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POLKA and FUGUE from “ŠVANDA DUDÁK” transcribed by Glenn Bainum JAROMÍR WEINBERGER (1896 - 1967)

[#110] August 30, 2021

1928 | Wind Orchestra | Grade 5 | 5’- 10’ | Transcription

Czech composer Jaromír Weinberger
Photo Credit: Tristan Willems

“Polka and Fugue” from the opera Švanda Dudák (Schwanda the Bagpiper) by Czech composer Jaromír Weinberger is our Composition of the Week.

We usually like to feature original works for winds, however, on this occasion we would love to present you a fine transcription; we do so for a couple of reasons. The band score was transcribed by Glenn Bainum in 1928, which means almost immediately after the premiere of Schwanda, the Bagpiper, which took place 1927. Although, Polka and Fugue, both from Act 2, had previously become successful concert pieces before Weinberger began seriously to work on the entire opera.

Another reason to feature this work is that Weinberger actually wrote music for winds, such as Prelude and Fugue on Dixie (1940), Mississippi Rhapsody (1940) or Afternoon in the Village (1951), but somehow remaining unknown to the band world, as opposed to Polka and Fugue, who has received hundreds of performances, especially in America.

Weinberger was introduced to American orchestra audiences in 1928 by the eminent Austrian-German conductor Erich Kleiber (a student in Prague in 1911-1912). By 1931, Schwanda had received more than 2.000 performances.

Weinberger’s writing is very suitable for winds, with brilliant and massive brass and percussion, adding the organ for greater grandeur. As a matter of fact, the original orchestral version uses the winds and percussion extensively, including three flugelhorns, a beloved instrument in the bohemian folk music.

Glenn Bainum (1888 - 1974) the transcriber was a major figure in the USA at the beginning of the century. He was director of bands at Northwestern University for 27 years, arranging many concert works for band.

Schwanda first performance took place in Prague at the Czech National Opera on April 27, 1927. The Czech libretto was by Miloš Kareš, based on the drama “The Bagpiper of Strakonice” by Josef Tyl.

At the time the opera, with its occasional use of Czech folk material, enjoyed considerable success, with translations into 17 languages. The opera fell from the repertory when the composer's music was banned by the Nazi regimes of Austria and Germany during the late 1930s; and although it is still revived occasionally, orchestral performances of the "Polka and Fugue" drawn from the opera are more regularly heard in concert and on record.

Polka and Fugue have a duration of around 8 minutes and it is available at Schirmer.

Weinberger was born in Prague, Austria-Hungary, into a family of Jewish origin. He heard Czech folksongs from time spent at his grandparents' farm as a youth. He started playing the piano aged 5, and composing and conducting aged 10. He began musical studies with Jaroslav Křička, and later teachers included Václav Talich and Rudolf Karel. He became a student at the Prague Conservatory at age 14, as a second-year student, where he studied composition with Vítězslav Novák and Karel Hoffmeister. Later, at Leipzig, he studied with Max Reger, who influenced Weinberger on the use of counterpoint.

In September 1922, Weinberger moved to the United States where he took up a position as an instructor at Cornell University. Between 1922 and 1926, he was professor of composition at the Ithaca Conservatory (now the music school of Ithaca College), New York.


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