Wihtol (Vitols), Joseph

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Wihtol (Vitols), Joseph

Wihtol (Vitols), Joseph (actually, Jazeps), eminent Latvian composer and pedagogue; b. Volmar, July 26, 1863; d. Lübeck, April 24, 1948. He studied at the St. Petersburg Cons. (1880-86) with Rimsky-Korsakov. After graduation, he was engaged as an instructor there. He succeeded Rimsky-Korsakov in 1908 as prof, of composition; among his students were Prokofiev and Miaskovsky. He was also music critic for the German daily St. Petersburger Zeitung (1897-1914). In 1918 he left St. Petersburg and was director of the Latvian Opera in Riga (from 1918). In 1919, he founded the National Cons, there, serving as its rector from 1919 to 1935 and again from 1937 to 1944; many Latvian composers were his students. As the Soviet armies approached Riga (1944), Wihtol went to Germany, remaining there until his death. His autobiography and collection of writings appeared in 1944. He composed the first Latvian sym. In his music, he followed the harmonic practices of the Russian school, but often employed Latvian folk-song patterns.


orch: Sym. (St. Petersburg, Dec. 17, 1887); La Fête Ligho, symphonic tableau (1890); Spriditis, Latvian fairy tale (1908). CHAMBER: String Quartet (1899); 10 chants populaires lettons,“miniature paraphrases” for Piano. VOCAL: Beverinas dziedonis (The Bard of Beverin) for Chorus and Orch. (1891); Ouverture dramatique (1895); Gaismas pus (The Castle of Light) for Chorus and Orch. (1899); Upe un cïlvka dzive (River and Human Life) for Chorus (1903); 2 cantatas: Song (1908) and Aurora Borealis (1914); arrangements of 200 Latvian songs for voice and piano and for piano solo (2 books; 1906,1919); many Latvian choral ballads; songs.


O. Gravitis, Jazeps Vitols un latviesu tautas dziesma (Jäzeps Vitols and Latvian Folk Song; Riga, 1958).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire