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
    110-40591 2 Improvisations
    Piano Unaccompanied
    410-41266 Four Birthday Cards
    For Piano
    8:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    110-40590 Sine Nomine
    Graven Images No. 3 for Piano
    Piano Unaccompanied
    410-41245 Sonata for Piano
    17:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    Chamber Ensemble
    114-40412 Arioso and Burlesca
    For Cello and Piano
    10:00 Cello, Piano
    15857 End of Summer
    for Tenor, Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello
    114-40203 End Of Summer
    15858 Fancies and Inventions
    (9 Poems from “Herrick’s Hesperides”) for Baritone and 5 Instruments
    23:00 Fl. Cl. Vla. Vcl. Pno.
    442-41006 Fancies and Inventions
    For Baritone, Voice, Flure, Bb Clarinet , Viola, Cello and Piano
    450-00177 Fugue & Romance
    114-40235 Holiday Dance No. 1 (Hanukkah)
    Graven Images No. 4 for Woodwind Quintet
    Flute, Oboe, Clarinet in Bb, Horn in F, Bassoon
    114-40233 Holiday Dance No. 2
    114-40110 Lines
    Graven Images No. 1
    Woodwind Quartet
    114-40111 Pastorale
    Graven Images #2
    Woodwind Quartet
    114-40691 Tangents
    Four Episodes for Flute and Marimba
    15:00 Flute with Accompaniment
    Choral / Vocal
    111-40069 4 Songs
    High Or Medium Voice
    Voice with Piano
    312-41205 Athaliah
    Prologue To Part 2 – S.A.T.B., Piano
    431-41010 Contemporary American Art Songs
    312-40515 Evening Prayer for Peace
    Kiel Shomrenu – S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    342-40014 Fortress, Rock Of Our Salvation
    (Moos Tzur), S.A.T.B., A Cappella(arr.)
    312-40510 God Is Due Praise
    Ki Lo Noeh – S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    312-40512 How Fair Is Thy Love
    K’Felach Horimon, S.A.T.B., A Cappella(arr.)
    411-41078 Liebeslieder
    Four Songs With Interludes for High Voice and Piano
    Voice with Instrument
    411-41088 Lyrical Interval
    141-40005 No More I Will Thy Love Importune
    141-40007 Nuptial Song
    312-40508 Praise Be Unto God
    Hodu Ladonoy, S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    312-40958 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)
    Mixed Chorus
    15865 Psalm 29
    for Unison, 2-Pt. or 4-Pt. Chorus, Opt. Brass Ensemble
    312-41423 Psalm 118:26
    Graven Images #11 – for Unison Chorus, Or Solo Voice, and Piano
    2:15 Mixed Chorus
    411-41098 Psalm Of The Distant Dove
    312-40511 So Spake Rabbi Akiba
    Omar Rabbi Akiba, S.A.T.B., A Cappella(arr.)
    411-41069 The Golden Peacock
    Seven Popular Songs From The Yiddish
    411-41068 Translations
    Seven Songs for Voice and Piano
    312-40509 When Israel Out Of Egypt Came
    B’Tzes Yisroel – S.A.T.B., A Cappella
    16776 Athaliah
    Opera in two parts.
    1:45:00 2(Picc. AltoFl.) 2(E.H.) 2(EbCl. B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 2 2 2 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
    16777 Esther
    Opera in 3 acts.
    2:10:00 3(Picc. AltoFl.), 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 2 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    16779 Jenny, or The Hundred Nights
    One act opera, after the Noh play “Sotoba Kamachi” by Yukio Mishima.
    1:10:00 4 2 4 2 – 2 2 3 1; 3Perc. Hp. Pno. Str. Violinist & Pianist on stage
    16687 Nine Rivers from Jordan
    Prologue and 3 acts.
    2:25:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    16688 Purgatory
    One act opera.
    35:00 2 0 2 1 – 1 1 0 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    446-41004 Purgatory
    Opera In One Act
    16689 Six Characters in Search of an Author
    Opera in three acts, from the play by Luigi Pirandello.
    2:20:00 2(Alto, Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 2 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str. Upright Piano (on stage)
    441-41002 Six Characters In Search Of An Author
    Opera In Three Acts – Full Score (Text In English and German)
    16778 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.
    1:50:00 3(Picc. AltoFl.) 2(E.H.) 2(A Cl./ B.Cl.) 2 – 2(or4) 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    16690 The Stronger
    Opera in One Act, after the play by Strindberg.
    25:00 Eb AltoSax.(BbCl./EbCl.) Ten.Sax.(BbCl. B.Cl.), Tpt. 1Vln. 1Vla. 1Vcl. 1Cb. Pno.
    411-41090 The Stronger
    Opera In One Act
    446-41005 The Stronger – Study Score
    Opera In One Act
    16775 The Tenor
    Opera in 1 act, based on “Der Kammersänger” by Frank Wedekind
    1:10:00 1(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 2(EbCl./ B.Cl.) 1 – 2 1 1 0; Perc.(Timp.) Pno. Str.(Viola divisi)
    441-41001 The Tenor
    Opera In One Act
    16774 Will You Marry Me?
    One-act opera.
    25:00 Cl./Sop.Sax. Cl./AltoSax. Bsn. Hn. Timp. Pno. Perc. 2Vln. 1Vla. 1Vcl. 1Cb.
    411-41095 Will You Marry Me?
    Opera In One Act (Piano-Vocal Score) – Based On “”A Marriage Has Been Arranged”” By Alfred Sutro
    15856 Dances
    from the Ballet “Outpost”
    17:00 3 3 2 2 – 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    15859 A Garden Eastward
    for Soprano and Orchestra
    16:30 Solo Sop.; 3 2 2 2 – 4 2 2 0; Perc. Hp. Str.
    442-41002 Garden Eastward, A
    15860 Graven Images
    36:00 1 1 1 1 – 2 1 2 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str. Quintet
    15861 Love’s Wounded
    for Baritone Soloist and Orchestra
    17:45 Solo Bar.; 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    15862 Overture in F
    9:30 3 3 2 2 – 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    15863 Prospect: 1983
    14:00 4(Picc.) 4(2E.H.) 2 2 – 4 4 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    15866 A Quiet Room
    Soprano Aria from “Six Characters in Search of an Author”
    5:00 Solo Sop.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    15867 Soldier Songs
    for Baritone and Orchestra
    25:00 Solo Bar.; 2 2 2 2 A.Sax. T.Sax. – 4 3 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    451-00277 Soldier Songs
    15855 A Song of Celebration
    for Tenor, Soprano, SATB Chorus and Orchestra
    26:00 3 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    15868 Suite
    from the Ballet “Quest”
    13:30 3 3 2 2 – 4 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    15869 V’Ohavto
    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