Jaromír Weinberger (8 January 1896, Prague, Czechoslovakia - 8 Augut 1967, St. Peteresburg, Fla.) was a Czech-American composer.
Athough born in Prague, he spent his boyhood years on the farm of his grandparents, where he first heard the folk songs and dances of his native land. Later, his most successful works were patterned after the folk music of his childhood. He became famous primarily for one opera; he remains famous for two operatic excerpts.
Weinberger was an unusually gifted child who played the piano well at seven and had a composition published at 11. In his youth he attended the Prague Conservatory and studied piano with Jaromír Kricka, Václav Talich, Rudel Karel, and others. He received composition instruction from Vitezslav Novak at the Prague Conservatory and from Max Reger in Leipzig (1915). In 1922 he went to the United States for a year and taught composition at the Ithaca Conservatory in New York. During a visit to Cleveland to see his boyhood friend, the artist Richard Rychtarik, he wrote a series of preludes and fugues for Mrs. Rychtarik, one of which reappeared later as the famous fugue in his opera Schwanda the Bagpiper.
Weinberger returned to Czechoslovakia in 1923 and served as operatic director at the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava (1923-1924), as well as director of the school of music in Eger. About that time he composed his first opera, Kocourkov, which made a very positive impression on Pietro Mascagni, who attended the premiere. As Weinberger’s opportunities and responsibilities as a composer increased, he gave up his administrative and teaching positions and returned to Prague to write music full time.
In 1939 he left Czechoslovakia to escape persecution by the Nazis. He first went to Paris and then to England before returning to the U.S. He lived in New York for a time, became an American citizen, and made a final move to St. Petersburg, Florida. Because of the lack of success with his later concert works, Weinberger turned to photography and to writing religious music. He died from an overdose of sedative drugs in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1967.
Weinberger’s student compositions were influenced by the music of the French impressionists. He destroyed most of the manuscripts later when he began to feel an overpowering attraction for the music of his own land. His early compositions included the overture Puppet—Marionette—Show (written at 17), his first opera, Kocourkov, and two violin/piano pieces, Cowboy’s Christmas and Banjos (inspired by his first stay in the US). In 1927 his opera Svanda dudák - Schwanda the Bagpiper received an uninspired reaction at its Prague premiere but a few months later was presented in Breslau, Germany, to an enthusiastic audience, and it “swept across musical Europe like a typhoon.” Weinberger wrote three more significant operas (The Beloved Voice, The Outcasts of Poker Flat, and WaIlenstein) and four operettas in the 1930s, but none attained the fame of Schwanda. Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree, his most successful orchestra work, as well as other scores for orchestra, chorus, piano, and solo voice were composed after his move to America in 1939. In his later scores he attempted to replace his Czech style with “universal” American music. Weinberger’s original band compositions include Afternoon in the Village (1951), Homage to the Pioneers March (1940), Mississippi Rhapsody (1940—dedicated to and premiered by the Goldman Band), and Prelude to the Festival.
Works for Winds
- Afternoon in the Village (1951)
- Czech Rhapsody (arr. Goldman) (1941/1942)
- Homage to the Pioneers March (1940)
- Mississippi Rhapsody (1940)
- Polka and Fugue from "Schwanda, the Bagpiper" (arr. Bainum) (1928/1961)
- Prelude and Fugue on Dixie (1940)
- Prelude to the Festival (1941)
- Greenwood, Richard A. "Polka and Fugue." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 6, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 674-683. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2007.
- Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 629.