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Wallingford Riegger

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Wallingford Riegger

Biography

Wallingford Constantine Riegger (29 April 1885, Albany, Georgia – 2 April 1961, New York, N.Y.) was a prolific American music composer,

A gifted cellist as a young man, he was a member of the first graduating class of the Institute of Musical Art, later known as the Juilliard School, in 1907. He continued his studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. He served in various conducting positions until the United States entered World War I in 1917, after which he moved back to America.

From 1918 to 1922, he taught music theory and violoncello at Drake University. During the greater part of the time from 1930 to 1956, he continued to compose and publish while he taught at various colleges in New York State, notably the Institute of Musical Art and Ithaca College.

Early on in his career as a composer, the style of his compositions was markedly different from that of his later work, which mostly used the twelve-tone system. His compositions, following those of Goetschius, were somewhat romanticist.

Riegger became familiar with the twelve-tone technique through Schoenberg's American student Adolph Weiss. However, he did not use it in all of his compositions and his usage varied from that of Schoenberg, for example in not always using rows with twelve tone and not using transposed forms of the rows. Riegger's Dance Rhythms, for example, did not use these techniques. Aside from Schoenberg, Riegger was also significantly influenced by his friends Henry Cowell and Charles Ives. Along with Cowell, Ives, Carl Ruggles, and John J. Becker, Riegger was a member of the group of American modernist composers known as the "American Five".

Starting in the mid-1930s, Riegger began to write contemporary dance music. Later, as his career progressed, he began to use Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique more and more often, though he did occasionally revert to his earlier styles. From 1941 on, he focused almost solely on instrumental music. His Symphony No. 3 received the New York Music Critics' Circle Award and a Naumburg Foundation Recording Award.

In 1957, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating communism in the musical world. In 1958, Leonard Bernstein honored him by conducting his Music for Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He died in New York in 1961 when he tripped over the leashes of two fighting dogs, resulting in a fall and a head injury from which he did not recover


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