Riegger, Wallingford (Constantin)

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Riegger, Wallingford (Constantin)

Riegger, Wallingford (Constantin) , outstanding American composer and teacher; b. Albany, Ga., April 29, 1885; d. N.Y., April 2, 1961. At an early age, he was taken by his family to Indianapolis, where he received his primary musical training at home; his father played violin, and his mother, piano. After his father took the family to N.Y. to pursue his business interests (1900), Wallingford learned to play the cello. He then began serious study with Goetschius (theory) and Schroeder (cello) at the Inst. of Musical Art; after graduating in 1907, he went to Berlin, where he studied cello with Robert Hausmann and Anton Hekking and composition with Max Bruch and Edgar Stillman-Kelley at the Hochschule für Musik (1907–10). In 1910 he made his debut as a conductor with Berlin’s Blüthner Orch.; then returned to the U.S. and served as a cellist in the St. Paul (Minn.) Sym. Orch. (1911–14); returning to Germany, he worked as a vocal coach and asst. conductor at the operas in Würzburg (1914–15) and Königsberg (1915–16); then was again conductor of Berlin’s Blüthner Orch. (1916–17) before returning to the U.S. He taught theory and cello at Drake Univ., Des Moines (1918–22); in 1922, received the Paderewski Prize for his Piano Trio; in 1924, was awarded the E.S. Coolidge Prize for his setting of Keats’s La Belle Dame sans merci; in 1925, was given the honorary degree of D.Mus. by the Cincinnati Cons. He taught at the Inst. of Musical Art in N.Y. (1924–25) and at the Ithaca Cons. (1926–28); then settled in N.Y., where he became active as a composer and a participant in various modern music societies; took part in the development of electronic instruments (in association with Theremin), and learned to play an electric cello. His music is of a highly advanced nature; a master craftsman, he wrote in disparate styles with an equal degree of proficiency; used numerous pseudonyms for certain works (William Richards, Walter Scotson, Gerald Wilfring Gore, John H. McCurdy, George Northrup, Robert Sedgwick, Leonard Griegg, Edwin Farell, Edgar Long, etc.). After a long period of neglect on the part of the public and the critics, Riegger began to receive recognition; his 3rd Sym. was the choice of the N.Y. Music Critics’ Circle in 1948. He received further attention in 1957 when he was compelled to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee to explain his self-proclaimed leftist and pro-Communist sympathies.


DRAMATIC: Dance : Bacchanale (1930; N.Y., Feb. 2, 1931); Evocation (N.Y., April 21, 1932; orchestrated 1948); Frenetic Rhythms: 3 Dances of Daemoniacal Possession (N.Y., Nov. 19, 1933); New Dance (Bennington, Vt., Aug. 3, 1935; also orch. and chamber versions); Theater Piece (1935; N.Y., Jan. 19, 1936); With My Red Fires (Bennington, Vt., Aug. 13, 1936); Chronicle (N.Y., Dec. 20, 1936); The Cry (Bennington, Vt., Aug. 7, 1936); With My Red Fires (Bennington, Vt., Aug. 13, 1936); 4 Chromatic Eccentricities (Bennington, Vt., Aug. 7, 1936; based on the 4 Tone Pictures for Piano, 1932); Candide (N.Y., May 6, 1937); Festive Rhythm (Bennington, Vt., Aug. 13, 1937); Trend (Bennington, Vt., Aug. 13, 1937); Case History No.… (N.Y., Feb. 28, 1937); Trojan Incident (N.Y., April 21, 1938); Machine Ballet (Toronto, March 1938); Fancy Fannie’s Judgement Day (1938; N.Y., Feb. 26, 1939); Pilgrim’s Progress (N.Y., April 20, 1941). ORCH. : The Beggerman, overture (1912; St. Paul, Minn., 1913; not extant); Elegie for Cello and Orch. (1916; Berlin, Feb. 6, 1917); Triple Jazz: American Polonaise (1922; N.Y., July 27, 1923); Rhapsody: 2nd April (1924–26; N.Y., Oct. 29, 1931); Holiday Sketches for Violin and Orch. (1927); Study in Sonority (Ithaca, N.Y., Aug. 11, 1927; orig. Caprice for 10 Violins); Fantasy and Fugue for Organ and Orch. (1930–31; N.Y., Dec. 5, 1932); Dichotomy for Chamber Orch. (Berlin, March 10, 1932); Scherzo for Chamber Orch. (1932; N.Y., Jan. 30, 1933; also for 2 Pianos); Consummation (1939; withdrawn and utilized in Music for Orchestra, 1952); New Dance (1940; Pittsburgh, Jan. 30, 1942; also for Band, N.Y., July 7, 1942; also dance and chamber versions); Canon and Fugue for Strings (1941; Berkeley, Calif., Aug. 1, 1942; also for Orch., 1941; N.Y., Feb. 14, 1944); Passacaglia and Fugue for Band (1942; N.Y., June 16, 1943; also for Orch., 1942; Washington, D.C., March 19, 1944); Processional: Funeral March for Band (1943; West Point, N.Y., Jan. 23, 1944; also for Orch., 1943; Moscow, July 3, 1945); 4 syms.: No. 1 (1944; N.Y., April 3, 1949; withdrawn), No. 2 (1945; withdrawn), No. 3 (1946–47; N.Y., May 16, 1948), and No. 4 (1956; Urbana, Ill., April 12, 1957); Evocation (Vancouver, British Columbia, Nov. 27, 1948; based on the dance piece, 1932); Music for Brass Choir for 10 Trumpets, 8 Horns, 10 Trombones, 2 Tubas, and Percussion (N.Y., April 18, 1949); Music for Orchestra (1952; N.Y., March 27, 1955; includes Consummation for Orch., 1939); Prelude and Fugue for Band (Louisville, May 5, 1953); Variations for Piano and Orch. (1952–53; Louisville, Feb. 23, 1954); Variations for 2 Pianos and Orch. (1952–54; Fish Creek, Wise, Aug. 1954); Suite for Younger Orchestras (1953; N.Y., April 26, 1954); Dance Rhythms (1954; Albany, Ga., March 4, 1955); Overture (1955; Cincinnati, Oct. 26, 1956); Preamble and Fugue (1955; Oklahoma City, March 18, 1956); Festival Overture (Boston, May 4, 1957); Variations for Violin and Orch. (1958; Louisville, April 1, 1959); Quintuple Jazz (Iowa City, May 20, 1959); Sinfonietta (1959); Introduction, Scherzo, and Fugue for Cello, Winds, and Timpani (Rochester, N.Y., Sept. 30, 1960; a revision of Introduction and Fugue for 4 Cellos, 1957); Duo for Piano and Orch. (1960). chamber: Reverie for Cello and Piano (1918); Piano Trio (1919–20); Whimsy for Cello or Violin and Piano (1920); Meditation for Cello or Violin and Piano (1927); Suite for Flute (1928–29); 3 Canons for Woodwinds for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1931); Divertissement for Flute, Cello, and Harp (1933); New Dance for 2 Pianos, or Piano, 4-Hands, or Violin and Piano, or Solo Piano (1935; also orch. and band versions, 1940–42); Music for Voice and Flute (1936–37); 2 string quartets (1938–39; 1948); Duos for 3 Woodwinds for Flute, Oboe, and Clarinet (1943); Violin Sonatina (1947); Piano Quintet (1950–51); Nonet for Brass for 3 Trumpets, 2 Horns, 3 Trombones, and Tuba (1951); Canon on a Ground Bass of Purcell for Strings (1951); Blaserquintett, woodwind quintet (1952); Concerto for Piano and Woodwind Quintet (1953); Variations for Violin and Viola (1957); Movement for 2 Trumpets, Trombone, and Piano (1957); Introduction and Fugue for 4 Cellos (1957; rev. as Introduction, Scherzo, and Fugue for Cello, Winds, and Timpani, 1960); Cooper Square for Accordion (1958). Piano : Blue Voyage (1927); Scherzo for 2 Pianos (1932; also for Chamber Orch., 1932); 4 Tone Pictures (1932; dance version as 4 Chromatic Eccentricities, 1932); New and Old: 12 Pieces for Piano (1944); Variations for 2 Pianos (1952–53). VOCAL : La Belle Dame sans merci for Tenor, Women’s Voices, and 7 Instruments (1921–24); Eternity for Women’s Voices and 4 Instruments (1942); From Some Far Shore for 4 Voices and Piano or Organ (1946); Easter Passacaglia: Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones for 4 Voices and Piano or Organ (1946); Little Sam: Little Black Sambo for Narrator and Chamber Orch. (1946); Who Can Revoke? for 4 Voices and Piano (1948); In Certainty of Song, cantata for 4 Solo Voices, 4 Voices, and Piano or Chamber Orch. (1950); Non vincit malitia: Evil Shall Not Prevail for Antiphonal Chorus (1951); A Child Went Forth for 4 Voices and Oboe (1953); A Shakespeare Sonnet for Baritone, Chorus, and Piano or Chamber Orch. (1956); also solo songs; more than 700 arrangements of carols, anthems, and folk songs. OTHER : Several vols, of pedagogical works.


J. Schmoll, An Analytical Study of the Principal Instrumental Compositions of W. R. (diss., Northwestern Univ., 1954); P. Freeman, The Compositional Technique of W. R. as Seen in Seven Major Twelve- tone Works (diss., Eastman School of Music, 1963); D. Garwood, W. R.: A Biography and Analysis of Selected Works (diss., George Peabody Coll. for Teachers, 1970); L. Ott, An Analysis of the Later Orchestral Style of W. R. (diss., Mich. State Univ., 1970); N. Savage, Structure and Cadence in the Music of W. R. (diss., Stanford Univ., 1972); S. Spackman, W. R.: Two Essays in Musical Biography (Brooklyn, N.Y., 1982).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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