Jaromir Weinberger (1896-1967), the composer of the once-popular opera Schwanda the Bagpiper (staged at the Metropolitan Opera in 1931), is being remembered on the 50th anniversary of his passing. Subito Music, as worldwide agent for Willemsmusiik, takes a look back at this Czech-American composer and his role in 20th century music from his European roots to his extended stays in America. Willemsmusiik founder Tristan Willems spent the better part of a decade researching Weinberger and has uncovered an extensive catalogue of over 200 previously lost or unknown manuscripts.
In 1922, Weinberger traveled to the US and became an instructor at the then-newly founded Ithaca College Conservatory of Music. After finishing his teaching post, he returned to Czechoslovakia and became dramaturg of the National Theater in Bratislava, and later served in Prague as well as in Eger, Hungary. In 1926, Weinberger completed his most well know work – Švanda Dudák (Schwanda the Bagpiper), which featured a Czech libretto by Miloš Kareš and it premiered in 1927. It was subsequently translated into German in 1928 and 16 other languages, and became one of the most popular and widely performed operas performed between WWI and WWII, including its 1931 staging at The Metropolitan Opera. With the rise of Nazism, Weinberger’s music was gradually denied performances in Europe, and he eventually fled Prague for France and then England. Weinberger returned to New York in 1939 and spent the next decade in the Catskills region, and then moved to St. Petersburg, FL, when lived and composed until his death in 1967.
Weinberger’s catalogue is prolific, with works in every genre. His music ranges from solo piano pieces such as Four Lyric Pieces and Minatures, to the choral works Tri Pisne (Three Songs) (for SSAA chorus & piano) and Volnost (for Men’s chorus). His only String Quartet – written late in his career – is pedagogical in nature, but shows a mastery of technique and expresses an intense feeling of nostalgia for a time and place that no longer exists. Five Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (one of Weinberger’s last works) is a 23-minute song cycle (for soprano and piano) based after the famed collection of anonymous German Romantic texts.
For more details on Weinberger’s life, visit the Weinberger page at the OREL Foundation. Forthcoming Weinberger news includes the upcoming release of Tristan Willems’ double-volume of Weinberger’s annotated letters and as well as the first Weinberger biography. Additional reading material by Willems can be found in the Czech Music Quarterly and ‘musica reanimata’. To browse through Weinberger’s Willemsmusiik works, visit The Subito Store.