Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

Wildbrunn [Wehrenpfennig], Helene

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Wildbrunn [Wehrenpfennig], Helene

(b Vienna, 8 April 1882; d Vienna, 10 April 1972). Austrian soprano. She studied with Papier-Paumgartner in Vienna, where she sang small roles at the Volksoper in 1906. Engaged at Dortmund (1907–14) as a contralto, she sang Ortrud, Fricka, Amneris and Delilah, but at Stuttgart (1914–18) she moved into the soprano repertory, including Leonore, Amelia, Kundry, Isolde and the Marschallin. She was engaged at the Berlin Staatsoper (1918–25), the Vienna Staatsoper (1919–32) and the Berlin Städtische Oper (1926–9), where her Electra was acclaimed by Strauss. She also sang Kundry at La Scala (1922); Brünnhilde, Isolde, Kundry and the Marschallin at Buenos Aires (1922–3); Donna Anna at Salzburg (1925); Leonore at Covent Garden (1927) and Isolde and Brünnhilde (Die Walküre) at the Paris Opéra (1928). Recordings of extracts from her major roles show the strength and security of her voice and her dramatic flair.


Wilde, Oscar (Fingal O'Flahertie Wills)

(b Dublin, 16 Oct 1854; d Paris, 30 Nov 1900). Irish writer. His plays, most notably Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), brought to the Victorian stage a wit that was both scintillating and subversive. Wilde cultivated the image of an aesthete and flouted convention at every turn. He was lampooned (in the decadent character of Bunthorne) by Gilbert and Sullivan in Patience (1881), and a musical ‘Travestie Suggested by Lady Windermere's Fan’ was produced at the Comedy Theatre in 1892. Following Wilde's imprisonment in 1895 for homosexual acts, the composer Dalhousie Young published a pamphlet entitled Apologia pro Oscar Wilde; after his release Wilde planned a libretto for Young's opera Daphnis and Chloë, but the scheme never materialized. Wilde died prematurely in exile, and it was German (largely operatic) interest in his work that was to revive his reputation, beginning with Max Reinhardt's Berlin production of Salomé in 1902, and Richard Strauss's operatic version of the same play. In the mid-20th century Wilde's plays became material for the musical stage, in such entertainments as Noël Coward's After the Ball (1954), Vivian Ellis's So Romantic (1950) and Half in Earnest (1957), and Anne Croswell's Earnest in Love (1960), with music by Lee Pokriss. Wilde himself had more sympathy with the visual arts than with music, but he tried to place the latter within his aesthetic scheme in the essay ‘The Critic as Artist’ (in his book Intentions) and in the preface to his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. His prose style was widely praised for its ‘limpid and lyrical effects’ (Max Beerbohm) and its ‘sonorous and majestic music’ (H.L. Mencken).


GroveO (A. Parr) [incl. list of works]

W. Krebs: ‘Zur musikalischen Dramaturgie von Richard Strauss' Salome’, Geschichte und Dramaturgie des Operneinakters: Thurman 1988, 251–71

L. Whitesell: ‘Men with a Past: Music and the “Anxiety of Influence”’, 19CM, xviii (1994–5), 152–67


Wilde Alexander, Der.

See Alexander, Meister.

Wilder, Alec [Alexander] (Lafayette Chew)

(bRochester, NY, 16 Feb 1907; d Gainesville, FL, 24 Dec 1980). American composer and arranger. After studying privately at the Eastman School he became active in the early 1930s as a songwriter and arranger in New York. Many of his songs were composed for and/or performed by such singers as Mildred Bailey, Cab Calloway, Bing Crosby, Ethel Waters, Mabel Mercer and, in the 1940s, Frank Sinatra. In 1939 Wilder attracted attention with a series of octets with whimsical titles, for example Sea Fugue Mama, Neurotic Goldfish, Amorous Poltergeist and The Home Detective Registers. Scored for winds and rhythm section (including harpsichord), these airy, elusive pieces blended popular melodies and swing rhythms with classically orientated forms.

In the early 1950s Wilder turned from the world of popular song to chamber and orchestral music and opera. His more than 300 compositions, written for almost every conceivable instrumental combination, are characterized by his unique melodic gift, a harmonic language alternating between French Impressionism and modal (often fugal) writing, and a preference for loosely linked suite forms. Although his works were much admired and performed by certain musicians, whether in jazz (Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Marian McPartland and Roland Hanna) or classical music (John Barrows, Bernard Garfield, Harvey Phillips and Gary Karr), Wilder’s style was largely rejected by both musical establishments.

An unclassifiable ‘American original’, Wilder drew on a wide variety of personal musical influences. In his best works he was able to forge a style uniquely his own, distinguished by those elements he most cherished in other composers: an absence of clutter, honest sentiment, unexpectedness, singing melodies and sinuous phrases. Wilder also wrote (in collaboration with James T. Maher) American Popular Song: the Great Innovators, 1900–1950 (New York, 1972), a lovingly insightful study, and Letters I Never Mailed (Boston, 1975).


(selective list)

Stage: Juke Box (ballet), 1940; The Lowland Sea (op, 1, A. Sundgaard), 1952; Cumberland Fair (op, 1, Sundgaard), 1953; Miss Chicken Little (musical fable, W. Engvick), 1954; Kittiwake Island (musical comedy, 2, Sundgaard), 1955; The Long Way (op, 2, Engvick), 1955 [rev. as Ellen]; The Impossible Forest (op, 2, M. Barer), 1958; The Opening (comic op, 1, Sundgaard), 1972; Jack in the Country (musical, 3, Sundgaard, after O. Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest), 1974 [later titled Nobody’s Earnest]; The Truth about Windmills (chbr op, 1, Sundgaard), 1975; Three Ballets in Search of a Dancer: False Dawn, Life Goes On, The Green Couch

Orch: Grandma Moses Suite, 1950; A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra, 1954; Carl Sandburg Suite, 1960; Elegy for the Whale, tuba, orch; Effie Suite, tuba, orch; other concs., suites

Chbr: Amorous Poltergeist, The Home Detective Registers, Neurotic Goldfish, Sea Fugue Mama, ww, hpd, db, drums, 1939; Sonata, b trbn, pf, 1971; Serenade for Winds, 1977; Phyllis McGinley Song Cycle, S, bn, harp, 1979; Nonet, 8 hn, tuba; 12 ww qnts; 8 brass qnts

Pf: Un deuxième essai, 1965; Pieces for Young Pianists; 6 suites

Songs: While We’re Young (Engvick), collab. M. Palitz, 1934; I’ll be around (Wilder), 1939; It’s so peaceful in the country (Engvick), collab. Palitz, 1941; Baggage Room Blues (Sundgaard), 1954; The Winter of my Discontent (B.P. Berenberg), 1955; Blackberry Winter, 1976; The Long Night, 1980; South: to a Warmer Place, 1980

Principal publishers: Associated Music, Kendor, Ludlow, Margun, Richmond Organization


W. Balliett: ‘The President of the Derrière-garde’, New Yorker (9 July 1973); repr. in Alec Wilder and his Friends (Boston, 1974), 177

‘Wilder, Alec’, CBY 1980

L. McGlohon: ‘Alec Wilder’, BMI: the Many Worlds of Music (1983), no.1, p.42


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