John Williams and music from “Star Wars”

John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932) is an American composer, conductor and pianist who is considered to be one of the greatest and most successful film composers of all time. Williams was born on February 8, 1932. on Long Island, New York, the son of Esther (née Towner) and Johnny Williams. His father was a jazz percussionist who played with the Raymond Scott Quintet. In 1948, the Williams family moved to Los Angeles where John attended North Hollywood High School graduating in 1950. He later attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and studied privately with the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1952, Williams was drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for The U.S. Air Force Band as part of his assignments.

After his Air Force service ended in 1955, Williams moved to New York City and entered The Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne. During this time, Williams worked as a jazz pianist in New York’s many clubs and eventually studios, most notably for composer Henry Mancini. Williams was married to actress Barbara Ruick from 1956 until her death on March 1, 1974. Williams and Ruick had three children: Jennifer (born 1956), Mark (born 1958), and Joseph (born 1960). John Williams married his second wife, Samantha Winslow, on July 21, 1980.

After his studies at Juilliard, and the Eastman School of Music, Williams returned to Los Angeles, where he began working as an orchestrator at film studios, working with composers Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Alfred Newman, and was also a studio pianist, performing on film scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini. Working at Universal Studios, Williams shared music credit on a number of films, the most notable being 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon. Williams’s first major film composition was for the 1958 B movie Daddy-O, and his first screen credit came two years later in Because They’re Young. In addition, often credited as “Johnny Williams,” he composed the music for various TV programs in the 1960s: the pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island, Bachelor Father (1959-1960), the Kraft Suspense Theatre, Lost in Space (1965–68), The Time Tunnel (1966–67), and Land of the Giants.

Williams soon gained notice in Hollywood for his versatility in composing jazz, piano, and symphonic music. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his film score for 1967’s Valley of the Dolls, and was nominated again for his score for 1969’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips. In 1972, he composed the score for the Robert Altman-directed psychological thriller Images, recorded in collaboration with noted percussionist Stomu Yamashta, which earned him another nomination in the category ‘Best Music, Original Dramatic Score’ at the 1973 Academy Awards. During the early 1970s, Williams’ prominence grew thanks to his work for now–film producer Irwin Allen’s disaster films, composing the scores for 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure and 1974’s The Towering Inferno. In addition, he scored Universal’s 1974 film Earthquake for director Mark Robson, completing a “trinity” of scores for the decade’s highest-grossing “disaster films”. He also wrote a very memorable score for the 1972 film The Cowboys, a western starring John Wayne and directed by Mark Rydell.

In 1974, Williams was approached by director Steven Spielberg to compose the music for his feature directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. The young director had been impressed with Williams’ score for the 1969 film The Reivers, and Spielberg was convinced that Williams could compose the musical sound that he desired for any of his films. They teamed up again a year later for Spielberg’s second film, Jaws which earned Williams his second Academy Award, his first one for an original composition. Williams considers Jaws to be the score that jumpstarted his career. Shortly thereafter, Williams and Spielberg began a long collaboration for their next feature film together, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. During the same period, Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow director George Lucas, who needed a composer to score his ambitious space epic, Star Wars (1977). Williams delivered a grand symphonic score in the fashion of Richard Strauss and Golden Age Hollywood composers Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold and won another Academy Award for Best Original Score. In 1980, Williams returned to score The Empire Strikes Back. The original Star Wars trilogy concluded with the 1983 film Return of the Jedi. Both scores earned Williams Academy Award nominations.

Williams worked with director Richard Donner to score the 1978 film Superman. For the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, created by Lucas and directed by Spielberg, Williams wrote a rousing main theme. He also composed the scores to the sequel films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Williams composed an emotional and sensitive score to Spielberg’s 1982 fantasy film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Williams was awarded a fourth Academy Award for this score. The Williams-Spielberg collaboration resumed with the director’s 1987 film Empire of the Sun, and has continued to the present, spanning genres from science fiction thrillers (1993’s Jurassic Park), to somber tragedies (1993’s Schindler’s List, 2005), to Eastern-tinged melodramas (2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha), to dramatic war films (1998’s Saving Private Ryan). From 1980 to 1993, Williams succeeded Arthur Fiedler as the Boston Pops Orchestra’s Principal Conductor.

In 1999, George Lucas launched the first of a series of prequels to the original Star Wars trilogy. Williams was asked to score all three films, The Phantom Menace Along, 2002’s Attack of the Clones, and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. In the new millennium, Williams was asked to score the film adaptations of J. K. Rowling’s widely successful book series, Harry Potter. He went on to score the film franchise’s first three installments. During 2008, he also composed music for two documentaries, Warner at War, and A Timeless Call, the latter of which was directed by Steven Spielberg. After a three-year absence from film scoring, Williams composed the scores for Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse in 2011. In 2012, Williams scored Spielberg’s film Lincoln and subsequently received his 48th Academy Award nomination.

In addition to his film scores for which he has won five Academy Awards, three Emmy Awards and five nominations, seven British Academy Film Awards, twenty Grammy Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards, Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony, several concertos, other orchestral works, and some chamber music. While skilled in a variety of 20th century compositional idioms, Williams’ most familiar style may be described as a form of neoromanticism, inspired by the late 19th century’s large-scale orchestral music—in the style of Tchaikovsky or Richard Wagner’s compositions that inspired his film music predecessors.

My collection includes the following works by Williams:
1941: March.
The Accidental Tourist: Love Theme, End Credits Music.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Suite.
The Cowboys Overture: Main Title Theme.
Empire of the Sun: Exsultate Justi.
The Empire Strikes Back : three selections.
E.T.: Selections including The Flying Theme, and Adventures on Earth.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Indiana Jones Theme.
Jaws: Main Title Theme, Promenade, The Chase.
Liberty Fanfare.
The Mission: Theme.
The Olympic Fanfare.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Main Title Theme (Raiders March).
Return of the Jedi: Parade of the Ewoks.
Star Wars: Main theme, Princess Leia, March, and Love Theme.
Superman: Main Title Theme, Love Theme (“Can You Read My Mind”), and March.

Meredith Willson and his two symphonies

Robert Meredith Willson (May 18, 1902 – June 15, 1984) was an American composer, songwriter, conductor who is best known for writing the book, music, and lyrics for the hit Broadway musical The Music Man. Wilson was born in Mason City, Iowa to John David Willson and Rosalie Reiniger Willson, and he had a brother two years his senior, John Cedrick, and a sister twelve years his senior, Lucille. He attended Frank Damrosch’s Institute of Musical Art, later The Juilliard School, in New York City and married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth “Peggy” Wilson on August 29, 1920. A flute and piccolo player, Willson was a member of John Philip Sousa’s band (1921–1923), and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini (1924–1929). Willson then moved to San Francisco, California as the concert director for radio station KFRC, and then as a musical director for the NBC radio network in Hollywood.

Wilson’s work in films included composing the score for Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, and arranging music for the score of William Wyler’s The Little Foxes (1941) which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music Score of a Dramatic Picture. During World War II, he worked for the United States’ Armed Forces Radio Service as the bandleader. Returning to network radio after WWII, he created the Talking People, a choral group that spoke in unison while delivering radio commercials. He also became the musical director for The Big Show, a prestigious comedy-variety program hosted by actress Tallulah Bankhead and featuring some of the world’s most respected entertainers. He wrote the song, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” for the show. He also worked on Jack Benny’s radio program, and hosted his own program in 1949. For a few years in the early 1950s, Willson was a regular panelist on the Goodson-Todman game show The Name’s the Same.

In 1950 Willson served as Musical Director for The California Story, the Golden State’s centennial production at the Hollywood Bowl. This spectacular was followed by two more state centennial collaborations with stage director Vladimir Rosing, The Oregon Story in 1959 and The Kansas Story in 1961. Willson’s most famous work, The Music Man, premiered on Broadway in 1957, and was adapted twice for film (in 1962 and 2003). His second musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, ran on Broadway for 532 performances from 1960 to 1962 and was made into a 1964 motion picture starring Debbie Reynolds. His third Broadway musical was an adaptation of the film Miracle On 34th Street, called Here’s Love (1963). His fourth, last, and least successful musical was 1491, which told the story of Columbus’s attempts to finance his famous voyage. It was produced by the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association in 1969, but was never produced on Broadway.

In addition to his Broadway musicals and his film scores, Willson composed symphonies and popular songs. His Symphony No. 1 in f minor: A Symphony of San Francisco and his Symphony No. 2 in e minor: Missions of California were recorded in 1999 by William T. Stromberg conducting the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. Other symphonic works include O.O. McIntyre Suite, Symphonic Variations on an American Theme and Anthem, the symphonic poem Jervis Bay, and Ask Not which incorporates quotations from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. In tribute to the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA), he composed In Idyllwild for orchestra, choir, vocal solo and Alphorn. His chamber music also includes A Suite for Flute.

Willson penned a number of very well known songs, such as “You and I”, which was a No. 1 for Glenn Miller in 1941 on Billboard. Individual songs include “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and “I See The Moon.” He wrote the University of Iowa’s fight song, and Iowa State University’s “For I for S Forever.” He also wrote the fight song for his hometown high school “Mason City, Go!” He honored The Salvation Army with a musical tribute entitled “Banners and Bonnets”. An oddity in Willson’s body of work is “Chicken Fat”, written in 1962. In school gymnasiums across the nation, this was the theme song for President John F. Kennedy’s youth fitness program. In 1974 he offered a marching song “Whip Inflation Now” to the Ford Administration, but it was not used. In 1964 Meredith Willson produced three original summer variety specials for CBS under the title Texaco Star Parade.

Willson was married three times. After divorcing first wife Elizabeth, he married Ralina “Rini” Zarova on March 13, 1948. Following her December 6, 1966, death, he married Rosemary Sullivan in February 1968. He lived for years in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, California. In 1982, both he and Rosemary appeared in the audience of The Lawrence Welk Show. Willson returned several times to his home town for the North Iowa Band Festival. From about 1948 to the end of his life he was an active member, a deacon, of Westwood Hills Congregational Church in Los Angeles. Willson died of heart failure in 1984 at the age of 82. He is buried at the Elmwood Saint Joseph Cemetery in Mason City, Iowa.

I have two works by Willson in my collection:

Symphony No. 1 in fm, A Symphony of San Francisco.

Symphony No. 2 in em, The Missions of California.

Henryk Wieniawski and his Second Violin Concerto

Henryk Wieniawski (July 10, 1835 –March 31, 1880) was a Polish violinist and composer who was born in Lublin, Poland, then a part of the Russian Empire. His father, Tobiasz Pietruszka, also known as Wolf Helman), was the son of a Jewish barber named Herschel Meyer Helman, from the Jewish neighborhood of Wieniawa, back in the days when barbers were also doctors. Wolf Helman changed his name to Tadeusz Wieniawski, taking on the name of his neighborhood to better blend in with his Polish environment. Prior to obtaining his medical degree, he had converted to Catholicism. He married Regina Wolff, the daughter of a noted Jewish physician from Warsaw.

Henryk’s talent for playing the violin was recognized early, and in 1843 he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where special exceptions were made to admit this non-French, nine-year-old student. After graduation, Wieniawski toured extensively and gave many recitals, where he was often accompanied by his brother Józef on piano. In 1847, Wieniawski published his first opus, a Grand Caprice Fantastique, the start of a modest but important catalog of 24 opus numbers. From 1851 to 1853 he was touring Roussia with his brother and wrote his Violin Concerto No. 1 in F♯ minor, Op. 14.

When Wieniawski’s engagement to Isabella Hampton was opposed by her parents, he wrote his Légende, Op. 17. This work helped the parents change their mind, and the couple married in 1860. At the invitation of Anton Rubinstein, Wieniawski moved to St. Petersburg, where he lived from 1860 to 1872, taught many violin students, led the Russian Musical Society’s orchestra and string quartet, and wrote his Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22, un 1862. From 1872 to 1874, Wieniawski toured the United States with Rubinstein. Wieniawski then replaced Henri Vieuxtemps as violin professor at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles in 1875.

During his residence in Brussels, Wieniawski’s health declined, and he often had to stop in the middle of concerts. He started a tour of Russia in 1879 but was unable to complete it. He was taken to a hospital in Odessa after a concert. On February 14, 1880, Tchaikovsky’s patroness Nadezhda von Meck took him into her home and provided him with medical attention. His friends also arranged a benefit concert to help provide for his family. He died in Moscow a few weeks later from a heart attack.

Henryk Wieniawski was considered a violinist of genius and wrote some of the most important works in the violin repertoire, including his two extremely difficult violin concertos. Apparently he wrote a third concerto which he premiered in Russia in before his death, but it was never published and seems to have been lost. My collection includes the following works of his:

Fantaisie Brillante on Themes from Gounod’s Faust for Violin and Orchestra, op. 20.
Legende in gm, op. 17.
Violin Concerto No. 1 in f#m, op. 14.
Violin Concerto No. 2 in dm, op. 22.

Kurt Weill and The Three-Penny Opera

Kurt Julian Weill (March 2, 1900–April 3, 1950) who was a German composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States, was born on March 2, 1900, the third of four children to Albert Weill (1867–1950) and Emma Weill (née Ackermann; 1872–1955). He grew up in a religious Jewish family in Jewish quarter of Dessau, Germany, where his father was a cantor. At the age of twelve, Kurt started taking piano lessons and made his first attempts at writing music; his earliest preserved composition was written in 1913 and is titled Mi Addir, Jewish Wedding Song.

In 1915, Weill started taking private lessons with Albert Bing, Kapellmeister at the “Herzogliches Hoftheater zu Dessau”, who taught him piano, composition, music theory, and conducting. He performed publicly on piano for the first time in 1915, both as an accompanist and soloist. The following years he composed numerous Lieder to the lyrics of poets such as Joseph von Eichendorff, Arno Holz, and Anna Ritter, as well as a cycle of five songs titled Ofrahs Lieder to a German translation of a text by Yehuda Halevi. Weill graduated from the Oberrealschule of Dessau in 1918, and enrolled at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik at the age of 18, where he studied composition with Engelbert Humperdinck, conducting with Rudolf Krasselt, and counterpoint with Friedrich E. Koch, and also attended philosophy lectures by Max Dessoir and Ernst Cassirer. The same year, he wrote his first string quartet (in B minor).

Weill’s family experienced financial hardship in the aftermath of World War I, and in July 1919, Weill abandoned his studies and returned to Dessau, where he was employed as a répétiteur at the Friedrich-Theater under the direction of the new Kapellmeister, Hans Knappertsbusch. During this time, he composed an orchestral suite in E-flat major, a symphonic poem based on Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke as well as Schilflieder, a cycle of five songs to poems by Nikolaus Lenau. In December 1919, through the help of Humperdinck, Weill was appointed as Kapellmeister at the newly founded Stadttheater in Lüdenscheid, where he directed opera, operetta, and singspiel for five months, and also composed a cello sonata and Ninon de Lenclos, a now lost one-act operatic adaptation of a play by Ernst Hardt. From May to September 1920, Weill spent a couple of months in Leipzig, where his father had become the new director of a Jewish orphanage. Before he returned to Berlin, in September of 1920, he composed Sulamith, a choral fantasy for soprano, female choir, and orchestra.

Back in Berlin, Weill had an interview with Ferruccio Busoni in December 1920. After examining some of Weill’s compositions, Busoni accepted him as one of five master students in composition at the Preußische Akademie der Künste in Berlin. From January, 1921, to December, 1923, Weill studied music composition with him and also counterpoint with Philipp Jarnach in Berlin. During his first year he composed his first symphony, Sinfonie in einem Satz, as well as the lieder Die Bekehrte (Goethe) and two Rilkelieder for voice and piano. In order to support his family in Leipzig, he also worked as a pianist in a Bierkeller tavern. In spring of 1922, Weill joined the November Group’s music faction. That year he composed a psalm, a divertimento for orchestra, and Sinfonia Sacra: Fantasia, Passacaglia, and Hymnus for Orchestra. On November 18, 1922, his children’s pantomime Die Zaubernacht (The Magic Night) premiered at the Theater am Kurfürstendamm; it was the first public performance of any of Weill’s works in the field of musical theatre.

Out of financial need, Weill taught music theory and composition to private students from 1923 to 1925. Among his students were Claudio Arrau, Maurice Abravanel, Henry (then known as Heinz) Jolles, and Nikos Skalkottas. Arrau, Abravenel, and Jolles, at least, would remain members of Weill’s circle of friends thereafter, and Jolles’s sole surviving composition predating the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933 is a fragment of a work for four pianos he and Weill wrote jointly. Weill’s compositions during his last year of studies included Quodlibet, an orchestral suite version of Die Zaubernacht, Frauentanz, seven medieval poems for soprano, flute, viola, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon, and Recordare for choir and children’s choir to words from the Book of Lamentations. Further premieres that year included a performance of his Divertimento for Orchestra by the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Heinz Unger on April 10, 1923, and the Hindemith-Amar Quartet’s rendering of Weill’s String Quartet, Op. 8, on June 24, 1923. In December of1923, Weill finished his studies with Busoni.

In 1922 he joined the ‘Novembergruppe’, a group of leftist Berlin artists that included Hanns Eisler and Stefan Wolpe. In February of 1924 the conductor Fritz Busch introduced him to the dramatist Georg Kaiser, with whom Weill would have a long-lasting creative partnership resulting in several one-act operas. At Kaiser’s house in Grünheide, Weill also first met the actress and future wife Lotte Lenya in summer 1924. The couple got married in 1926. From November, 1924, to May, 1929, Weill wrote hundreds of reviews for the influential and comprehensive radio program guide Der deutsche Rundfunk. Hans Siebert von Heister had already worked with Weill in the November Group, and offered Weill the job shortly after becoming editor-in-chief.

Although he had some success with his first mature non-stage works (such as the String Quartet, Op. 8 or the Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra, Op. 12), which were influenced by Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, Weill tended more and more to vocal music and musical theatre. His musical theatre work and his songs were extremely popular with the wider public in Germany at the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s. Weill’s music was admired by composers such as Alban Berg, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Darius Milhaud and Stravinsky, but it was also criticized by others, like Schoenberg, who later revised his opinion, and by Anton Webern. His best-known work is The Threepenny Opera (1928), a reworking of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera written in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht. Engel directed the original production of The Threepenny Opera in 1928. It contains Weill’s most famous song, “Mack the Knife” (“Die Moritat von Mackie Messer”).

Weill fled Nazi Germany in March 1933. A prominent and popular Jewish composer, Weill was officially denounced for his populist views and sympathies, and became a target of the Nazi authorities, who criticized and interfered with performances of his later stage works, such as Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930), Die Bürgschaft (1932), and Der Silbersee (1933). In 1934 he completed his Symphony No.2, his last purely orchestral work, conducted in Amsterdam and New York by Bruno Walter, and also the music for Jacques Deval’s play, Marie Galante. A production of his operetta Der Kuhhandel (A Kingdom for a Cow) took him to London in 1935, and later that year he went to the United States in connection with The Eternal Road, a “Biblical Drama” by Franz Werfel that had been commissioned by members of New York’s Jewish community and was premiered in 1937 at the Manhattan Opera House, running for 153 performances.

Weill and his wife rented a house during the summer near Pine Brook Country Club in Nichols, CT, the summer home of the Group Theatre, while working on Johnny Johnson, a musical. The Weills moved to New York City on September 10, 1935, and rather than continue to write in the same style that had characterized his European compositions, he made a study of American popular and stage music. He worked with writers such as Maxwell Anderson and Ira Gershwin, and wrote a film score for Fritz Lang entitled You and Me (1938). Weill himself strove to find a new way of creating an American opera that would be both commercially and artistically successful. The most interesting attempt in this direction is Street Scene, based on a play by Elmer Rice, with lyrics by Langston Hughes. For his work on Street Scene Weill was awarded the inaugural Tony Award for Best Original Score.

In the 1940s Weill lived in Downstate New York near the New Jersey border and made frequent trips both to New York City and to Hollywood for his work for theatre and film. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943. Weill had ideals of writing music that served a socially useful purpose. In the US, he wrote Down in the Valley, an opera including the song of the same name and other American folk songs. He also wrote a number of songs in support of the American war effort, including the satirical “Schickelgruber” with lyrics by Howard Dietz, “Buddy on the Nightshift” with Oscar Hammerstein, and with Brecht again as in his earlier career the “Ballad of the Nazi Soldier’s Wife.” Intended for broadcast to Germany, the song chronicled the progress of the Nazi war machine through the gifts sent to the proud wife at home by her man at the front: furs from Oslo, a silk dress from Paris etc., until finally, from Russia, she receives her widow’s veil.

Apart from “Mack the Knife” from The Threepenny Opera and”Alabama Song” from Mahagonny, his most famous songs include “Surabaya Johnny” from Happy End, “Speak Low” from One Touch of Venus, “Lost in the Stars” from the musical of that name, “My Ship” from Lady in the Dark, and “September Song” from Knickerbocker Holiday. Weill suffered a heart attack shortly after his fiftieth birthday and died on April 3, 1950, in New York City. A leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, Weill also wrote a number of works for the concert hall, as well as several Judaism-themed pieces. Sixty years after his death, Weill’s music continues to be performed both in popular and classical contexts.

My collection includes the following works by Weill:
The Berlin Requiem (1929).
Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra, op. 12 (1924).
Death in the Forest, op. 23 (1927).
Happy End (1929).
Knickerbocker Holiday (1938): September Song.
Mahagonny Songspiel, The Little Mahagonny (1927).
Pantomime I (1925).
The Threepenny Opera (1928): Kleine Dreigroschenmusik Suite for Wind Orchestra (1929), and Mack the Knife.

Anton Webern and the Symphony op. 21

Anton Friedrich Wilhelm von Webern (December 3, 1883–September 15, 1945) was an Austrian composer and conductor, a member of the Second Viennese School. Webern was born in Vienna, Austria, the only surviving son of Carl von Webern, a civil servant, and Amelie (née Geer) who was a competent pianist and accomplished singer. He never used his middle names and dropped the von in 1918 as directed by the Austrian government’s reforms after World War I. After spending much of his youth in Graz and Klagenfurt, Webern attended Vienna University from 1902. There he studied musicology with Guido Adler, writing his thesis on the Choralis Constantinus of Heinrich Isaac.

Webern’s earliest works are in a late Romantic style and include the orchestral tone poem Im Sommerwind (1904) and the Langsamer Satz (1905) for string quartet. Webern studied composition under Arnold Schoenberg, writing his Passacaglia for orchestra, Op. 1 as his graduation piece in 1908. He met Alban Berg, who was also a pupil of Schoenberg’s, and these two relationships would be the most important in his life in shaping his own musical direction. After graduating, he took a series of conducting posts at theatres in Ischl, Teplitz, Danzig, Stettin, and Prague before moving back to Vienna. There he helped run Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances from 1918 through 1922 and conducted the “Vienna Workers Symphony Orchestra” from 1922 to 1934.

During this time, Webern’s work used traditional compositional techniques, especially canons, and forms–the Symphony, the Concerto, the String Trio and String Quartet, and the Variations—in a modern harmonic and melodic language. Webern wrote pieces which were freely atonal, much in the style of Schoenberg’s early atonal works. With the Drei Volkstexte op. 17 (1925) he used Schoenberg’s twelve tone technique for the first time, and all his subsequent works used this technique. The String Trio op. 20 (1927) was both the first purely instrumental work using the twelve tone technique, as all the other pieces were songs, and the first cast in a traditional musical form.

Webern’s music was denounced as “cultural Bolshevism” and “degenerate art” by the Nazi Party in Germany, even before the Austrian Anschluss of 1938. As a result of official disapproval, he found it harder (though at no stage impossible) to earn a living, and had to take on work as an editor and proofreader for his publishers, Universal Edition. It was thanks to the Swiss philanthropist Werner Reinhart that Webern was able to attend the festive premiere of his Variations for Orchestra, Op. 30 in Winterthur, Switzerland, in 1943. Webern was not a prolific composer; just thirty-one of his compositions were published in his lifetime. Webern’s last pieces seem to indicate another development in style. The two late Cantatas, for example, use larger ensembles than earlier pieces; last longer–No. 1 around nine minutes, No. 2 around sixteen; and are texturally somewhat denser.

Webern left Vienna near the end of the war, and moved to Mittersill in Salzburg, believing he would be safer there. On September 15,1945, during the Allied occupation of Austria, he was shot and killed by an American Army soldier when, three-quarters of an hour before a curfew was to have gone into effect, he stepped outside the house so as not to disturb his sleeping grandchildren. Webern was survived by his wife, Wilhelmine Mörtl, and their three daughters. His only son, Peter, had died on February 14, 1945 of wounds suffered in a strafing attack on a military train two days earlier.

As a student and significant follower of Arnold Schoenberg, Webern became one of the best-known exponents of the twelve-tone technique. His influence on later composers, and on post-WWII avant garde music developments in Europe and America was immense, particularly in Paris, France, under the influence of the Webern disciple, Rene Leibowitz, and in New York City, New York, under the influences of another Webern disciple, composer, Stefan Wolpe. His mature works, using Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique, have a textural clarity and emotional coolness which greatly influenced composers at Darmstadt, Germany, such as Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

My collection includes the following works by Webern:
Concerto for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, violin, viola, and piano, op. 24.
Five Orchestral Pieces, op. 10.
In Sommerwind, Idyll after a Poem of Bruno Wille.
Passacaglia, op. 1.
Six Orchestral Pieces, op. 6 (arr. for reduced orchestra, 1928).
Symphony, op. 21.
Variations, op. 30.

Carl Maria von Weber and the Overture to “Der Freischutz”

Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (November 18/19, 1786–June 4/5, 1826) was a German composer, conductor, and pianist, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. Weber was born in Eutin, Holstein, the eldest of the three children of Franz Anton von Weber and his second wife, Genovefa Brenner, a Viennese singer. Franz Anton began his career as a military officer in the service of the Duchy of Holstein, and went on to hold a number of musical directorships. In 1787 Franz Anton moved to Hamburg where he founded a theatrical company. A gifted violinist, Franz Anton had ambitions of turning Carl into a child prodigy. Carl was born with a congenital hip disease and did not begin to walk until he was four. But by then, he was already a capable singer and pianist.

Weber’s father gave him a comprehensive education, which was however interrupted by the family’s constant moves. In 1796, Weber continued his musical education in Hildburghausen, where he was instructed by the oboist Johann Peter Heuschkel. On March 13, 1798, Weber’s mother died of tuberculosis. That same year, Weber went to Salzburg to study with Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn, who agreed to teach Carl free of charge. Later that year, Weber traveled to Munich to study with the singer Johann Evangelist Wallishauser and organist Johann Nepomuk Kalcher. 1798 also saw the twelve year old Weber’s first published work, six fughettas for piano, published in Leipzig. Other compositions of that period, among them a mass, and his first opera, Die Macht der Liebe und des Weins (The Power of Love and Wine), are lost; but a set of Variations for the Pianoforte was later lithographed by Weber himself, under the guidance of Alois Senefelder, the inventor of the process.

In 1800, the family moved to Freiberg in Saxony, where Weber, then 14 years old, wrote an opera called Das stumme Waldmädchen (The Silent Forest Maiden), which was produced at the Freiberg theatre. It was later performed in Vienna, Prague, and Saint Petersburg. The young Weber also began to publish articles as a music critic, for example in the Leipziger Neue Zeitung in 1801. In 1801, the family returned to Salzburg, where Weber resumed his studies with Michael Haydn. He later continued studying in Vienna with Georg Joseph Vogler, founder of three important music schools (in Mannheim, Stockholm, and Darmstadt). In 1803, Weber’s opera, Peter Schmoll und seine Nachbarn (Peter Schmoll and his Neighbors) was produced in Augsburg, and gave Weber his first success as a popular composer.

Vogler, impressed by his pupil’s talent, recommended him to the post of Director at the Breslau Opera in 1806. Weber sought to reform the Opera by pensioning off older singers, expanding the orchestra, and tackling a more challenging repertoire. His attempts at reform were met with strong resistance from the musicians and the Breslau public. Weber’s time at Breslau was further complicated one night when he accidentally ingested engraver’s acid that his father had left stored in a wine bottle. Weber was found unconscious and took two months to recover. The incident permanently ruined his singing voice. He left his post in Breslau in a fit of frustration and from 1807 to 1810, Weber served as private secretary to Duke Ludwig, brother of King Frederick I of Württemberg.

Weber’s time in Württemberg was also plagued with troubles. He fell deeply into debt. Furthermore, Weber’s father Franz Anton misappropriated a vast quantity of Duke Ludwig’s money. Franz Anton and Carl were charged with embezzlement and arrested on 9 February 1810. Carl was in the middle of a rehearsal for his opera Silvana when he was arrested and thrown in prison by order of the king. Though no one doubted Carl’s innocence, King Frederick I had grown tired of the composer’s pranks. After a summary trial, Carl and his father were banished from Württemberg. Nevertheless, Carl remained prolific as a composer during this period, writing a quantity of religious music, mainly for the Catholic mass.

In 1810, Weber visited several cities throughout Germany; from 1813 to 1816 he was director of the Opera in Prague; from 1816 to 1817 he worked in Berlin, and from 1817 onwards he was director of the prestigious Opera in Dresden, working hard to establish a German Opera, in reaction to the Italian Opera which had dominated the European music scene since the 18th century. On November 4, 1817, he married Caroline Brandt, a singer who created the title role of Silvana. In 1819, he wrote perhaps his most famous piano piece, “Invitation to the Dance.”

The successful premiere of Der Freischütz on 18 June 1821 in Berlin led to performances all over Europe. On the very morning of the premiere, Weber finished his Konzertstück in F minor for Piano and Orchestra, and he premiered it a week later. In 1823, Weber composed the opera Euryanthe, containing much rich music, the overture of which in particular anticipates Richard Wagner. In 1824, Weber received an invitation from The Royal Opera, London, to compose and produce Oberon, based on Christoph Martin Wieland’s poem of the same name. Weber accepted the invitation, and in 1826 he travelled to England, to finish the work and conduct the premiere on April 12.

Weber was already suffering from tuberculosis when he visited London; he died at the house of Sir George Smart during the night of June 4/5, 1826, just 39 years old. His unfinished opera Die drei Pintos (The Three Pintos) was originally given by Weber’s widow to his friend Giacomo Meyerbeer for completion; it was eventually completed by Gustav Mahler, who conducted the first performance in this form in Leipzig on January 20, 1888. A brilliant pianist himself, Weber composed two concertos for piasno and the Konzertstück (Concert Piece) in F minor. His compositions for woodwind instruments including two concertos and a concertino for clarinet, occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. He also composed two symphonies, Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 19, J. 50 (1812), and Symphony No. 2 in C, J. 51 (1813).

My collection includes the following works by Weber:
Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra in cm, op. 26, J. 109.
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 1 in fm, op. 83, J. 114.
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 2 in EbM, op. 84, J. 118.
Der Freischutz (1821): Overture.
Euryanthe, op. 81 (1823): Overture.
Invitation to the Dance, a rondo (1819).
Konzertstuck for Piano and Orchestra, op. 79.
Oberon (1826): Overture.
Piano Concerto No. 1 in CM, op. 11.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in EbM, op. 32.
Polonaise Brillante for Piano and Orchestra, op. 72.
Preciosa (1821): Overture.
Symphony No. 1 in CM.
Symphony No. 2 in CM.

William Walton and “Crown Imperial” march

Sir William Turner Walton OM (March 29, 1902–March 8, 1983) was an English composer who was born into a musical family in Oldham, Lancashire, the second son in a family of three boys and a girl. His father, Charles Alexander Walton, was a musician who had trained at the Royal Manchester College of Music under Charles Hallé, and made a living as a singing teacher and church organist. Charles’s wife, Louisa Maria (née Turner), had been a singer before their marriage. William’s musical talents were spotted when he was still a young boy, and he took piano and violin lessons, though he never mastered either instrument. He was more successful as a singer. He and his elder brother sang in their father’s choir, taking part in performances of large-scale works by Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn and others.

Walton was sent to a local school, but in 1912 his father saw a newspaper advertisement for probationer choristers at Christ Church Cathedral School in Oxford and applied for William to be admitted. The boy and his mother missed their intended train from Manchester to Oxford. Although they arrived in Oxford after the entrance trials were over, Mrs Walton successfully pleaded for her son to be heard, and he was accepted. He remained at the choir school for the next six years. The Dean of Christ Church, Dr. Thomas Strong, noted the young Walton’s musical potential and was encouraged in this view by Sir Hubert Parry, who saw the manuscripts of some of Walton’s early compositions and said to Strong, “There’s a lot in this chap; you must keep your eye on him.”

At the age of sixteen, Walton became an undergraduate of Christ Church. He came under the influence of Hugh Allen, the dominant figure in Oxford’s musical life. Allen introduced Walton to modern music, including Stravinsky’s Petrushka, and enthused him with “the mysteries of the orchestra.” Walton spent much time in the university library, studying scores by Stravinsky, Debussy, Sibelius, Roussel and others. Little survives from Walton’s juvenilia, but the choral anthem A Litany, written when he was fifteen, anticipates his mature style. At Oxford Walton befriended several poets including Sacheverell Sitwell, who invited him to lodge in London with him and his literary brother and sister, Osbert and Edith. Walton took up residence in the attic of their house, later recalling, “I went for a few weeks and stayed about fifteen years.”

The Sitwells looked after their protégé both materially and culturally, giving him not only a home but a stimulating cultural education. He took music lessons with Ernest Ansermet, Ferruccio Busoni and Edward J. Dent. He attended the Russian ballet, met Stravinsky and Gershwin, heard the Savoy Orpheans at the Savoy Hotel and wrote an experimental string quartet heavily influenced by the Second Viennese School that was performed at a festival of new music at Salzburg in 1923. Alban Berg heard the performance and was impressed enough to take Walton to meet Arnold Schoenberg, Berg’s teacher and the founder of the Second Viennese School. In 1923, in collaboration with Edith Sitwell, Walton had his first great success, Façade which was first performed in public at the Aeolian Hall, London, on June 12. The work consisted of Edith’s verses, which she recited through a megaphone from behind a screen, while Walton conducted an ensemble of six players in his accompanying music. Within a decade Walton’s music was used for the popular Façade ballet, choreographed by Frederick Ashton.

Walton’s works of the 1920s, while he was living in the Sitwells’ attic, include the overture Portsmouth Point (1923), inspired by the well-known painting of the same name by Thomas Rowlandson. Walton’s other works of the 1920s included a short orchestral piece, Siesta (1926) and a Sinfonia Concertante for piano and orchestra (1928). The Viola Concerto (1929) brought Walton to the forefront of British classical music. Walton’s next major composition was the massive choral cantata Belshazzar’s Feast (1931). In the 1930s, Walton’s relationship with the Sitwells became less close, and in 1934 he left the Sitwells’ house and bought a house in Belgravia. Walton’s first major composition after Belshazzar’s Feast was his First Symphony. It was not written to a commission, and Walton worked slowly on the score from late 1931 until he completed it in 1935.

During 1934 Walton interrupted work on the symphony to compose his first film music, for Paul Czinner’s Escape Me Never (1934). Following Edward Elgar’s death in 1934, the authorities turned to Walton to compose a march in the Elgarian tradition for the coronation of George VI in 1937. His Crown Imperial was an immediate success with the public. Among Walton’s other works from this decade are more film scores, including the first of his incidental music for Shakespeare adaptations, As You Like It (1936); a short ballet for a West End revue (1936); and a choral piece, In Honour of the City of London (1937). His most important work of the 1930s was the Violin Concerto (1939). During World War II, Walton was exempted from military service on the understanding that he would compose music for wartime propaganda films and others, such as The First of the Few (1942) and Laurence Olivier’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V (1944).

For the BBC, Walton composed the music for a large-scale radio drama about Christopher Columbus, written by Louis MacNeice and starring Olivier. Apart from these commissions, Walton’s wartime works of any magnitude comprised incidental music for John Gielgud’s 1942 production of Macbeth; two scores for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, The Wise Virgins, based on the music of J. S. Bach transcribed by Walton, and The Quest, with a plot loosely based on Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and, for the concert hall, a suite of orchestral miniatures, Music for Children, and a comedy overture, Scapino, composed for the fiftieth anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1939 he had been planning a substantial chamber work, a string quartet, but he set it aside while composing his wartime film scores. In early 1945 he turned again to the quartet in A minor, which premiered in May of 1947 and was Walton’s most substantial work of the 1940s.

In 1947, Walton was presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal, and in the same year he accepted an invitation from the BBC to compose his first opera, deciding to base it on Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, but his preliminary work came to a halt in April of 1948 when the music publisher Leslie Boosey persuaded him to be a British delegate to a conference on copyright in Buenos Aires later that year. While there, Walton met Susana Gil Passo (1926–2010), daughter of an Argentine lawyer. She eventually accepted his proposal of marriage. The wedding was held in Buenos Aires in December of 1948. Walton’s last work of the 1940s was his music for Olivier’s film of Hamlet (1948). After that, he focused his attentions on his opera Troilus and Cressida.

In 1953, following the accession of Elizabeth II Walton was again called on to write a coronation march, Orb and Sceptre. He was also commissioned to write a choral setting of the Te Deum for the occasion. Troilus and Cressida was presented at Covent Garden on December 3, 1954. In 1956 Walton sold his London house and took up full-time residence on the Italian island of Ischia. Walton’s other works of the 1950s include the music for a fourth Shakespeare film, Olivier’s Richard III, and the Cello Concerto (1956). Walton’s orchestral works of the 1960s include his Second Symphony (1960), Variations on a Theme by Hindemith (1963), Capriccio burlesco (1968), and Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten (1969). His song cycles from this period were composed for Peter Pears (Anon. in Love, 1960) and Schwarzkopf (A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table, 1962). He was commissioned to compose a score for the 1969 film Battle of Britain, but the film company rejected most of his score. A concert suite of Walton’s score was published and recorded after Walton’s death. After his experience over Battle of Britain, Walton declared that he would write no more film music, but he was persuaded by Olivier to compose the score for a film of Chekhov’s Three Sisters in 1969.

Walton was never a facile or quick composer, and in his final decade, he found composition increasingly difficult. He repeatedly tried to compose a third symphony for André Previn, but eventually abandoned it. Many of his final works are re-orchestrations or revisions of earlier music. He orchestrated his song cycle Anon. in Love (originally for tenor and guitar), and at the request of Neville Marriner adapted his A minor String Quartet as a Sonata for Strings. One original work from this period was his Jubilate Deo, premiered as one of several events to celebrate his seventieth birthday. Walton revised the score of Troilus and Cressida, and the opera was staged at Covent Garden in 1976. Walton died at La Mortella on March 8, 1983, at the age of 80.

Works by Walton in my collection include the following:
Cello Concerto.
Crown Imperial (1937).
Henry V: Passacaglia, The Death of Falstaff, and Touch Her Soft Lips and Part.
Orb and Sceptre (1953).
Symphony No. 1 in bbm.
Violin Concerto.

Emil Waldteufel and “The Skaters” Waltz

Émile Waldteufel (December 9, 1837–February 12, 1915) was a French (Alsatian) pianist and composer of dance music, who was born on Dec. 9, 1837, in Strasbourg to a Jewish Alsatian family of musicians and studied first with his parents. His father Louis had a respected orchestra, and his brother Léon was a successful musician. When Léon won a place to study violin performance at the Conservatoire de Paris, the family followed him there and Emil spent the rest of his life in that city. He studied the piano at the Conservatoire de Paris from 1853 to 1857. Among his fellow pupils was Jules Massenet. During his time at the conservatory, Louis Waldteufel’s orchestra became one of the most famous in Paris, and Émile was frequently invited to play at important events.

After leaving the Conservatory, Waldteufel worked for a piano manufacturer, gave piano lessons, and played at soirees. In 1865, at the age of 27, he became the court pianist of the Empress Eugénie and the following year conductor of court balls. After the Franco-Prussian War had dissolved the Second French Empire, his orchestra played at Presidential balls at the Élysée. At this time only a few members of the French high society knew of Émile; he was nearly forty before he became better known. In October of 1874 Waldteufel played at an event that was attended by the then Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. The Prince was enthralled by Waldteufel’s “Manolo” waltz, op. 140 (c. 1874), and was prepared to make Waldteufel’s music known in Britain.

With the success of his first waltzes, Waldteufel decided to devote himself entirely to composing dance music, producing some 270 such pieces, most of which were first created at the piano and later orchestrated. A long-term contract with the London-based editor Hopwood and Crew followed. Part of the company belonged to Charles Coote, director of the Coote and Tinney’s Band, the first dance orchestra in London. Through these means, Waldteufel’s music was played at Buckingham Palace in front of Queen Victoria. Waldteufel dominated the music scene in London and became world-famous. During this period he composed his most famous works, many of which are still heard today around the world. He became best known for the waltz “Les Patineurs,” op. 183 (The Skaters), composed in 1882.

Waldteufel, who conducted with a stick rather than the then-customary violin bow, gave concerts in several European cities, such as London in 1885, Berlin in 1889 and the Paris Opéra Balls in 1890 and 1891. The typical Waldteufel orchestra consisted of strings and a doubled woodwind section, two cornets, four horns, three trombones, and ophicleide or euphonium, along with percussion. He continued his career as conductor and writing dance music for the Presidential Balls until 1899 when he retired. His music can be distinguished from Johann Strauss II’s waltzes and polkas in that he used subtle harmonies and gentle phrases, unlike Strauss’s more robust approach. In 1915 Waldteufel died in Paris at the age of 77. His wife, Célestine Dufau, a former singer, had died a year earlier. They had two sons and a daughter.

My collection of Waldteufel pieces includes the following:
Espana, op. 236.
Estudiantina, op. 191.
Les Patineurs (The Skaters), op. 183.
Les Sirenes, op. 154.
Mon Reve, op. 151.
Pluie de Diamants, op. 160.
Pomone, op. 155.
Solitude, op. 174.
Tres Jolie, op. 159.

Richard Wagner and the Overture to “Tannhauser”

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (May 22, 1813 –February 13, 1883), a German composer, theatre director, and conductor primarily known for his operas or “music dramas,” was born in Leipzig, Germany, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service, and his wife Johanna Rosine (née Paetz), the daughter of a baker. Carl died of typhus six months after Richard’s birth, after which Johanna married Carl’s friend, the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer, and moved her family to Geyer’s residence in Dresden. Geyer’s love of the theatre came to be shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in his performances. Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel’s school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received a little piano instruction from his Latin teacher. He struggled to play a proper scale at the keyboard, and preferred playing theatre overtures by ear.

Following Geyer’s death in 1821, Richard was sent to the Kreuzschule, the boarding school of the Dresdner Kreuzchor, at the expense of Geyer’s brother. At the age of nine he was hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz, which he saw Weber conduct. At this period Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright. His first creative effort was a tragedy called Leubald. Begun at school in 1826, it was strongly influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe. Wagner was determined to set it to music, and persuaded his family to allow him music lessons. By 1827, the family had returned to Leipzig, and Wagner’s first lessons in harmony were taken during 1828–31 with Christian Gottlieb Müller.

In January 1828 Wagner first heard Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and then, in March, the same composer’s 9th Symphony, both in the Gewandhaus. Beethoven became a major inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony. He was also greatly impressed by a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. Wagner’s early piano sonatas and his first attempts at orchestral overtures date from this period. In 1829 he saw a performance by dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera.

In 1831, Wagner enrolled at the University of Leipzig, where he became a member of the Saxon student fraternity. He also took composition lessons with the Thomaskantor Theodor Weinlig who arranged for his pupil’s Piano Sonata in B-flat major,which was consequently dedicated to him, to be published as Wagner’s Op. 1. A year later, Wagner composed his Symphony in C major, a Beethovenesque work performed in Prague in 1832 and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1833. He then began to work on an opera, Die Hochzeit (The Wedding), which he never completed. In 1833, Wagner’s brother Albert managed to obtain for him a position as choir master at the theatre in Würzburg. In the same year, at the age of 20, Wagner composed his first complete opera, Die Feen (The Fairies).

Having returned to Leipzig in 1834, Wagner held a brief appointment as musical director at the opera house in Magdeburg during which he wrote Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. This was staged at Magdeburg in 1836 but closed before the second performance. This, together with the financial collapse of the theatre company employing him, left the composer with serious money problems. Wagner had fallen for one of the leading ladies at Magdeburg, the actress Christine Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer. She helped him to get an engagement at the theatre in Königsberg, and the two married in Tragheim Church in 1836. In June 1837, Wagner moved to Riga, Latvia, then in the Russian Empire, where he became music director of the local opera.

By 1839, the couple had amassed such large debts that they fled Riga to avoid their creditors. Initially they took a stormy sea passage to London, England. The Wagners arrived in Paris, France, in September of 1839 and stayed there until 1842. Richard made a scant living writing articles and arranging operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger publishing house. He also completed during this stay his third and fourth operas, Rienzi in 1840 and Der fliegende Holländer. With the strong support of Giacomo Meyerbeer, Rienzi was accepted for performance by the Dresden Court Theatre (Hofoper) in the Kingdom of Saxony and in 1842, Wagner moved to Dresden. Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor. During this period, he staged there Der fliegende Holländer in 1843 and Tannhäuser in 1845, the first two of his three middle-period operas.

The Wagners’ stay at Dresden was brought to an end by Richard’s involvement in leftist politics. Wagner had to flee, first visiting Paris and then settling in Zurich, Switzerland, and was to spend the next twelve years in exile from Germany. He had completed Lohengrin, the last of his middle-period operas, before leaving Dresden, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence. Liszt conducted the premiere in Weimar in August 1850.

Wagner’s wife Minna was falling into a deepening depression. Wagner himself fell victim to ill-health which made it difficult for him to continue writing. Before leaving Dresden, Wagner had drafted a scenario that eventually became the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. He initially wrote the libretto for a single opera, Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death), in 1848. After arriving in Zurich he expanded the story with the opera Der junge Siegfried (Young Siegfried), which explored the hero’s background. He completed the text of the cycle by writing the libretti for Die Walküre (The Valkyrie) and Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold) and revising the other libretti to agree with his new concept, completing them in 1852.

Wagner began composing the music for Das Rheingold between November 1853 and September 1854, following it immediately with Die Walküre, written between June 1854 and March 1856. He began work on the third Ring opera, which he now called simply Siegfried, probably in September 1856, but by June 1857 he had completed only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: Tristan und Isolde, based on the Arthurian love story Tristan and Iseult. While planning the opera, Wagner composed the Wesendonck Lieder, five songs for voice and piano, setting poems by the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of the silk merchant Otto Wesendonc who. made several loans to Wagner to finance his household expenses in Zurich and in 1857 placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner’s disposal.

Amongst the conducting engagements that Wagner undertook for revenue during this period, he gave several concerts in 1855 with the London Philharmonic Society, including one before Queen Victoria. The Queen enjoyed his Tannhäuser overture. In 1858, Wagner left Zurich alone, bound for Venice, Italy, while Minna returned to Germany. In November 1859, Wagner once again moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhäuser. He sought a reconciliation with Minna during this Paris visit, and although she joined him there, the reunion was not successful and they again parted from each other when Wagner left. The political ban that had been placed on Wagner in Germany after he had fled Dresden was fully lifted in 1862. The composer settled in Biebrich in Prussia. Here Minna visited him for the last time: they parted irrevocably, though Wagner continued to give financial support to her while she lived in Dresden until her death in 1866.

In Biebrich, Wagner at last began work on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, his only mature comedy. Wagner’s fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II succeeded to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18. The young king, an ardent admirer of Wagner’s operas, had the composer brought to Munich. Ludwig settled Wagner’s considerable debts, and proposed to stage Tristan, Die Meistersinger, the Ring, and the other operas Wagner planned. Tristan und Isolde premiered at the National Theatre in Munich on June 10, 1865. The conductor of this premiere was Hans von Bülow. Ludwig installed Wagner at the Villa Tribschen, beside Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne. Die Meistersinger was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premiered in Munich on June 21 the following year. At Ludwig’s insistence, “special previews” of the first two works of the Ring, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were performed at Munich in 1869 and 1870.

Following Minna’s death Cosima von Bulow asked her husband Hans to grant her a divorce, which was finally sanctioned, after delays in the legal process, by a Berlin court on July 18, 1870. Richard and Cosima’s wedding took place on August 25, 1870. On Christmas Day of that year, Wagner arranged a surprise performance (its premiere) of the Siegfried Idyll for Cosima’s birthday. The marriage to Cosima lasted to the end of Wagner’s life. Wagner, settled into his new-found domesticity, turned his energies towards completing the Ring cycle. In 1871, Wagner decided to move to Bayreuth, which was to be the location of his new opera house, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (“Festival Theatre”) which finally opened on August 13, 1876, with Das Rheingold.

Following the first Bayreuth Festival, Wagner began work on Parsifal, his final opera. The composition took four years, much of which Wagner spent in Italy for health reasons. Wagner wrote a number of articles in his later years, often on political topics, and often reactionary in tone, repudiating some of his earlier, more liberal, views. These include “Religion and Art” (1880) and “Heroism and Christianity” (1881), which were printed in the journal Bayreuther Blätter, published by his supporter Hans von Wolzogen. Wagner’s sudden interest in Christianity at this period infused Parsifal and required on his part, and the part of his associates, “the rewriting of some recent Wagnerian history,” so as to represent, for example, the Ring as a work reflecting Christian ideals. Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera, which premiered on May 26.

Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered a series of increasingly severe angina attacks. During the sixteenth and final performance of Parsifal on August 29, he entered the pit unseen during act 3, took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi, and led the performance to its conclusion. After the festival, the Wagner family journeyed to Venice for the winter and died of a heart attack at the age of 69 on February 13, 1883, at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, a 16th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal. After a funerary gondola bore Wagner’s remains over the Grand Canal, his body was taken to Germany where it was buried in the garden of the Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth.

Wagner’s earliest attempts at opera were often uncompleted. Abandoned works include a pastoral opera based on Goethe’s Die Laune des Verliebten (The Infatuated Lover’s Caprice), written at the age of 17 and the singspiel Men are More Cunning than Women, 1837–38. Apart from his operas, Wagner composed relatively few pieces of music. These include the Faust Overture (the only completed part of an intended symphony on the subject), some other overtures, and choral and piano pieces. More rarely performed are the American Centennial March (1876), and Das Liebesmahl der Apostel (The Love Feast of the Apostles), a piece for male choruses and orchestra composed in 1843 for the city of Dresden. After completing Parsifal, Wagner expressed his intention to turn to the writing of symphonies, and several sketches dating from the late 1870s and early 1880s have been identified as work towards this end.

Works by Richard Wagner in my collection include the following:
Das Liebesverbot: Overture.
Das Rheingold: Entry of the Gods into Valhalla.
Der Fliegende Hollander: Overture.
Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg: Overture (Prelude) and Hymn from Act 1.
Die Walkure: Ride of the Valkyries, Wotan’s Farewell & Magic Fire Music.
Gotterdammerung: Dawn & Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, Siegfried’s Death and Funeral March.
Lohengrin: Prelude to Act 1, Prelude to Act III, Bridal Chorus.
Parsifal: Overture (Prelude to Act 1).
Rienzi: Overture.
Siegfried: Forest Murmers.
Siegfried Idyll.
Tannhauser: Overture and Bacchanale.
Tristan und Isolde: Prelude to Act 1.

Carl Ruggles and “Angels for Muted Brass”

Charles “Carl” Sprague Ruggles (March 11, 1876 – October 24, 1971) was an American composer of the American Five group who was born in Marion, MA, in 1876. His mother died at an early age and he was raised mainly by his grandmother. The young Charles was never very close to his father Nathaniel. He began to use the name to ‘Carl’ at an early age, perhaps due to his great admiration for German composers, especially Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, and though he never legally changed it, signed all documents and works in his adult life “Carl Ruggles.” Carl began taking violin lessons at the age of four with a local itinerant music teacher. He continued playing and gave performances on the violin, which were usually received well and was appointed director of the local YMCA orchestra in 1892.

In 1899, C.W. Thompson & Co. published Ruggles’s first compositions. They were three songs titled “How Can I Be Blythe and Glad,” “At Sea,” and “Maiden with Thy Mouth of Roses.” The first song is one of two surviving compositions from his early days; all others prior to around 1919 are presumed to have been destroyed by Ruggles himself. He worked a number of odd jobs and started to teach violin and music theory privately. Unfortunately the latter did not provide much income or success. In 1902 he started writing music criticism for the Belmont Tribune and the Watertown Tribune. This continued until July 1903. In 1906, he met his future wife, Charlotte Snell, a contralto. Ruggles began a search for steady employment so he and Charlotte could marry. This led him to Winona, MN, to work for the Mar D’Mar School of Music as a violin teacher. He became active as a soloist and eventually directed the Winona Symphony Orchestra. In the meantime, Charlotte joined him as a vocal teacher at Mar d’Mar. Ruggles continued to direct the symphony after the music school closed and was hired to conduct the YMCA orchestra and glee club. He and his wife also took private students.

In 1912 Ruggles moved to New York and began writing an opera based on the German play The Sunken Bell by Gerhart Hauptmann. It would prove to be a long process and due to Ruggles’s sluggish composing, and he never finished it. Ruggles continued to compose, supplementing his income by giving composition lessons. For his son’s fourth birthday in 1919 he wrote Toys for soprano and piano; this was the first piece he wrote in his atonal, contrapuntal style. He continued to live and compose in New York until 1938, when he began teaching composition at the University of Miami until 1943. He then moved to a converted schoolhouse in Vermont where he spent his time revising compositions and painting.

Ruggles’ compositional style was apparently trial and error. He sat at the piano and moved his fingers around, listened hard to the sounds, shouting out some of the lines. His dissonant, contrapuntal music was similar to Arnold Schoenberg’s although he did not employ the same twelve tone system. Angels was written in 1921 for muted brass; it was originally for six trumpets but was rescored for trumpets and trombones in 1940. From 1921 to 1924 he wrote the music for Men and Mountains. Portals for string orchestra came in 1925. Sun-treader (1931), his best known work, was scored for a large orchestra. It was inspired by the poem “Pauline” by Robert Browning, particularly the line “Sun-treader, light and life be thine forever!” At 16 minutes, it is Ruggles’ longest and best-known work.

Evocations (1943) is a set of four pieces, existing in three versions, the first for orchestra. Organum for orchestra dates from 1947. Exaltation (1958), his last completed work, is a hymn dedicated to the memory of his wife. He was friends with Henry Cowell, Edgard Varèse, Charles Ives, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Charles Seeger. His students included James Tenney and Merton Brown. Ruggles died in Bennington, VT, on October 24, 1971, due to old age and complications resulting from pneumonia.

The only piece by Ruggles in my collection is:

Angels for Muted Brass.