Karl Goldmark - Encyclopedia

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KARL GOLDMARK (1832-), Hungarian composer, was born at Keszthely-am-Plattensee, in Hungary, on the 18th of May 1832. His father, a poor cantor in the local Jewish synagogue, was unable to assist to any extent financially in the development of his son's talents. Yet in the household much music was made, and on a cheap violin and home-made flute, constructed by Goldmark himself from reeds cut from the riverbank, the future composer gave rein to his musical ideas. His talent was fostered by the village schoolmaster, by whose aid he was able to enter the music-school of the Oedenburger Verein. Here he remained but a short time, his success at a school concert finally determining his parents to allow him to devote himself entirely to music. In 1844, then, he went to Vienna, where Jansa took up his cause and eventually obtained for him admission to the conservatorium. For two years Goldmark worked under Jansa at the violin, and on the outbreak of the revolution, after studying all the orchestral instruments he obtained an engagement in the orchestra at Raab. There, on the capitulation of Raab, he was to have been shot for a spy, and was only saved at the eleventh hour by the happy arrival of a former colleague. In 1850 Goldmark left Raab for Vienna, where from his friend Mittrich he obtained his first real knowledge of the classics. There, too, he devoted himself to composition. In 1857 Goldmark, who was then engaged in the Karl-theater band, gave a concert of his own works with such success that his first quartet attracted very general attention. Then followed the "Sakuntala" and "Penthesilea" overtures, which show how Wagner's influence had supervened upon his previous domination by Mendelssohn, and the delightful "Landliche Hochzeit" symphony, which carried his fame abroad. Goldmark's reputation was now made, and very largely increased by the production at Vienna in 1875 of his first and best opera, Die Kiinigin von Saba. Over this opera he spent seven years. Its popularity is still almost as great as ever. It was followed in November 1886, also at Vienna, by Merlin, much of which has been rewritten since then. A third opera, a version of Dickens's Cricket on the Hearth, was given by the Royal Carl Rosa Company in London in 5900. Goldmark's chamber music has not made much lasting impression, but the overtures "Im Friihling," "Prometheus Bound," and "Sapho" are fairly well known. A "programme" seems essential to him. In opera he is most certainly at his best, and as an orchestral colourist he ranks among the very highest.

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