Author Topic: Stefan Wolpe  (Read 8207 times)

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S709

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Stefan Wolpe
« on: July 08, 2007, 05:51:31 PM »
I couldn't find a Wolpe thread on this board, so here is a new one.

And here is the link to the Wolpe thread on the old board.

And there is great information at the site of The Stefan Wolpe Society.


I have found Wolpe somewhat difficult to connect with, even though his music always feels 'deep' and intensely communicative. It can be said to be similar to Schoenberg, but perhaps 'heavier'. I believe it is serial but I find that impossible to judge these days.

I don't have too much of his music: the String Quartet, the Symphony, and a few more chamber works.

The reason I feel a new enthusiasm for his music is this recording:




There is something about the voice and piano that suits Wolpe's language so well. And what especially caught my attention was the first piece on the disc:

Excerpts From Dr. Einstein's Address About Peace In The Atomic Era (1950), for voice and piano.

This is the only music I know which sets text by Albert Einstein -- and this text is a chilling warning about the cold war and the nuclear arms race. Here the intensity of Wolpe's music works brilliantly with the text, even though it may seem like an unusual piece at first. This is also very interesting from a historic point of view, showing an example of the effect of the mass lunacy of the period on music. Einstein's apt words are put into a powerful musical context.

I haven't heard the whole CD, but Wolpe's arrangements of Yiddish folk songs (from 1925) are also very cool.


So, post anything Wolpe here! Favorite recordings, pieces, etc.



Kullervo

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2007, 06:11:06 PM »
Thanks for this, Chris.

My knowledge of Wolpe is limited to one installment of AGP, but I found the pieces on that set pretty profound and endlessly fascinating. You've reminded me that I need to hear more!

Sean

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2007, 11:11:45 PM »
Wolpe has a strong personality and certainly is a interesting and individual figure. I've only tracked down one recording, including his Piece for two instrumental units (septet), Seven Pieces (three pianos), Form four, broken sequences (piano) & Form (piano). But also heard parts of his Enactments, David’s lament over Jonathan and String quartet (at a seminar).


bwv 1080

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2007, 09:55:11 AM »
Thanks for starting this.  Here are the quotes from the OP in the old thread:

Quote:
At that time, and earlier in the 1950s, we were all receiving the latest masterpieces from the post-war European avant garde. I always had a good deal of trouble with that music. What struck me about most of these composers was that they didn't seem to know what to do with notes. They were so busy avoiding on ideological grounds references to musical shapes of the past on the one hand, and on the other, developing algorithmic, and later aleatoric, means of pitch generation, and so busy refuting Schoenberg, that after a few years of this I think they lost their ears in a fundamental way and really couldn't tell the difference between a good note and a bad one. On the other hand, one found in Wolpe someone who although in many respects (at least locally) treated musical continuity in somewhat similar ways as these guys did, nevertheless the notes were always wonderful. Discovering that in him took care of the European question for me. Being very young at the time I would always wonder, maybe there's something in these great geniuses who are so heavily promoted that I'm too stupid to get. But I realized after I came across Wolpe and saw how it works with someone who knows which notes to put down that in fact there wasn't anything to get. It wasn't my fault, it was their fault.

Take the Boulez Sonatine and the Wolpe Piece in Two Parts for Flute and Piano. Harvey Sollberger and I played both of them. The Boulez always struck me as a kind of ideological statement, a piece of almost utilitarian music, the use here being to promote a fiercely anti-traditionalist point of view which is achieved by a lot of banging around, much of it physically impossible. That of course immediately achieves a kind of modern sound. For all that, it's really very conventional. It's impossible to balance and is a complete failure as an instrumental combination. My attitudes along these lines were not made more positive when we played it once for Boulez, who said that it didn't really matter if we got a sixteenth or so off in some of the fast places. I had busted my behind to learn the stupid thing as well as I could, and I was now being told that it didn't matter whether I played it right or not. Now the second movement of the Wolpe piece also has some really impossible things in it. But that is a piece whose mission it is to make music. Like all his work, it embodies very high artistic aspirations without an extra-musical agenda. One sees a composer whose total concern is making the best possible work of art that he can. So whatever the problems in the Wolpe are in performance, say, or the occasional miscalculation about balance, they are not epidemic the way they are in the Boulez. Whatever those difficulties may be, they are minor compared to the overall worth of the work. If I had to make a comparative judgment of the two pieces, there would be no question of superiority of the Wolpe: it is infinitely superior in every way.

http://grace.evergreen.edu/~arunc/texts/music/wolpe/wolpe/Charles_Wuorinen.html

Elliott Carter eulogized Wolpe after he died tragically of Parkinsons:

"Comet-like radiance, conviction, fervent intensity, penetrating thought on many levels of seriousness and humor, combined with breathtaking adventurousness and originality, marked the inner and outer life of Stefan Wolpe, as they do his compositions."


Link to audio file of Piece for Oboe, Cello, Percussion, and Piano (1954) from the Art of the States site:

http://www.artofthestates.org/smil.php?mode="compact"&pid=317&mvmt=1&playmode=1

I have the Parnassus recording with Piece in 2 Parts for Six Players, Piece for Two Instrumental Units, and his final Piece for Trumpet and Seven Instruments.  The latter is one of the great personal stories.  Wolpe was completely debilitated by Parkinsons by the mid-60's and his output stopped.  The advent of L-Dopa in the late 60's allowed Wolpe to emerge from his disorder and compose the work.  Despite the condition of the composer, there is not a hint of sadness or sentimentality to the work, just absolute music as pure, IMO, as that of JS Bach.

karlhenning

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2007, 10:03:04 AM »
The composer whose name sort of looks like it ought to be the title of a Hermann Hesse book.

And don't forget Peter Serkin's recording of the Toccata in Three Parts, Pastorale, Rag-Caprice & Form IV: Broken Sequences

bwv 1080

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2007, 10:06:53 AM »
The composer whose name sort of looks like it ought to be the title of a Hermann Hesse book.


Stefan was born to be wild.  His music is like riding a magic carpet

Sean

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2007, 10:09:36 AM »
bwv 1080

Along with Carter's Inner song, in memory of Stefan Wolpe for oboe, there's Cage's Five, in memory of Stefan Wolpe (two saxophones and two percussionists).

bwv 1080

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2007, 10:14:06 AM »
bwv 1080

Along with Carter's Inner song, in memory of Stefan Wolpe for oboe, there's Cage's Five, in memory of Stefan Wolpe (two saxophones and two percussionists).

Feldman's For Stefan Wolpe is another memorial piece

Offline not edward

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2007, 02:32:13 PM »
bwv 1080

Along with Carter's Inner song, in memory of Stefan Wolpe for oboe, there's Cage's Five, in memory of Stefan Wolpe (two saxophones and two percussionists).
I wish Hat Hut would rerelease their Conquest of Melody disc. In it, Marcus Weiss played Carter's Inner song, Cage's Five4 and Four5, some of Schoenberg's canons, Webern's saxophone quartet and Wolpe's saxophone quartet and Conquest of Melody.

Great disc, and sadly oop (if anyone wants me to rip it and upload it to rapidshare, PM me).
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

S709

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2007, 05:01:53 AM »
Yes, I totally forgot that there is Wolpe in the Avant Garde Project!

So anyone can check out some of his music here in AGP 34.

Right now I am listening to his Violin Sonata - somewhat similar to Carter's Duo for violin & piano or Schoenberg's Phantasy for violin & piano, but I like it more than either of those two. Great stuff.


Sean

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2007, 09:23:15 AM »
Appreciate that link Xantus'- I'm downloading the triple pf Enactments & SQ right now.

S709

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2007, 03:58:06 PM »
Great! :) Post thoughts!


Anyway I've also really started to like Wolpe's piano music, though I realize all I've heard is early (1920-1934). This includes the dramatic "Marcia Funebre", which is built around a sort of noble and grandiose theme.

Does anyone know this CD (which could compete in the "worst cover" thread maybe..) :



The 13-minute "Piece for Piano and Ensemble" is another Wolpe piece involving piano which is quite intense and memorable. All Carter fans should hear this one ...


« Last Edit: July 12, 2007, 04:00:22 PM by Xantus' Murrelet »

Kullervo

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2007, 04:19:04 PM »
Does anyone know this CD (which could compete in the "worst cover" thread maybe..) :



Well, it is on Bridge. They are also responsible for the "Milton Babbitt's Peyote Hallucination in Comic Sans" cover.

S709

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2007, 07:37:37 AM »
Haha yes, I forgot about that one. Way to go, Bridge cover designers!!

Anyhow the Feldman piece "For Stefan Wolpe" mentioned earlier in the thread is quite extraordinary -- a chorus with 2 vibraphones, creating some very haunting 'resonating effects' -- I'm not quite sure what to call it. This piece creates a great deal of emotion and sense of mourning. It appears on a disc which also includes choral works by Wolpe himself:






paul

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2007, 04:44:17 AM »
Haha yes, I forgot about that one. Way to go, Bridge cover designers!!

Anyhow the Feldman piece "For Stefan Wolpe" mentioned earlier in the thread is quite extraordinary -- a chorus with 2 vibraphones, creating some very haunting 'resonating effects' -- I'm not quite sure what to call it. This piece creates a great deal of emotion and sense of mourning. It appears on a disc which also includes choral works by Wolpe himself:







I've been meaning to check this CD out. Choral Feldman should be interesting. I've heard Rothko Chapel but that piece is very unique for Feldman and quite unlike the rest of his output from that time period, or any period for that matter. I'm sure the Wolpe pieces are worth listening to, too.

S709

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2007, 05:25:07 AM »
Feldman's "For Stefan Wolpe" alone makes the disc a sure winner -- but the Wolpe pieces are very good too. The closest comparisons I can think of for those are Schoenberg's choral works. However, Wolpe does not use Sprechstimme in his choral writing.

bwv 1080

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2007, 08:27:04 AM »
Just got this disc:



A stellar recording from Naxos.  The String Quartet was another piece Wolpe completed in his last years during the brief lucid period from Parkinson's.  The lineup of musicians includes Fred Sherry and Charles Wuorinen. 

karlhenning

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2007, 08:31:39 AM »
Oh, that one's for fetching in . . . .

S709

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2007, 04:26:11 PM »
Just got this disc:



A stellar recording from Naxos.  The String Quartet was another piece Wolpe completed in his last years during the brief lucid period from Parkinson's.  The lineup of musicians includes Fred Sherry and Charles Wuorinen. 

 :o :o :o :o

That is brilliant, I am ordering as soon as possible!!

Naxos has released some really great stuff recently, but this even features the "star" performers! Wow.

snyprrr

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Re: Stefan Wolpe
« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2009, 03:39:11 PM »
All I have is the SQ on Vox, but I for one...though I find it the "perfect" Schoenbergian SQ, I find it too smoothed over, too perfect, and for me this leads to a sense of blandness. Written in 1969, I just find so many other composers doing much more interesting things (Ligeti, Carter). Had it been written in 1924 or 1936 I think I might...maybe... look at it in a different light, but I find it the most boring combination of Berg/Schoenberg, like a bloodless Berg.

I can hear Feldman in there, though, in the "smoothness", "no note out of place"ness.