The Kennedy Center

Jaromir Weinberger


American composer Jaromir Weinberger was born in Prague on 8 January 1896.  His style is deeply rooted in the nationalistic traditions of Smetana and Dvo?ák.  He studied in Prague with such significant figures as Jaroslav K?i?ka, Václav Talich and Rudolf Karel.  He ended up in the master class of Vít?zslav Novák, a Dvo?ák pupil and one of the country's leading creative figures.
In 1926 Weinberger completed Švanda dudák (‘Schwanda, the Bagpiper'), his most successful work. Other folk-influenced works followed in quick succession; these include Christmas (1929), an orchestral work based on traditional Czech carols that was performed before the Christmas address of the Czech president every year until the Nazi occupation. Among his other major works are the Passacaglia for Orchestra and Organ (1931) and the operas Milovaný hlas (‘Die geliebte Stimme', 1930), Lidé z Pokerflatu (‘The Outcasts of Poker Flat', 1932) and Valdštejn (‘Wallenstein', 1937). The latter three of these reveal a movement towards realistic spoken dialogue.
With the rise of Nazism, Weinberger's works were gradually denied performances, and the composer eventually fled his homeland for France and England. By 1938, Weinberger and his wife emigrated to the USA.  The composer's manic depression had grown increasingly problematic and had begun to affect his creative work. A widely divergent group of compositions ensued, among them Ten Characteristic Solos for drum and piano (1939), Mississippi Rhapsody (1940), Prelude to the Festival for symphonic band (1941) and The Way to Emmaus, a cantata for high voice and organ (1940). Prelude and Fugue on a Southern Folktune (1940), the Lincoln Symphony (1941) and Czech Rhapsody (1941) reflect his continued interest in nationalistic material. During the late 1940s and 50s Weinberger composed several sacred compositions. These included Ecclesiastes (1946), Six Religious Preludes (1946) and Préludes réligieux et profanes (1954).
In 1949 Weinberger settled in St Petersburg, Florida, where he slowly descended into a state of deep depression. After living in relative seclusion for most of his remaining years, he committed suicide in 1967. An enigmatic and tragic figure, he longed for the return of a culture that, after the height of his career, had ceased to exist.
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition
Oxford Music Online
Jaromir Weinberger