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Carl Goldmark: Carl Goldmark (b. Keszthely, 18 May 1830; d. Vienna, 2 Jan 1915).
Carl Goldmark is one of those composers whose posthumous reputation rests almost entirely upon one work. In his own day, however, a large number of his compositions were highly regarded. He was born into a Jewish family in the old Austro-Hungary, his father being the cantor at the synagogue in their Hungarian village. The child was taught music by the village schoolmaster, and it was early discovered that he was especially gifted as a violinist. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to Vienna where he studied violin at the Conservatorium, and also took lessons in harmony. When the Conservatorium was closed during the 1848 revolution, the now eighteen-year-old Carl Goldmark took a job in the theatre orchestra in the Hungarian provincial town of Gyor. It was while he was there that he was one day arrested and was about to be shot as a rebel when the mistake was discovered just in time.
On his return to Vienna in 1850, Carl Goldmark began to compose in earnest: chamber music, songs and other small pieces. Later he went to Budapest to study, but by 1860 he was back in Vienna teaching piano. His symphony, subtitled Landliche Hochzeit or Rustic Wedding, the work by which his name is known today, was first performed in 1876. It is in five movements, instead of the usual four, which led the Viennese critics to wonder whether it could properly be described as a symphony. Brahms, who was a close friend of Carl Goldmark (the two men used to go hiking together in the mountains), pointed out that the question depended not on the number of movements but on whether the composition had the characteristics of a symphony and was constructed as such. The piece is, in fact, symphonic in construction, and is orchestrated with an almost Brahmsian warmth.
For several years, Carl Goldmark played in the orchestra of the Carl Theatre in Vienna. The knowledge and experience he gained playing a wide variety of theatre music obviously stood him in good stead when he came to compose operas. His first, Die Konigin von Saba (The Queen of Sheba) took him nearly ten years to compose. When it was staged at the Vienna Opera in 1875, it was immediately successful, and was produced in several other German and Austrian theatres as well as in New York. For years, Carl Goldmark was known for this one work, though it is but rarely performed today. None of his other five operas rivalled it in popularity. They include Das Heimchen am Herd, based on The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens, and Ein Winterm'archen, based on Shakespeare's^ Winter's Tale. This latter work was composed when Carl Goldmark was nearly eighty.
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