klavírní kusy) (1924)
  • Spinett-Sonate (Spinet Sonata) (UE 1925)
  • Neckerei (1929); also for orchestra
  • Dupák, Folk Tune (1941)
  • Five-Eighths, Etude (1941)
Vocal
  • Hatikvah for voice and piano (1919)
  • Písně s průvodem klavíru (Songs with Piano Accompaniment) for low voice and piano (1924)
  1. Má první láska byla Olympia (My First Beloved Was Olympia); words by Miloš Kareš
  2. Rozhovor (Conversation); words by Miloš Kareš
  3. Námořnická; words by the composer
  • Psalm 150 for high voice and organ (1940); Biblical text
  • The Way to Emmaus for high voice and organ (1940); Biblical text
  • Ecclesiastes, Cantata for soprano, baritone, mixed chorus, organ and bells (1946)
  • Of Divine Work, Anthem for mixed chorus (1946); Biblical text from Ecclesiastes
  • Five Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn for soprano and piano (1962)
  • Ave, Rhapsody for chorus and orchestra (1962)
  • Tři písně (3 Songs) for children's chorus and piano
  • Volnost for 4 voices; words by Josef Václav Sládek
  • Dvě písně (2 Songs) for voice and piano
  1. Pan Vrchní; words by Pavel Maternov
  2. U Vrátek; words by Josef Václav Sládek

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kushner, David Z., "Jaromir Weinberger (1896-1967): From Bohemia to America" (Autumn 1988). American Music, 6 (3): pp. 293-313.
  2. ^ a b c "OREL Foundation. Jaromir Weinberger. (2008) Michael Beckerman.". 

References[edit]

  • Černušák, Gracián (ed.); Štědroň, Bohumír; Nováček, Zdenko (ed.) (1963). Československý hudební slovník II. M-Ž (in Czech). Prague: Státní hudební vydavatelství. pp. 942–943. 

External links[edit]