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Thread: Stefan Wolpe

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Default Stefan Wolpe

    Stefan Wolpe was born in Berlin in 1902, and died in New York City in 1972. He was a pianist, composer, writer, teacher and artist.

    Wolpe studied at the Berlin Conservatory where he displayed an excellent command of harmony, counterpoint and piano. However, he fit in with no one school of music and his early years consisted of writing for avant-garde stage productions and Dadaist poets. As it was for many in 1933, Germany was no longer a safe place to be. Wolpe began an exile that took him to Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Austria, before finally fleeing Europe for Palestine in 1935.

    There a transformation in Wolpe’s music took place as he was drawn to classical Arabic music. This, along with his unique take on twelve-tone, did not go over well with the other Europeans in exile or with the Palestine Conservatoire where Wolpe taught; his contract was not renewed. Wolpe, the constant outsider, left Palestine for New York in 1938.

    Wolpe’s music confounded New York critics, escaping the usual categorizations of 12-tone, neo-classism or even experimentalism. His music was an organic evolution of those forms that developed the techniques of spatial proportions and organic modes, replacing traditional space with an abstract space where sound moved freely and independently.

    In the 1950s, Wolpe, now an American citizen, was still largely ignored by the musical establishment. He had, however, gained ground with the art community, attending meetings of the Eighth Street Club. The artists there saw a clear relationship between Wolpe’s spatial concepts and the concepts of the cubist movement. Wolpe was now exploring ways to merge his ideas with classical twelve-tone, further developing the idea of organic modes as a way to include expressive associations in his music.

    In the 1960s, by this time thoroughly plugged into American musical life, Wolpe was discovered by a new generation of composers and performers who considered him the new standard bearer for traditions from the Bauhaus and the Second Viennese School. Wolpe entered the most prolific period in his life. Even though Parkinson’s disease limited his ability to notate music and a fire destroyed his papers and art collection, Wolpe pressed on composing his last piece shortly before his death.

    Don't get backed too much into a reality that has fashioned your senses with too many realistic claims. When art promises you this sort of reliability, this sort of prognostic security, drop it. It is good to know how not to know how much one is knowing. One should know about all the structures of fantasy and all the fantasies of structures, and mix suprise and enigma, magic and shock, intelligence and abandon, form and antiform.

    - Stefan Wolpe

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Some orchestral music:

    Stefan Wolpe: Passacaglia for large Orchestra op. 23 (1937)



    Stefan Wolpe: Symphony (1956)


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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Chamber music by Stefan Wolpe:

    Stefan Wolpe: Quartet (1950/1954)



    Stefan Wolpe | Konzert für neun Instrumenten, Op. 22



    Stefan Wolpe - Chamber Piece n.1 (for 14 instruments) (1964)



    Stefan Wolpe: Piece for Trumpet and 7 Instruments (1971)


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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    And some music for piano:

    Stefan Wolpe Passacaglia for solo piano (1936/revised 1971)



    Stefan Wolpe Form for Piano (1959)


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    Much appreciated. He's not a composer I've ever listened to but I know the name because of Cage and Feldman. Thanks for creating this thread.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jul-20-2020 at 09:01.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Probably my favorite SW pieces:






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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    This looks great. I'm going to seek it out

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    I have a few works of his - my favourite recording is of two mini-operas he wrote in the late 1920s:

    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    This looks great. I'm going to seek it out
    The piece "For Stephan Wolpe" by Feldman is the highlight here. It's for chorus and vibraphone. A vibraphone or "vibes" as most jazz fans know, is a metal xylophone-like instrument played with padded mallets. It is less strident than a xylophone, and has a softer, more sustained, dark sound. Combined with the softly intoning voices of the chorus, it creates a dark, mesmerizing, funereal effect.
    A similar piece is "Rothko Chapel." You can really get 'in the zone' with this, in a darkened room.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-23-2020 at 11:11.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    The piece "For Stephan Wolpe" by Feldman is the highlight here. It's for chorus and vibraphone. A vibraphone or "vibes" as most jazz fans know, is a metal xylophone-like instrument played with padded mallets. It is less strident than a xylophone, and has a softer, more sustained, dark sound. Combined with the softly intoning voices of the chorus, it creates a dark, mesmerizing, funereal effect.
    A similar piece is "Rothko Chapel." You can really get 'in the zone' with this, in a darkened room.
    Right, I love Rothko Chapel, another great piece for chorus and vibes (w/ celesta and viola) and I might expect a similar "vibe" from this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    Probably my favorite SW pieces:
    I've listened to his piano and choral music for years, but had never heard this string quartet until now. It's a really nice work. Thanks for posting it.

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Giving Mr. Wolpe a little bump here on the anniversary of his birth, 25 August 1902. Here are a couple of pieces that are from his earlier period. Suite from the Twenties, is dated 1926-1929, years when he was still in Berlin. I think Stravinsky might have appreciated this one.



    Wolpe wrote Yigdal Cantata in 1945 when he was living in New York. I think Bach would have approved.

    Last edited by gregorx; Aug-25-2020 at 11:21.

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    Happy Birthday, Wolpe-man!

    I periodically pull out this CD, and today would be a good day as well.

    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-25-2020 at 16:46.

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