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HUGO WEISGALL

HUGO WEISGALL

Works

Reviews


One of America’s most important opera composers, Hugo Weisgall’s output also included orchestral, chamber and choral works, eight major song cycles, and music for ballet. His opera Six Characters in Search of an Author brought Weisgall national acclaim when it was first performed by the New York City Opera in 1959. The same company commissioned and performed his Nine Rivers from Jordan in 1968, and later staged his Esther, based on the biblical story. His other operas include Athaliah, The Gardens of Adonis, Jenny/or The Hundred Nights, Will You Marry Me?, The Tenor, and his most frequently performed opera, The Stronger.

A descendent of four generations of cantors, Weisgall was commissioned by the Friends of the Library of Jewish Theological Seminary to write a song-cycle for the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Among his more personal works were children’s pieces written for his grandchildren.

Born in Czechoslovakia, he came to the U.S. in 1920 with his parents. During World War II, he was assistant military attaché to the governments-in-exile in London, and later served as cultural attaché in Prague.

His work was recognized by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He twice served as composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, was President of the American Music Center for 10 years, and also served as President of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Former director of the Composer-in-Residence program for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, he at various times served on the faculty of Queens College, the Juilliard School, and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Hugo Weisgall died in March, 1997, in the year of his 85th birthday celebration.

View scores here (roll over to view score title):



Works

Chamber Ensembles and Instrumental Solos | Opera: Full-Evening | Opera: One-Act | Orchestra | Piano | Vocal and Choral




Chamber Ensembles and Instrumental Solos


Arioso and Burlesca for Cello and Piano (1984) -- 10’
Published: #114-40412


Holiday Dance No. 1 (Hanukkah) Graven Images No. 4, for Woodwind Quintet (1986, rev. 1978) -- ca. 2’
Fl. Ob. Cl. Bsn. Hn.
Published: #114-40235


Holiday Dance No. 2 (Purim) Graven Images No. 5, for Mixed Ensemble (1966) -- ca. 1'30"
Fl. Ob. Cl. Bsn. Hn.
Published: #114-40233


Lines Graven Images No. 1, for Woodwind Quartet (1966) -- 2'30"
Fl., Ob., Cl., Bsn.
Published: #114-40110
Commission Information: Written for a CBS Television documentary entitled "Of Heaven and Earth"


Pastorale Graven Images No. 2, for Woodwind Quartet (1966) -- 1'20"
Published: #114-40111
Commission Information: Written for a CBS Television documentary entitled "Of Heaven and Earth"


Tangents Four Episodes for Flute and Marimba (1985) -- 15'
Published: #114-40691

Movements:
Moseying Along
Scooting By
Starting Out
Taking Off



Opera: Full-Evening


Athaliah Opera in Two Parts -- 105’
Sop., Mezzo-sop., Tenor, Bari., Bass, Child (silent), Chorus; 2(A.Fl./Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(E-flat Cl. B.Cl.) 2 Cbsn. - 2 2 2 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Libretto by Richard Franko Goldman, after the tragedy by Jean Racine


Esther Opera in Three Acts
Sop., Mezzo-sop., Alto, Countertenor, 4Tenor, 2Bari., Bass-bari., Bass, Chorus; 3(Picc./A.Fl.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 - 4 3 2 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Libretto by Charles Kondek
Reviews

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#417-41033)


Nine Rivers from Jordan Prologue and Three Acts
2 Lyric Tenors, 2Bari., Bass-bari., Bass, Chorus; small parts: 2Sop., Mezzo-sop., 10Tenor, 3Bari., 5 Bass; 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Libretto by Denis Johnston

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#411-41034)


Six Characters in Search of an Author Opera in Three Acts (1953-56)
Dramatic Sop., Mezzo-sop., Contralto, High Lyric Bari., Dramatic bari., Boy & Girl (silent), Chorus; 2(A.Fl./Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) - 2 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.; upright piano on stage
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Commission Information: Ditson Fund, Columbia University
Additional Information: Libretto by Werner Gallusser from the play by Luigi Pirandello
Reviews

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#441-41002)
Libretto (#442-41000)


The Gardens of Adonis
2Sop., Boy Sop., Mezzo-sop., Tenor, Bari., Bass; 3(Picc./A.Fl.) 2(E.H.) 2(A.Cl./B.Cl.) 2 - 2(or4) 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Libretto by John Olon, based on the poem Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare and a play of the same name by Andre Obey
Reviews



Opera: One-Act


Jenny, or The Hundred Nights Opera in One Act -- 70'
Coloratura Sop., 2Sop., Mezzo-sop., 2Tenor, 3Bari., 2Bass, Chorus; Dancers; 4 2 4 2 - 2 2 3 1; 3 Perc. Hp. Pno. Str.; Vln. & Pno. on stage
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Libretto by John Hollander, based on the modern Noh play Sotoba Kamachi by Yukio Mishima as translated by Donald Keene


Purgatory Opera in One Act -- 35’
Bass, Tenor or Baritone (young boy); 2 0 2 1 - 1 1 0 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Text by William Butler Yeats.

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#441-41003)
Full Score - Study (#446-41004)


The Stronger Opera in One Act (1952) -- 25’
Sop.; Silent Roles: 1 Male, 2 Females; A.Sax. (B-flat Cl./E-flat Cl). T.Sax. (B-flat Cl./B.Cl.) - Tpt., Vln., Vla., Vcl., Cb., Pno.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: With Piano: Hilltop Musical Company; Baltimore, MD; August 9, 1952. With Orchestra: Adelaide Bishop, soprano, Siegfried Landau, conductor; Composers Forum, Columbia University, New York, NY; January 1955
Additional Information: Libretto by Richard Hart based on the play by August Strindberg
Reviews

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#411-41090)
Full Score - Study (#446-41005)


The Tenor Opera in One Act -- 70’
Dramatic Soprano, Sop. (spinto), Lyric Tenor, Dramatic Tenor, Bari., Lyric Bass-bari.; 1(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 2(E-flat Cl./B.Cl.) 1 - 2 1 1 0; Perc.(Timp.) Pno. Str. (Viola divisi)
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: Peabody Opera Company, composer conducting; Baltimore, MD; February 11, 1952
Additional Information: Libretto by Karl Shapiro and Ernst Lert based on Der Kammersänger by Frank Wedekind
Reviews

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#441-41001)


Will You Marry Me? Opera in One Act -- 25’
Sop., Bari.; B-flat Cl./Sop.Sax. B-flat Cl./A.Sax. Bsn. Hn. Tpt. Pno. Perc. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Libretto by Charles Kondek, after a play by Alfred Surro
Reviews

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#411-41095)



Orchestra


Dances from the Ballet "Outpost" (1947) -- 17'
3 3 2 2 - 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: National Symphony Orchestra, composer conducting; Baltimore, MD; January 11, 1950


Graven Images 1 1 1 1 - 2 1 2 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str. Quintet -- 36'
Available from the Presser Rental Library


Overture in F (1942) -- 9'30''
3 3 2 2 - 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: BBC Orchestra, composer conducting; London, UK; July 29, 1943

Available Separately:

Full Score - Large (#416-41052)


Prospect (1983) -- 14'
4(Picc.) 4(2E.H.) 2 2 - 4 4 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library


Suite from the Ballet "Quest" (1938) -- 13'30''
3 3 2 2 - 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: New York Philharmonic, John Barbirolli, conductor; New York, NY; March 21, 1942



Piano


Four Birthday Cards for Piano (1978-83) -- 8’
Published: #410-41266

Movements:
Billy’s Belated Birthday Rag (1983)
For Randy at 70 (1979)
Rückblick (1978)
Valse Oubliée (1982)


Fugue and Romance for Two Pianos, from the Ballet "One Thing is Certain" (1939) -- 6’
Published: #450-00177


Sine Nomine Graven Images No. 3, for Piano (1966) -- 1'
Published: #110-40590
Commission Information: Written for a CBS Television documentary entitled "Of Heaven and Earth"


Sonata for Piano (1982) (1982) -- 17’
Published: #410-41245
Commission Information: Randolph S. Rothschild, for the Baltimore Chamber Music Society


Two Improvisations Graven Images No. 6, for Piano (1964, rev. 1966)
Published: #110-40591



Vocal and Choral


A Garden Eastward Cantata for Soprano and Orchestra (1952) -- 16'30''
Solo Sop.; 3 2 2 2 - 4 2 2 0; Perc. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Commission Information: Baltimore Jewish Music Council
Premiere Information: Brenda Lewis, soprano, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, composer conducting; January 31, 1953
Additional Information: Text from the Hebrew Moses Ibn Ezra, trans. by Milton Feist

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#442-41002)


A Quiet Room Soprano Aria from "Six Characters in Search of an Author" -- 5'
Solo Sop.; 2 2 2 2 - 4 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library


A Song of Celebration for Tenor, Soprano, SATB Chorus and Orchestra -- 26'
3 2 2 2 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library


Athaliah Prologue to Part 2 of the Opera, for SATB Chorus and Piano (1963)
Published: #312-41205
Additional Information: Text by Richard Franko Goldman, based on Psalm 28: 1, 2, 9


End of Summer for Tenor, Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello (1973) -- 23'
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Commission Information: New York Chamber Soloists

Movements:
After Lunch (Po Chü-i, trans. by composer)
De Senectute (George Boas)
Hearing Someone Sing a Song by Yüan Chen (Po Chü-i, trans. by composer)
Presto
Quasi Fantasia

Available Separately:

Full Score - Large (#114-40203)


Evening Prayer for Peace (Ki el shomrenu) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1959)
Part of Two Liturgical Settings
Published: #312-40515
Additional Information: Text from the Jewish Prayer Book (Siddur), trans. by composer


Fancies and Inventions for Baritone and 5 Instruments -- 23'
Bari. Solo; Fl. Cl. Vla. Vcl. Pno.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Commission Information: Baltimore Chamber Music Society
Premiere Information: Baltimore Chamber Music Society, November 1, 1970
Additional Information: Texts from "The Hesperides" by Robert Herrick

Movements:
I Call and I Call
Soft Musick
The Frozen Heart
The Voice and the Violl
To Cherry-Blossoms
To Criticks
To Daffadills
To His Mistresse Objecting to Him Never Toying or Talking
To Musick. A Song
To the Detracter

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#442-41006)


Fortress, Rock of Our Salvation (Moos tzur) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1957)
Part of Three Hebraic Folksongs for SATB, a cap.
Published: #342-40014
Additional Information: Traditional text translated by Jules Harlow


Four Choral Etudes for SATB, a cap.

May the Words (Yih’yu l’rotzon) for SATB Chorus, a cap.

Praise Be Unto God (Hodu ladonoy) for SATB Chorus, a cap.

When Israel Out of Egypt Came (B’tzes Yisroel) for SATB Chorus, a cap.

God is Due Praise (Ki lo noeh) for SATB Chorus, a cap.


Four Songs for High or Medium Voice and Piano (1934) -- 7’
Published: #111-40069


God is Due Praise (Ki lo noeh) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1958, rev. 1960)
Part of Four Choral Etudes for SATB, a cap.
Published: #312-40510


How Fair is Thy Love (K’felach horimon) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1935)
Part of Three Hebraic Folksongs for SATB, a cap.
Published: #312-40512


Liebeslieder Four Songs with Interludes for High Voice and Piano
Published: #411-41078
Commission Information: WFMT Radio, Chicago, IL
Premiere Information: Penelope Daner, soprano, Allan Dameron, piano, June 27, 1979
Additional Information: Texts by Deborah Trustman


Love's Wounded for Baritone Soloist and Orchestra -- 5'18''
3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Additional Information: Text by Yehuda Halevi, trans. by Raymond Scheindlin


Lyrical Interval Song-Cycle for Low Voice and Piano -- ca. 55'
Published: #411-41088
Additional Information: Texts from John Hollander's "Blue Wine"

Movements:
Calling across Water (1984)
Eyes (1984)
First Echo (1984)
Land and Water (1984)
Last Echo (1984)
Lying Down (1984)
Piano Interlude (1984)
Prologue: Am Klavier (At the Piano) (1984)
The cable-Car (1984)
The Dream (1983)
The Dying Friend (1984)
The Game (1984)
The Movie (1984)
The Old Guitar (1984, rev. 1985)
The Other Route (1983)
The Park (1983)
The Patch of Garden (1983)


May the Words (Yih’yu l’rotzon) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1950)
Part of Four Choral Etudes for SATB, a cap.
Published: #312-40507
Additional Information: Text from Psalm 19:14, trans. by composer


No More I Will Thy Love Importune for High Voice and Piano -- ca. 1'
Published: #141-40005
Additional Information: Also available for Low Voice


No More I Will Thy Love Importune for Low Voice and Piano
Published: #141-40006


Nuptial Song (Be Nimble, Quick, Away) for High Voice and Piano -- ca. 1'30"
Published: #141-40007


Praise Be Unto God (Hodu ladonoy) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1954)
Part of Four Choral Etudes for SATB, a cap.
Published: #312-40508
Additional Information: Text from Psalm 118: 1-4, trans. by Jules Harlow and the composer


Psalm 118:26 Graven Images No. 11, for Unison Chorus (or Solo Voice) and Piano (1980, rev. 1982) -- 2'15"
Published: #312-41423


Psalm 29 Graven Images No. 8, for Chorus (Unison, 2-Pt. or 4-Pt. w/ opt. Brass Ensemble) (1966, rev. 1971) -- 5'
Available from the Presser Rental Library

Available Separately:

Choral Part(s) (#312-40958)
Solo Part (#312-40958P)


Psalm of the Distant Dove Canticle for Mezzo-soprano and Piano (1992) -- 15'
Published: #411-41098
Commission Information: Friends of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary
Additional Information: Trans. from Hebrew by Raymond P. Scheindlin


So Spake Rabbi Akiba (Omar Rabbi Akiba) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1960)
Part of Three Hebraic Folksongs for SATB, a cap.
Published: #312-40511


Soldier Songs for Baritone and Orchestra (1946) -- 25'
Solo Bar.; 2 2 2 2 A.Sax. T.Sax. - 4 3 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: Grant Carnell, baritone, Stanton Carter, piano; Composers of Today, Town Hall Club, New York, NY; April 26, 1954

Available Separately:

Piano/Vocal Score (#451-00277)


The Golden Peacock Seven Popular Songs from the Yiddish, for Voice and Piano (1976)
Published: #411-41069
Additional Information: English trans. by Albert Weisser

Movements:
Baleboste Zisinke (The Pretty Mistress)
Der Rebe Elimeylekh (Rebe Elimeylekh)
Do Goldene Pave (The Golden Peacock)
Lomir Zikh Bafrayen (Drinking Song)
Mayn Harts Veynt in Mir (My Heart, My Soul Cries Aloud)
Shlof Mayn Kind, Shlof Keseyder (Sleep My Baby)
Undzer Rebenyu (Our Rebenyu)


Three Hebraic Folksongs for SATB, a cap.

So Spake Rabbi Akiba (Omar Rabbi Akiba) for SATB Chorus, a cap.

How Fair is Thy Love (K’felach horimon) for SATB Chorus, a cap.

Fortress, Rock of Our Salvation (Moos tzur) for SATB Chorus, a cap.


Translations Seven Songs for Voice and Piano (1971-72)
Published: #411-41068
Commission Information: Shirley Verrett


Two Liturgical Settings

Who is Like Unto Thee (Mi chomocho) for Baritone Solo, SATB Chorus and Piano

Evening Prayer for Peace (Ki el shomrenu) for SATB Chorus, a cap.


V'Ohavto for Unison Chorus, Baritone Solo, and Strings
Available from the Presser Rental Library


When Israel Out of Egypt Came (B’tzes Yisroel) for SATB Chorus, a cap. (1956, rev. 1960)
Part of Four Choral Etudes for SATB, a cap.
Published: #312-40509
Additional Information: Text from Psalm 114: 1-8, trans. by Jules Harlow and the composer


Who is Like Unto Thee (Mi chomocho) for Baritone Solo, SATB Chorus and Piano (1934) -- 1'30"
Part of Two Liturgical Settings
Published: #312-40514
Premiere Information: Lazare Saminsky, conductor; Three Choir Festival, Temple Emanu-el, New York, NY; March 25, 1938



Reviews

"Mr. Weisgall is a tremendously gifted and vital composer, unquestionably one of the finest in the American lyric theater."

-The Baltimore Evening Sun


Six Characters in Search of an Author Opera in Three Acts

"Mr. Weisgall is clearly a theatrical technician of the first rank."

-Howard Taubman, New York Times

"The music offers much to admire: singable vocal lines and distinct characterizations for each of the protagonists, plenty of rhythmic punch, harmonious choruses, light and colorful orchestration with some delectable work from the woodwinds, and an instinct for dramatic climax."

-Shirley Fleming, New York Post

"Six Characters is a virtuoso manipulation of closed forms, vocal types, dramatic timing, and other techniques that traditionally propel an effective opera... At one moment, the score is deliciously satirical, sending up the antics of the ego-mad creatures who flourish backstage at any opera house. But just as we are savoring the wicked humor of it all, the tone turns deadly serious, as the family members... work out their tortured relationships in music of searing lyricism."

-Peter Davis, Classical Music

"…a brilliantly theatrical treatment of Pirandello’s illusion-reality play…Weisgall breathes new life into the celebrated roles of his six characters, assigning each a distinctive vocal style and energizing his situations through an exuberant succession of ensemble scenes"

-Harold Blumenfeld, Los Angeles Times

"…a real and exciting opera, powerful in its own right…well worth repeated hearings."

-Paul Hume, Washington Post

"…a work of great originality and superb craftsmanship, and certainly, if there is any musical justice, it will be kept in the repertory until it is recognized for what it is…a major achievement of the contemporary musical theater."

-Richard Franko Goldman, The Musical Quarterly


The Stronger Opera in One Act

"It is a fascinating little work, with constantly changing emotions, a superbly expressive vocal line and colorful comments from a seven-piece orchestra."

-Joseph McLellan, Washington Post

"Mr. Weisgall…has no fear of dissonance. Yet he manages to make his music accessible and appealing…he successfully translates Strindberg’s play to an American context…Compact (25 minutes) and direct, “The Stronger” sets a complete and satisfying musical-dramatic scene."

-John Rockwell, New York Times


Will You Marry Me? Opera in One Act

"[Weisgall] is someone who knows opera, who has thought deeply about what opera in our day can and should be. His music engages the mind in ways that make one want to hear it again. Wesigall is an urbane, sensitive and thorough composer."

-Andrew Porter, The New Yorker and The Financial Times

"...evocative and canny. [Weisgall’s] handling of text... is exemplary. What a pleasure it is to hear a master at work!"

-Patrick J. Smith, Opera News

"Mr. Weisgall’s music captures our attention, ...catches our ear and keeps it attached to what he is doing."

-Bernard Holland, The New York Times

"Will You Marry Me? ...is a short opera…that is an unalloyed delight. All small companies extant should now look seriously into producing Will You Marry Me?"

-Bert Wechsler, New York Daily News

"Will You Marry Me? (is) a deliciously paradoxical character study of two marriageable schemers. The two one-act operas (premiered with The Stronger) make an ideal pair. The text and music of both have a martini-dry thirties urban tone that masks the real human dilemmas underneath until the time is right to bubble to the surface and catch us unaware-ingeniously so in Will You Marry Me?, with its infectious dance-suite format and rapier musical wit."

-Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine


The Tenor Opera in One Act

"…well-written, full of fine music…The score uses a chamber group in a rich variety of ways; at times it sounds like a full orchestra…"

-Henry Cowell


Esther Opera in Three Acts

"Weisgall’s opera, atonal and decidedly modern, balances a lack of centeredness and musical comfort with his use of lush timbres and textures. He uses familiar forms, like the aria, duet and trio, to create a flowing, well-paced musical narrative."

-Ronni Reich, New Jersey Star Ledger

"The composer’s triumph could not have been more complete. One hopes [Esther] will return in following years."

-Edward Rothstein, The New York Times

"Esther…is a compelling grand opera. It is powerful dramatic music…masterfully written…"

-Mary Campbell, Associated Press

"What matters most is that City Opera has again made a case for a challenging work that deserves an honored place in the 20th-century repertory.

The score is rich with aching chromatic harmonies…In crucial moments Weisgall allows sturdy tonality to soften the spiky edges of his voice.

…searching lyricism and bittersweet harmonic richness."

-Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

"…an impressive piece of work.

Its strength begins with a powerful English-language libretto by Charles Kondek…

Weisgall’s music, though challenging for an audience accustomed to hearing conventional tunes and harmonies, is grand and ambitious. There are arias, duets, choruses – even a ballet. And Weisgall…displays a striking ability to define characters by their musical accompaniment and vocal line"

-The Associated Press (New York)

"Hats off, gentlemen. An opera."

-Martin Bernheimer, Los Angeles Times

"Weisgall’s score is thorny, modern and uncompromising. Yet he had a keen feeling for drama and deployed his complex harmonic language in a masterly, vividly dramatic way."

-Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

"Esther is one of the very finest American Operas we have…"

-Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine

"The stark and uncompromising Esther is a powerful evening of musical theatre."

-Michael Walsh, Time

"“Esther”…has everything an opera should have: an absorbing story, fine singers, intelligent music, a smoothly danced ballet, and striking sets.

If you’re not stuck on old-fashioned opera, you should definitely see “Esther”…"

-Warren Boroson, Jstandard.com

"“Esther” is stageworthy and enjoyable…

Mr. Weisgall wrote big: dramatic orchestra, lamenting Verdian choruses, lots of declamatory vocal lines."

-Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal


The Gardens of Adonis

"The Gardens of Adonis stands out as an unusual, beautiful and provocative work of musical art."

-Bruce Saylor, Opera News