Hugo Weisgall

  • “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.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
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    2 Improvisations 110-40591 Piano Unaccompanied
    Four Birthday Cards
    For Piano
    410-41266 8:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    Sine Nomine
    Graven Images No. 3 for Piano
    110-40590 Piano Unaccompanied
    Sonata for Piano 410-41245 17:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    Chamber Ensemble
    Arioso and Burlesca
    For Cello and Piano
    114-40412 10:00 Cello, Piano
    End of Summer
    for Tenor, Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello
    15857 23:00
    End Of Summer 114-40203
    Fancies and Inventions
    (9 Poems from “Herrick’s Hesperides”) for Baritone and 5 Instruments
    15858 23:00 Fl. Cl. Vla. Vcl. Pno.
    Fancies and Inventions
    For Baritone, Voice, Flure, Bb Clarinet , Viola, Cello and Piano
    Fugue & Romance 450-00177
    Holiday Dance No. 1 (Hanukkah)
    Graven Images No. 4 for Woodwind Quintet
    114-40235 Woodwind Quintet
    Holiday Dance No. 2 114-40233
    Graven Images No. 1
    114-40110 Woodwind Quartet
    Graven Images #2
    114-40111 Woodwind Quartet
    Four Episodes for Flute and Marimba
    114-40691 15:00 Flute with Accompaniment
    Choral / Vocal
    4 Songs
    High Or Medium Voice
    111-40069 Voice with Piano
    Prologue To Part 2 – S.A.T.B., Piano
    312-41205 SATB
    Contemporary American Art Songs 431-41010
    Evening Prayer for Peace
    Kiel Shomrenu – S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    312-40515 SATB
    Fortress, Rock Of Our Salvation
    (Moos Tzur), S.A.T.B., A Cappella(arr.)
    342-40014 SATB
    God Is Due Praise
    Ki Lo Noeh – S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    312-40510 SATB
    How Fair Is Thy Love
    K’Felach Horimon, S.A.T.B., A Cappella(arr.)
    312-40512 SATB
    Four Songs With Interludes for High Voice and Piano
    411-41078 Voice with Instrument
    Lyrical Interval 411-41088
    No More I Will Thy Love Importune 141-40005
    Nuptial Song 141-40007
    Praise Be Unto God
    Hodu Ladonoy, S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    312-40508 SATB
    Psalm 29
    For Use By Either Unison Chorus (Or Solo Voice) Or Two-Part Men’s Or Women’s Chorus Or Mixed Chorus, With Piano (English and Hebrew Text)
    312-40958 Mixed Chorus
    Psalm 29
    for Unison, 2-Pt. or 4-Pt. Chorus, Opt. Brass Ensemble
    15865 5:00
    Psalm 118:26
    Graven Images #11 – for Unison Chorus, Or Solo Voice, and Piano
    312-41423 2:15 Mixed Chorus
    Psalm Of The Distant Dove 411-41098
    So Spake Rabbi Akiba
    Omar Rabbi Akiba, S.A.T.B., A Cappella(arr.)
    312-40511 SATB
    The Golden Peacock
    Seven Popular Songs From The Yiddish
    Seven Songs for Voice and Piano
    When Israel Out Of Egypt Came
    B’Tzes Yisroel – S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    312-40509 SATB
    Opera in two parts.
    16776 105:00 2(Picc. AltoFl.) 2(E.H.) 2(EbCl. B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 2 2 2 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
    Opera in 3 acts.
    16777 130:00 3(Picc. AltoFl.), 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 2 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    Jenny, or The Hundred Nights
    One act opera, after the Noh play “Sotoba Kamachi” by Yukio Mishima.
    16779 70:00 4 2 4 2 – 2 2 3 1; 3Perc. Hp. Pno. Str. Violinist & Pianist on stage
    Nine Rivers from Jordan
    Prologue and 3 acts.
    16687 145:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    One act opera.
    16688 35:00 2 0 2 1 – 1 1 0 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    Opera In One Act
    Six Characters in Search of an Author
    Opera in three acts, from the play by Luigi Pirandello.
    16689 140:00 2(Alto, Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 2 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str. Upright Piano (on stage)
    Six Characters In Search Of An Author
    Opera In Three Acts – Full Score (Text In English and German)
    The Gardens of Adonis
    Opera in Two Scenes and a Prologue, after “Venus and Adonis” by William Shakespeare and the play of the same name by André Obey.
    16778 110:00 3(Picc. AltoFl.) 2(E.H.) 2(A Cl./ B.Cl.) 2 – 2(or4) 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    The Stronger
    Opera in One Act, after the play by Strindberg.
    16690 25:00 Eb AltoSax.(BbCl./EbCl.) Ten.Sax.(BbCl. B.Cl.), Tpt. 1Vln. 1Vla. 1Vcl. 1Cb. Pno.
    The Stronger
    Opera In One Act
    411-41090 25:00
    The Stronger – Study Score
    Opera In One Act
    446-41005 25:00
    The Tenor
    Opera in 1 act, based on “Der Kammersänger” by Frank Wedekind
    16775 70:00 1(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 2(EbCl./ B.Cl.) 1 – 2 1 1 0; Perc.(Timp.) Pno. Str.(Viola divisi)
    The Tenor
    Opera In One Act
    Will You Marry Me?
    One-act opera.
    16774 25:00 Cl./Sop.Sax. Cl./AltoSax. Bsn. Hn. Timp. Pno. Perc. 2Vln. 1Vla. 1Vcl. 1Cb.
    Will You Marry Me?
    Opera In One Act (Piano-Vocal Score) – Based On “”A Marriage Has Been Arranged”” By Alfred Sutro
    411-41095 25:00
    from the Ballet “Outpost”
    15856 17:00 3 3 2 2 – 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    A Garden Eastward
    for Soprano and Orchestra
    15859 16:30::00 Solo Sop.; 3 2 2 2 – 4 2 2 0; Perc. Hp. Str.
    Garden Eastward, A 442-41002
    Graven Images 15860 36:00 1 1 1 1 – 2 1 2 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str. Quintet
    Love’s Wounded
    for Baritone Soloist and Orchestra
    15861 17:45 Solo Bar.; 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    Overture in F 15862 9:30::00 3 3 2 2 – 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    Prospect: 1983 15863 14:00 4(Picc.) 4(2E.H.) 2 2 – 4 4 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    A Quiet Room
    Soprano Aria from “Six Characters in Search of an Author”
    15866 5:00 Solo Sop.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    Soldier Songs
    for Baritone and Orchestra
    15867 25:00 Solo Bar.; 2 2 2 2 A.Sax. T.Sax. – 4 3 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    Soldier Songs 451-00277
    A Song of Celebration
    for Tenor, Soprano, SATB Chorus and Orchestra
    15855 26:00 3 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    from the Ballet “Quest”
    15868 13:30::00 3 3 2 2 – 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    for Unison Chorus, Baritone Solo, and Strings

  • Mr. Weisgall is a tremendously gifted and vital composer, unquestionably one of the finest in the American lyric theater.
    –The Baltimore Evening Sun

    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 sof
    –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. Ther
    –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 Magazine

    “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,

    “Esther” is stageworthy and enjoyable… Mr. Weisgall wrote big: dramatic orchestra, lamenting Verdian choruses, lots of declamatory vocal lines.
    –Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal

    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 instinc
    –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
    –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
    –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 Gardens of Adonis stands out as an unusual, beautiful and provocative work of musical art.
    –Bruce Saylor, Opera News

    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-dr
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    …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,

    [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, 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
    –Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine

  • Ford Foundation award
    National Endowment for the Arts award
    Guggenheim Foundation award
    Two-time composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome
    President of the American Music Center for 10 years
    President of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
    Director of the Composer-in-Residence program for the Lyric Opera of Chicago

  • Psalm 29
    for Unison, 2-Pt. or 4-Pt. Chorus with Optional Brass Ensemble
    Six Characters in Search of an Author (Act I)
    Opera in Three Acts
    Six Characters in Search of an Author (Act II)
    Opera in Three Acts
    Six Characters in Search of an Author (Act III)
    Opera in Three Acts
    Soldier Songs
    for Baritone and Orchestra
    The Stronger
    Opera in One Act