Composers of Today: A Comprehensive Biographical and Critical Guide to Modern Composers of All Nations

By David Ewen | Go to book overview
with 'And she was a golden lily in the dew!'); there are moments here of the volcanic and savage passion so characteristic of the Negro and his music; there are moments here of deep cutting pathos and of high drama, all expressed in an original and intriguing musical tongue such as we have not heard before this in the music of any other composer. Nor hope to hear again in the music of anyone else. Therein lies its strength and its greatness." Louis Gruenberg, however, did not attain national importance as one of America's outstanding composers until January 1932, when the Metropolitan Opera House performed his opera Emperor Jones, based on the famous play of Eugene O'Neill. Gruenberg had consulted with Eugene O'Neill for two years in Paris to discuss the possibilities of converting Jones into an opera. They met at midnight and talked for hours, until Gruenberg persuaded O'Neill not only to permit him to compose music for it, but also to make necessary changes in the play. After having secured O'Neill's consent, Gruenberg rented a house in Old Orchard, Maine, and there spent fourteen months working upon the opera. It remains, to date, not only the most important work that Louis Gruenberg has produced, but one of the genuinely important operas created by an American. "For an American opera to appear," wrote Olin Downes the morning after the première, "which not only stands on its own feet, but represents a treatment of the form that could only come from a new country and a young people fully alive to the present day, is the thing which makes the success of Mr. Gruenberg's opera so gratifying, and so important to the future." Marion Bauer analyzes the musical importance of Emperor Jones: "The movement of the music timed to the dramatic action was expertly done. The mood of Jones, first in his braggadocio, then in his panic as it increases, is mirrored in the music. Gruenberg has achieved a new and original effect in the opera in treating the orchestra as background to the exciting and moving drama. Altho incidental, the music played apart from the opera would probably be one of the most extraordinary scores of modern times. The composer has lost all sense of personality in the primitive force of the music. Short-breathed phrases follow each other in rapid succession. The deeper- toned instruments are used to create a somber, sinister web over which the highest registers of the woodwinds and violins flare up shriekingly. Rhythmically, Gruenberg has made some remarkable effects." Louis Gruenberg is an enthusiastic traveler--and it is almost impossible at any time to guess where he is. He has been to Europe and back twenty-five times--and each European trip fills him with new anticipatory delight. When he settles down, it will probably be in New Mexico, which he adores; he thinks that he could compose a "really magnificent opera" there. His only hobby is chess. He used to play a lot with the late Noguchi, the Japanese scientist, who was one of his intimate friends. In music his tastes are varied--ranging from Bach to the works of the younger American composers.Principal works by Louis Gruenberg:
OPERA: The Witch of Brocken; The Bride of the Gods; The Dumb Wife; Emperor Jones; Jack and the Beanstalk.
ORCHESTRA: Jazz Suite; Symphony; Enchanted Isle; Music to an Imaginary Ballet; Vagabondia; Moods; Serenade.
CHAMBER Music: Four Indiscretions; Daniel Jazz; Quintet.

About Louis Gruenberg:

Bauer Marion. Twentieth Century Music; Howard J. T. Our American Music.

Modern Music 8:3 November-December 1930.

Important recordings of music by Louis Gruenberg:

VICTOR: "Standin' in de Need of Prayer" from Emperor Jones ( Tibbett).


Alois Hába 1893-

ALOIS HÁBA, whose experiments with quarter-tone music have made his name prominent in modern music, was born in Vyzovice (Moravia) on June 21, 1883. His father, a clarinetist, was a fine musician, and from him Alois learned not only to appreciate good

____________________
Haba : ä'bå

-99-

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