Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

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Weinberger, Jaromír

(b Prague, 8 Jan 1896; d St Petersburg, FL, 8 Aug 1967). American composer of Czech birth. After studying composition with Křička, Talich and Karel, he became a pupil of Vitězslav Novák at the Prague Conservatory; he went on to study at the Leipzig Conservatory, where his teachers included Reger. His style, deply rooted in the nationalistic traditions of Smetana and Dvořák, displays a solid contrapuntal technique, an adroit blend of polyphonic textures and colouristic orchestration, and a post-Romantic harmonic language. Works such as Une cantilene jalouse (1920), Colloque sentimental (1920) and Scherzo giocoso (1920) were critically acclaimed.

In 1926 Weinberger completed Švanda dudák (‘Schwanda, the Bagpiper’), his most successful work. Between 1927 and 1931 the opera received over 2000 performances. Its earthy tunefulness is best illustrated by the ‘Polka’, which, played on bagpipes by the devil in hell, is a polytonal parody. Other folk-influenced works followed in quick succession; these include Christmas (1929), an orchestral work based on traditional Czech carols that was performed before the Christmas address of the Czech president every year until the Nazi occupation. Among his other major works are the Passacaglia for Orchestra and Organ (1931) and the operas Milovaný hlas (‘Die geliebte Stimme’, 1930), Lidé z Pokerflatu (‘The Outcasts of Poker Flat’, 1932) and Valdštejn (‘Wallenstein’, 1937). The latter three of these reveal a movement towards realistic spoken dialogue and leitmotivic associations.

By 1938, when Weinberger and his wife emigrated to the USA, the composer’s manic depression had grown increasingly problematic and had begun to affect his creative work. A widely divergent group of compositions ensued, among them Ten Characteristic Solos for drum and piano (1939), Mississippi Rhapsody (1940), Prelude to the Festival for symphonic band (1941) and The Way to Emmaus, a cantata for high voice and organ (1940). Prelude and Fugue on a Southern Folktune (1940), the Lincoln Symphony (1941) and Czech Rhapsody (1941) reflect his continued interest in nationalistic material. During the late 1940s and 50s several sacred compositions occupied the composer’s attention. These included Ecclesiastes (1946), Six Religious Preludes (1946) and Préludes réligieux et profanes (1954).

In 1949 Weinberger settled in St Petersburg, Florida, where he slowly descended into a state of deep depression. After living in relative seclusion for most of his remaining years, he committed suicide. An enigmatic and tragic figure, he longed for the return of a culture that, after the height of his career, had ceased to exist.


Stage: Kocourov (op), 1923–4, Vienna; Švanda dudák [Schwanda, the Bagpiper] (Spl, 2, M. Kareš), 1926, Prague, 27 April 1927 [as Schwanda, der Dudelsack-pfeifer (lib. rev. M. Brod), Breslau, 16 Dec 1928]; Milovaný hlas [Die geliebte Stimme] (op, 3, Weinberger, after R. Michel), 1930, Munich, 28 Feb 1931; Lidé z Pokerflatu [The Outcasts of Poker Flat] (op, 5, Kareš, after B. Harte), 1932, Brno, 19 Nov 1932; Jarní Bouře [Frühlingsstürme] (operetta, G. Beer), 1933, Berlin 1933; Na růžích ustláno [In a Bed of Roses] (operetta, B. Polach and F. Kožík), Brno, 1933; Apropó co dělá Andula? [By the Way, What is Andula Doing?] (operetta, Polach and J. Žalman), Brno, 5 Sept 1934; Císař pán na třesních [The Emperor and Lord of the Cherries] (operetta, Polach and Žalman), Prague, Nov 1936; Valdštejn [Wallenstein] (op, 6 scenes, Kareš, after F. von Schiller), 1937, Vienna, 18 Nov 1937; Saratoga (ballet), 1941

Orch: Lustspiel, ov., 1913; Scherzo giocoso, 1920; Puppenspiel Ouverture (1924); Christmas, 1929; Liebesplauder, Neckerei, small orch, 1929; Ouverture zu einem ritterlichen Spiel (1931); Passacaglia, orch, org, 1931; Chant hébraïque [Neima Ivrit] (1936); Conc., brass, timp, orch (1939); Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree (1939, rev. 1941); The Bird’s Opera (1940); Conc., a sax, orch, 1940; Homage to the Pioneers, band, 1940; Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1940); Mississippi Rhapsody, band, 1940; Prelude and Fugue on a Southern Folktune, 1940 [based on Dixie]; Song of the High Seas (1940); Czech Rhapsody (1941); Lincoln Symphony (1941); Prelude to the Festival, band, 1941; Afternoon in the Village, band, 1951; Préludes réligieux et profanes, 1954; Aus Tirol, folkdance and fugue, 1959; A Waltz Overture, 1960

Vocal: Hatikvh, 1v, pf, 1919; e Songs (Czech), 1v, pf, 1924; Psalm cl (solo cant.), high voice, org (1940); The Way to Emmaus (solo cant.), high voice, org, 1940; Ecclesiastes [Kohelet], S, Bar, mixed chorus, org, bells (1946); Of Divine Work, anthem, mixed chorus, 1946 [from Bible: Ecclesiastes]; Ave, rhapsody, chorus, orch, 1962; 5 Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, S, pf, 1962 (manuscript)

Chbr (for vn, pf, unless otherwise stated): Colloque sentimental, 1920; Une cantilène jalouse, 1920; Banjos, 1924; Cowboy’s Christmas, 1924; To Nelly Gray, 1924; [6] Czech Songs and Dances (1929); 10 Characteristic Solos, snare drum, pf (1939–41); Sonatina, bn, pf (1940); Sonatina, cl, pf (1940); Sonatina, fl, pf (1940); Sonatina, ob, pf (1940); St Qt (n.d., manuscript)

Kbd: Sonata, pf (1915); Spinet Sonata, pf, 1915 (1925); Etude on a Polish Chorale, pf, 1924; Gravures, 5 preludes and fugues, pf, 1924; Bible Poems, org (1939); Sonata, org (1941); 6 Religious Preludes, org (1946); Dedications, 5 preludes, org (1954); Meditations, 3 preludes, org, 1956

Principal publishers: Boosey & Hawkes, H.W. Gray, Southern, European American, Belwin, Carl Fischer, Universal


O. Erhardt: ‘Schwanda and the Czech Folk Opera’, Sackbut, xi (1930), 23–6 [Eng. trans. W. Monk]

H. Lindlar, ed.: ‘Jaromir Weinberger’, Tschechische Komponisten (Bonn, 1954), 37–41

D.Z. Kushner: ‘Jaromir Weinberger (1896–1967): From Bohemia to America’, American Music, vi/3 (1988), 293–313

D.Z. Kushner: ‘Jaromir Weinberger’, International Dictionary of Opera, ed. C.S. LaRue and L. Shrimpton (Detroit, 1993)

E. Entwistle, ed.: ‘The Turkey Takes Wing: Weinberger’s Schwanda and the Aesthetic of Folk Opera’, OQ, xii/2 (1995–6), 35–46


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