Wagner, Joseph (Frederick)

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Wagner, Joseph (Frederick)

Wagner, Joseph (Frederick), American conductor, composer, and teacher; b. Springfield, Mass., Jan. 9, 1900; d. Los Angeles, Oct. 12, 1974. He was a student of Converse (composition) at the New England Cons, of Music in Boston (diploma, 1923). After further training from Casella in Boston (1927), he studied at Boston Univ. (B.M., 1932). In 1934-35 he completed his studies with Boulanger (composition) and Monteux (conducting) in Paris, as well as with Weingartner (conducting) in Basel. From 1923 to 1944 he was asst. director of music in the Boston public schools. He also was founder-conductor of the Boston Civic Sym. Orch. (1925-44) and a teacher at Boston Univ. (1929-40). He taught at Brooklyn Coll. (1945-47) and at Hunter Coll. (1945-56) in N.Y., and was conductor of the Duluth Sym. Orch. (1947-50) and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica in San José (1950-54). In 1961 he became a prof, at Pepperdine Coll. in Los Angeles. He publ. the useful books Orchestration: A Practical Handbook (N.Y., 1958) and Band Scoring (N.Y., 1960). His music was distinguished by excellent craftsmanship, and was set in a fairly advanced idiom, with bitonality as a frequent recourse in his later works.


ORCH: New England Sampler (1964; Los Angeles, Feb. 26, 1965). BALLET: The Birthday of the Infanta (1935); Dance Divertissement (1937); Hudson River Legend (1941; Boston, March 1,1944). ORCH.: 2 violin concertos (1919-30; 1955-56); Miniature Concertofor Piano and Orch. (1919; Providence, R.I., June 11,1920; rev. version, New Brunswick, N.J., Aug. 3, 1930); Rhapsodyfor Piano, Clarinet, and Strings (1925); 4 syms.: No. 1 (Rochester, N.Y., Oct. 19,1944), No. 2 (1945; Wilmington, March 1,1960), No. 3 (1951), and No. 4, Tribute to America,for Narrator, Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (1974); Sinfonietta No. 1 (1931) and No. 2 for Strings (1941); Pastoral Costarricense (1958); Merlin and Sir Bossfor Concert Band, after Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee (1963); Concerto for Organ, Brass, and Percussion (1963); Harp Concerto (1964). CHAMBER: Quintet for Flute, Clarinet, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1933); String Quartet (1940); Violin Sonata (1941); Cello Sonata (1943); Introduction and Scherzofor Bassoon and Piano (1951); Patterns of Contrastfor Wind Quartet (1959); Fantasy Sonatafor Harp (1963); Preludes and Toccatafor Harp, Violin, and Cello (1964); Fantasy and Fuguefor Woodwind Quartet (1968). KEYBOARD: Piano: Radio City Snapshots (1945); Sonata (1946); Sonata for 2 Pianos (1963). O r g a n : 12 Concert Preludes (1974). VOCAL: David Jazzfor Men’s Chorus and Piano (1934); Under Freedom’s Flagfor Chorus (1940); Ballad of Brotherhoodfor Chorus (1947); Missa sacrafor Mezzo-soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (1952); American Balladfor Chorus (1963).


L. Bowling, ed., J. W.: A Retrospective of a Composer-Conductor (Lomita, Calif., 1976).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire