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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » W » Weisgall, Hugo



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Hugo Weisgall (10/13/1912 - 3/11/1997)

Although he wrote a substantial body of music for a number of media, Hugo Weisgall (191297) is probably best remembered as one of Americas most important composers of opera and large-scale song cycles, reflecting his intense lifelong interest in both western and Judaic literature. I am attracted by the verbal, I am sucked aside by words, he once said, and I want to deal ideologically and musically with difficult problems. The literary merit of his compositions, their original vocal style, and their serious attention to musical and dramatic detail all mark a significant contribution to American music.

The scion of a highly cultured family that boasts several generations of cantors in the Bohemian-Austrian orbit (and the nephew of the illustrious Zionist leader and producer Meyer Weisgal), Weisgall lent his artistic gifts on many occasions to the expression of historical, literary, biblical, and liturgical Jewish themes and subjects. In a class by himself, he belongs among the highest ranks of the American musical establishment, but he also championed the perpetuation of authentic Jewish musical tradition and of the Central European cantorial legacy. Among serious American Jewish composers, his singularity extended even further to the practical realm. Not only was he fully conversant with the entire range of American and European synagogue choral repertoire, which he taught to cantorial students for more than forty years, but he knew the intricacies of the modal formulaic system of Ashkenazi
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