Stefan Wolpe


Born: August 25, 1902; Berlin, Germany   Died: April 4, 1972; New York, NY  
Stefan Wolpe was a composer notable for providing a fresh perspective on atonality. Despite excursions into popular, folk and jazz idioms, Wolpe continued to compose in atonal styles throughout his career. His works are often characterized by cross-cutting and discontinuity between different musical gestures and textures, quite possibly an influence he gathered from Dadaism. Wolpe was an influential teacher in the United States, where his pupils Read more included Morton Feldman, Ralph Shapey and Charles Wuorinen.

Wolpe spent the early part of his life in Berlin, a stimulating artistic milieu in the 1920s and 1930s. He associated there with the Bauhaus, studied composition with the expressionist composer Schreker, and became a devotee of Busoni. He supported himself as a jazz pianist in cabaret and cinemas.

Wolpe's early compositions use the 12-tone techniques of Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School. From the outset he favored irregular rhythms and contrapuntal textures, and his music is notable for avoiding the isolated points of sound (pointillism) which was common to Schoenberg and his followers. He was also influenced by jazz and popular dance music in such pieces as Tango (1927), and his socialist convictions led him to reflect on the function of music in society. At this time he believed that music should be socially useful; he wrote worker's songs and pieces that satirized society. He also simplified his dense, atonal writing, making it more accessible to people without musical training.

When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, Wolpe fled from the country, traveling through Russia and Rumania before landing in Vienna in 1933-1934, and studied there with Webern. From Vienna he moved to Palestine, where he became interested in his Jewish musical heritage. He absorbed traits of the local music, which found their way into such works as Songs From the Hebrew (1938) for soprano and piano, and the ballet suite Man From Midian (1942). He also wrote songs and choruses for the Kibbutz movement, several of which have become folk songs in Israel.

In 1938 Wolpe moved to New York, where his mature style crystallized. Important works from this period are Enactments (1950-53) for three pianos, Battle Piece (1947) for solo piano, and the notorious Symphony (1956). Wolpe's association with influential artists and musicians continued in America, where he had connections with New York jazz musicians and Abstract Expressionist painters. From 1952-1956 he taught at Black Mountain College with John Cage, David Tudor and Lou Harrison. In the 1950s and early 1960s he regularly lectured at the Darmstadt Summer School. He contracted Parkinson's Disease in 1964, which proved fatal. Read less

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Formats & Featured

Stefan Wolpe

I. Early Morning Music
II. Calm
III. Intense and Spirited
IV. Taut, to oneself
I. quarter note = 92
II. quarter note = 144
I. quarter note = ca. 132
II. quarter note = ca. 180
Stimmen aus dem Massengrab
I. Early Morning Music
II. Calm
III. Intense and Spirited
IV. Taut, to oneself
I. quarter note = 92
II. quarter note = 144
I. Un poco allegro
II. Andante appassionato
III. Lento - Scherzo
IV. Allegretto deciso
Part I: Overture
Part I: Serfdom Lamentation
Part I: Mother Conceives Child
Part I: Pharaoh's Daughter Bathes in the Nile, finds the Baby
Part I: Procession
Part I: Pet of the Court - Political Intrigue
Part I: Moses Among the Workers
Part I: Moses Buries the Taskmaster in the Sand
Part II: Conversation with God
Part II: Moses meets Aaron - Command of Moses for the Waters
Part II: March Through the Red Sea
Part II: Restlessness
Part II: Aaron's Desperation
Part II: Joshua's Pleading
Part II: Bacchanal
Part II: Return of Moses - Breaking of Tablets - Moses Falls on the Arms of Joshua
Part II: Moses Walks Among the People - Commands Some to be Killed
Part II: Gathering of People
I. Serfdom - Lamentation
II. Mother Conceives [Conceals] Child
III. Pharaoh's Daughter Bathes in the Nile, Finds the Baby
IV. Procession
V. Pet of the Court - Political Intrigue
VI. Moses Among the Workers
VII. Moses Buries the Taskmaster in the Sand
VIII. Portrait of Moses
I. quarter note = ca. 132
II. quarter note = ca. 180
Rezitativ I
Foxtrott (Jazz-Duett)
Rezitativ II
Konzert mit Variationen
Fortsetzung des Konzertes
Rezitativ III
Coda (Potpourri)

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