A term in German metrics, synonymous with Ton. SeeTon (i).
(b Zittau, 30 April 1642; d Zittau, 17 Oct 1708). German poet, dramatist and educationist. He received his early education from his father, who taught at the Zittau Gymnasium. In 1660 he enrolled at Leipzig University, where he studied theology, philosophy and history and received a bachelor’s degree in 1661 and a master’s in 1663. Failing in an attempt to become a professor there, he went to Halle in 1668 as secretary to Count Simon Philipp of Leiningen. In 1670 he worked as a tutor at Amfurt, near Magdeburg, and on 9 August of the same year was appointed teacher of poetry, eloquence and politics at the Weissenfels Gymnasium. In 1678 he returned to Zittau as Rektor of the Gymnasium, where his father was still teaching, and he held this position until shortly before his death.
Weise’s significance lies in his prodigious output of several hundred dramas, novels and collections of poetry, as well as instruction books, disputations and orations. He wrote most of his dramatic works for his Gymnasium. Although he was firmly opposed to opera on literary grounds, he regularly included incidental music and songs in these school plays. During the early part of his career in Zittau this music was composed by Moritz Edelmann. Edelmann was succeeded by Johann Krieger, who settled at Zittau in 1682 and published in the third part of his Neue musicalische Ergetzligkeit (1684) incidental music for the following plays by Weise: Der verfolgte David and Die sicilianische Argenis (both 1683) and Nebucadnezar, Der schwedische König Regnerus and Der politische Quacksalber (all 1684). The texts of the 64 sacred and secular songs in the first two parts of this collection are also by Weise. Weise published several books of poetry. J.C. Pezel took 24 love poems from Der grünenden Jugend überflüssigen Gedancken (1688) for his Schöne, lustige und anmuthige neue Arien (1672). The first stanza of a five-stanza ode, Der weinende Petrus, published in Weise’s Der grünenden Jugend nothwendigen Gedancken (1675), was used by J.S. Bach for the tenor aria ‘Ach, mein Sinn’ in the St John Passion. Weise’s comedy Die triumphirende Keuschheit (1668) was probably the basis of the libretto of the opera Floretto by N.A. Strungk (1683, Hamburg). Weise had a marked influence on early 18th-century German literary developments, including the lied. His uncomplicated, humorous, satirical style, with its elements of folk language and overt banality, was in distinct contrast to the elevated, bombastic poetry of the preceding generations of German poets such as D.C. von Lohenstein and the Second Silesian School. Very few of Weise’s dramatic works are extant; for details see Eggert.
G.Müller: Geschichte des deutschen Liedes vom Zeitalter des Barock bis zur Gegenwart (Munich, 1925/R)
W.Eggert: Christian Weise und seine Bühne (Berlin, 1935)
J.Birke: ‘Die Poetik der deutschen Kantate zu Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts’, Speculum musicae artis: Festgabe für Heinrich Husmann zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. H. Becker and R. Gerlach (Munich, 1968), 47–62
P.Behnke and H.G.Roloff, eds.: Christian Weise, Dichter – Gelehrter – Pädagoge: Beiträge zum ersten Christian-Weise-Symposium aus Anlass des 350. Geburtstages: Zittau 1992 (Bern, 1994)
GEORGE J. BUELOW
Weisgall, Hugo (David)
(b Ivançice, nr Brno, 13 Oct 1912; d Long Island, NY, 11 March 1997). American composer of Czech birth. One of America’s most important composers of operas and large-scale song cycles, the literary merit of his works, their original vocal style, and their serious attention to musical and dramatic detail mark a significant contribution to these genres.
At least four generations of cantors and composers were present in Weisgall’s family’s background. His father was his earliest and strongest musical influence; Adolph Joseph Weisgal, a composer of synagogue music (b Scheps, nr Płock, Poland, 13 Dec 1885; d Baltimore, 15 Nov 1981), had sung opera professionally before entering the cantorate. From an early age, Hugo Weisgall absorbed both central-European Jewish musical traditions and the standard opera and song repertory. His family emigrated to the USA in 1920, settling in Baltimore; Weisgall became a naturalized American citizen in 1926. Completely American-educated, he studied the piano, harmony and composition at the Peabody Conservatory (1927–32) while organizing and conducting amateur choirs and orchestras. From 1932 to 1941 he studied composition intermittently with Sessions. Studies with Fritz Reiner and Rosario Scalero at the Curtis Institute earned him diplomas in conducting (1938) and composition (1939). In 1940 Johns Hopkins University awarded him the PhD for his dissertation on primitivism in 17th-century German poetry.
In military service from 1941, Weisgall’s fluency in European languages gained him sensitive diplomatic responsibilities. While assistant military attaché in London (1945–6) and cultural attaché in Prague (1946–7), he won major successes as a composer and conductor. As guest conductor of leading orchestras he featured American works and as a delegate to the ISCM vigorously promoted American music. After his return to the USA in 1947, Weisgall became active as an administrator and teacher, as well as a composer, conductor and singer. He founded and conducted the Chamber Society of Baltimore (1948) and the Hilltop Opera Company (1952), directed the Baltimore Institute of Musical Arts (1949–51), served as chair of the faculty of the Cantors' Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York (1952–96), and taught at Johns Hopkins University (1951–7), the Juilliard School of Music (1957–70) and Queens College, CUNY (1961–83). He also served as president of the AMC (1963–73), composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome (1966) and director of the composer-in-residence programme at Lyric Opera of Chicago (1988–97). His numerous honours included three Guggenheim fellowships, membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1975), a Lifetime Achievement Award from Opera America, a Gold Medal from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Columbia University's William Schuman Prize (1995) and the first arts award from the Foundation for Jewish Culture.
Weisgall’s first significant compositions date from the war years. The Overture in F (1942–3) owes much to American neo-classicism but reveals the composer’s own forceful rhythmic drive and fondness for irregular rhythmic units. Soldier Songs (1944–6, rev. 1965) for baritone and orchestra employs a many-faceted style mirroring the irony of the texts.
After early works in the genre, Weisgall’s career as an opera composer began in earnest with The Tenor (1948–50), whose libretto is derived from Frank Wedekind. The librettos of his subsequent operas are based on August Strindberg, Luigi Pirandello, W.B. Yeats, Jean Racine, Yukio Mishima, William Shakespeare and the Bible, and deal with crucial philosophical, social and moral dilemmas of the 20th century. Stylistically, his music evolved gradually and logically, with each work assuming its own dramatic treatment and musical structure. In The Tenor, large symphonic structures alternate with arias, while in The Stronger (1952) smaller musical segments follow the single character’s volatile shifts of mood. Six Characters in Search of an Author (1953–6) fuses these two procedures as well as using transformed recapitulations and epigrammatic musical ideas to punctuate events or sections. Perhaps Weisgall’s most theatrically successful full-length opera, The Stronger, only 25 minutes long, is his best-known work. An orchestra of eight players sets the scene, a bar, with pseudo-cocktail music, then fades in and out of focus following the singer’s deepening psychological crisis; all stage directions are inherent in the coloratura vocal line. The pitch materials of these three operas range from rich polychords to dissonant atonal structures, the application of each depending on dramatic exigencies.
The one-act Purgatory (1958) breaks with previous formal techniques in employing continuous vocal arioso. This work is also the first by Weisgall to employ 12-note procedures and to be consistently atonal. Athaliah (1960–63) contains rigorously dodecaphonic sections, monumental set-pieces and a skilful use of the chorus that harks back to 17th-century tragédie lyrique. Nine Rivers from Jordan (1964–8) is a huge, cinematographic work in three acts about moral dilemmas raised by World War II. Real events merge with imaginary ones, emphasizing one of Weisgall’s favourite themes, illusion versus reality. Many languages, subtle quoting, parody and expansive orchestral music suggest the confusion of the war years.
Jenny, or The Hundred Nights (1975–6) is an elaborate one-act work that transfers Mishima’s modern noh play to 19th-century London; through Weisgall’s sumptuous but veiled orchestral tapestry and the highly stylized poetic language of the librettist John Hollander, the mystery play unfolds as through a scrim. The Gardens of Adonis (1959, rev. 1977–81), a full-length opera, is more transparent orchestrally; the work employs recitatives, arias and ensembles, and combines free atonality with jaunty, neo-classical rhythmic features. The one-act comedy Will You Marry Me? (1989) completes the chamber trilogy begun with The Stronger and Purgatory. Esther (1990–93), Weisgall's last opera, most resembles Athaliah in its uncompromising atonality, form and use of biblical sources.
Of the composer’s three orchestral song cycles, Soldier Songs, A Garden Eastward (1952) and Love’s Wounded (1986) vary in form. The first sets ten poems depicting youth wasted by war’s blind brutality, the second is a three-movement symphony for voice and orchestra to 12th-century mystical texts translated from the Hebrew, and the third takes the form of two extended symphonic pieces. In 1970 Weisgall wrote the chamber cycle Fancies and Inventions, which treats the voice as a virtuoso instrument. More straightforward vocally, Translations (1971–2), which charts the progress of womanhood, is a kind of present-day Frauenliebe und -Leben. End of Summer (1973–4), a chamber cycle, includes extensive instrumental interludes between vocal sections, also an important feature of the Liebeslieder for high voice and piano (1979). In The Golden Peacock (1960, rev. 1976), elaborate piano settings brilliantly set off well-known Yiddish folksongs, integrating their diatonicism with Weisgall’s own chromatic idiom. Both the poetry and music of the atonal Lyrical Interval (1983–4) refer to Schubert, while Weisgall's final work, Evening Liturgies (1986–96) realizes his lifelong desire to set the Jewish service.
Weisgall’s earlier style fused non-tonal neo-classicism with Bergian rubato and opulence. His later music is closest in style to the Second Viennese School, though rarely completely atonal. Melodically and harmonically it revolves within small groups of pitches, often saving certain notes for contrast later on. Even in serial passages, the 12 pitches are introduced gradually so that the listener apprehends a high degree of pitch sensitivity. Weisgall’s unique vocal lines help to delineate character and form the core of the musical fabric. His fluid prosody follows the rhythms of American speech in written-out rubato, while always retaining strong melodic direction.
Night (1, after S. Asch), 1932
Lillith (1, after L. Elman), 1934
The Tenor (1, K. Shapiro and E. Lert, after F. Wedekind: Der Kammersänger), 1948–50, Baltimore, 11 Feb 1952
The Stronger (1, R. Hart, after A. Strindberg: Den Star Kare), 1952, Westport, CT, 9 Aug 1952 (with pf), New York, Jan 1955 (with orch)
Six Characters in Search of an Author (3, D. Johnston, after L. Pirandello), 1953–6, New York, 26 April 1959
Purgatory (1, W.B. Yeats), 1958, Washington DC, 17 Feb 1961
The Gardens of Adonis (3 scenes, J.O. Scrymgeour, after W. Shakespeare and A. Obey: Venus and Adonis), 1959, rev. 1977–81, Omaha, NE, 12 Sept 1992
Athaliah (2 pts, R.F. Goldman, after J. Racine), 1960–63, New York, 17 Feb 1964
Nine Rivers from Jordan (prol., 3, Johnston), 1964–8; New York, 9 Oct 1968
Jenny, or The Hundred Nights (1, J. Hollander, after Y. Mishima: Sotoba Komachi), 1975–6, New York, 22 April 1976
Will You Marry Me? (1, C. Kondek, after A. Sutro: A Marriage has been Arranged), 1989, New York, 8 March 1989
Esther (3, Kondek, after the Bible), 1990–93, New York, 8 Oct 1993
Art Appreciation (1, G. Boas), 1938; Quest (1, Weisgall, W. Resnick and B. Rosenberg), 1938; One Thing is Certain (3 scenes, R. Hart), 2 pf, 1939 [Fugue, Romance arr. str]; Outpost (2, N. Weisgall), 1947
Choral: Who is Like unto Thee, Bar, SATB, org, 1934; 4 Choral Etudes, SATB, 1935–60; 3 Hebraic Folksongs, SATB, 1935–60; 5 Motets (Bible), SATB, 1938–9; Hymn (Heb. liturgy), SATB, orch, 1941; Evening Prayer for Peace, SATB, 1959; Song of Celebration (J. Hollander), S, T, chorus, orch, 1975; Evening Liturgies (Heb. liturgy), Bar, SATB, org, 1986–96
Solo: 4 Impressions (A. Lowell, R.M. Rilke, H. Wolfe), high v, pf, 1931; 5 Night Songs (H. Heine, Li Bai [Li Tai-po], J.W. von Goethe, W. de la Mare), high v, pf, 1933; 4 Songs (A. Crapsey), op.1, 1v, pf, 1934; I Looked Back Suddenly (Wolfe), medium v, pf, 1943; Soldier Songs (various poets), Bar, orch, 1944–6, rev. 1965; A Garden Eastward (cant., M.I. Ezra, trans. M. Feist), high v, orch, 1952; 2 Madrigals (anon., 17th-century), high v, pf, 1955; The Golden Peacock: 7 Popular Songs from the Yiddish, 1v, pf, 1960, rev. 1976; Fancies and Inventions (R. Herrick), Bar, fl, cl, vn, vc, pf, 1970; Translations (various poets), 7 songs, Mez, pf, 1971–2; End of Summer (Po Chu-i, G. Boas), 4 Songs, T, ob, vn, va, vc, 1973–4; Liebeslieder: 4 Songs with Interludes (D. Weisgall), high v, pf, 1979; Lyrical Interval (Hollander), song cycle, low v, pf, 1983–4; Love's Wounded (Y. Halevi, trans. R. Scheindlin), Bar, orch, 1986
Sonata, f, pf, 1931; Chorale Prelude, org, 1938; Variations, pf, 1939; Ov., F, orch, 1942–3; Appearances and Entrances, orch, 1960; Proclamation, orch, 1960; Graven Images, various chbr ens, 1964 [orig. versions written for CBS news documentary film Of Heaven and Earth]; Sonata, pf, 1982; Prospect, orch, 1983; Arioso and Burlesca, vc, pf, 1984; Tangents, fl, mar, 1985; Tekiatot, orch, 1985
MSS in US-Wc
Principal publisher: Presser
EwenD; GroveO (B. Saylor, J.P. Cassaro) [incl. further bibliography]
H.Cowell: ‘Current Chronicle’, MQ, xxxviii (1952), 285–7 [on The Tenor]
A.Skulsky: ‘The Operas of Hugo Weisgall’, The Etude, lxxiv (1956), 15, 40
G.Rochberg: ‘Hugo Weisgall’, Bulletin of the American Composers Alliance, vii/2 (1958), 2–5
B.Saylor: ‘The Music of Hugo Weisgall’, MQ, lix (1973), 239–62 [incl. complete work-list]
M.Blumenfeld: ‘Hugo Weisgall's 66th Birthday and the New Gardens of Adonis’, PNM, xvi/2 (1977–8), 156–66
B.Saylor: ‘Hugo Weisgall, The Golden Peacock’, Musica judaica, iii/1 (1980–81), 82–4
L.Leon-Cohne: A Study, Analysis and Performance of the Songs and Song Cycles for Voice and Piano by Hugo Weisgall (diss., Columbia U. Teachers College, 1982)
H.Weisgall: ‘America's Opera’, Arts Review, v/1 (1988), 20–21
R.H.Kornick: Recent American Opera: a Production Guide (New York, 1991), 328–33
B.Saylor: ‘Hugo Weisgall's “Gardens of Adonis”’, ON lvii/3 (1992–3) 28–31