Monday 3 September 2012

Ignatz Waghalter

Giacomo Puccini, Waghalter and Berlin Gala for The Girl of the Golden West - 1913
Giacomo Puccini, Waghalter and Berlin Gala for The Girl of the Golden West - 1913
You've probably never heard of Ignatz Waghalter. He was born to a Polish-German Jewish family in Warsaw in 1881 but his family moved to Berlin. At 21 he won the Mendelssohn Prize. He was assistant to Artur Nikisch at the Komische Oper, and Music Director of the Deutsche Openhaus from 1912 to 1923. He conducted the German premieres of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, La Boheme and Tosca, as well as Vaughan Williams's Fourth Symphony. He moved temporarily to the USA as music director of the New York State Symphony, then back to Berlin to work for Germany's largest film company before ending up at Riga in charge of the National Opera. He was forced into exile in 1934, ending up in the USA, dying in relative obscurity in 1949. His own music is now forgotten.

But whilst in Germany, three of his operas were premiered and he wrote a considerable body of music in a very lush romantic style. Like other composers of his generation, his music fell out of style after the war. Violinist Irmina Trynkos discovered Waghalter's music whilst researching music for a new album. By chance, she met the composer's grandson who gave her scores. She was struck by the music and has now set about publicising it.

In Autumn 2012 her album comes out on Naxos, with recordings of the Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 15, the Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 9, as well as the Violin Sonata Op. 5, plus two encore pieces for violin and piano. The other artists on the album are conductor Alexander Walker, pianist Giorgi Latsabidze and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

On 1 October at St. John's Smith Square, Irmina Tynkos and Giorgi Latsabidze will be playing Waghalter's Violin Sonata Op. 5 along with sonatas by Elgar and Schumann, plus Wienawski's Fantasie brillante on themes from Gounod's Faust.

Then on 14 November at the Cadogan Hall, Irmina Trynkos will be performing Waghalter's Violin Concerto and his Rhapsodie for Violin and Orchestra with Alexander Walker and the English Chamber Orchestra, in a programme which also contains music by Mozart, Dvorak and Mendelssohn.

In some ways his story, and his music, remind me of Korngold. Both composers fled Germany and both had a style which was lushly romantic without any experiments with tonality, making it unfashionable in the post-war musical society. But Korngold managed to find a new niche, and Waghalter, alas, did not.

See more on Youtube.

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