Emmerich Kálmán

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Emmerich Kálmán

Emmerich Kálmán (Hungarian: Kálmán Imre; 24 October 1882 – 30 October 1953) was a Hungarian composer of operettas and a prominent figure in the development of Viennese operetta in the 20th century. Among his most popular works are Die Csárdásfürstin (1915) and Gräfin Mariza (1924). Influences on his compositional style include Hungarian folk music (such as the csárdás), the Viennese style of precursors such as Johann Strauss II and Franz Lehár, and, in his later works, American jazz. As a result of the Anschluss, Kálmán and his family fled to Paris and then to the United States. He eventually returned to Europe in 1949 and died in Paris in 1953.

Biography[edit]

Kálmán was born Imre Koppstein in Siófok, then in Austria-Hungary, on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, to a Jewish family. Kálmán initially intended to become a concert pianist, but because of early-onset arthritis, he focused on composition instead. He studied music theory and composition at the National Hungarian Royal Academy of Music (then the Budapest Academy of Music), where he was a fellow student of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály under Hans Kössler.

His early symphonic poems Saturnalia and Endre es Johanna were well-received, although he failed to achieve publication. He also composed piano music and wrote many songs: a song cycle on poems by Ludwig Jacobowski and a song collection published under the title Dalai.

Young Kálmán, by Mart Sander

However, the popularity of his humorous cabaret songs led him towards the composition of operettas. His first great success was TatárjárásEin Herbstmanöver in German, meaning Autumn maneuver, although the English title is The Gay Hussars, which was first staged at the Lustspieltheater in Budapest, on 22 February 1908. Thereafter he moved to Vienna, where he achieved worldwide fame through his operettas Der Zigeunerprimas, Die Csárdásfürstin, Gräfin Mariza, and Die Zirkusprinzessin.

Bust of Kálmán in Siófok

Kálmán and Franz Lehár were the leading composers of what has been called the "Silver Age" of Viennese operetta during the first quarter of the 20th century. He became well known for his fusion of Viennese waltz with Hungarian csárdás. Even so, polyphonically and melodically, Kálmán was a devoted follower of Giacomo Puccini, while in his orchestration methods he employed principles characteristic of Tchaikovsky's music.

Despite his Jewish origins he was one of Adolf Hitler's favorite composers. After the Anschluss, he rejected Hitler's offer to become an 'honorary Aryan' and was forced to move first to Paris, then to the United States, settling in California in 1940.[1]

Last years and death[edit]

Following his emigration, performances of his works were prohibited in Nazi Germany. He emigrated back to Vienna from New York in 1949 before moving in 1951 to Paris, where he died.[citation needed]

Popular culture[edit]

In 1958 a West German biopic The Csardas King was made of his life, starring Gerhard Riedmann in the lead role.

Operettas[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

Further reading[edit]

  • Clarke, Kevin. Im Himmel spielt auch schon die Jazzband. Emmerich Kálmán und die transatlantische Operette 1928–1932. Hamburg: von Bockel Verlag, 2007 ISBN 978-3-932696-70-1. (examines Kálmán's jazz-operettas of the 1920s, with extensive English quotes from historical Broadway- and West End reviews)
  • Historical reviews and a biography/worklist by Kurt Gänzl
  • Wright Martin, Jessie (August 2005). A Survey of the Operettas of Emmerich Kálmán (PDF) (Doctor of Musical Arts). Louisiana State University.
  • Nagibin, Yuri. Вечная музыка [Eternal Music]. Russia, ACT, 2004. ISBN 5-17-021655-6. (pp. 201–345)

External links[edit]