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Vivian Perlis

(b Kiev, Oct 24, 1897; d New York, Jan 10, 1982). American composer, pianist and conductor of Ukrainian birth, father of Yehudi Wyner. In 1914 he emigrated to the USA, where he became an accompanist and coach to prominent singers in New York, while studying composition with Frederick Jacobi, Robert Russell Bennett and Joseph Schillinger. He also conducted several choruses, among them the Workmen’s Circle Chorus (1930–67). From 1930 to 1975 he was music director of the Central Synagogue, and in that capacity was responsible for first performances of compositions by Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud and Joseph Achron, as well as of his own works.

A leading exponent of Jewish music in the USA and an expert on Yiddish art song, Weiner taught seminars at Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the 92nd Street Y. He served as music director of the WABC weekly radio programme ‘The Message of Israel’ for 35 years (from ...


Richard Henninger

revised by Elaine Keillor


(b Toronto, March 11, 1913; d Toronto, Aug 24, 2006). Canadian composer. He was one of the first Canadians to employ and champion 20th-century compositional techniques. His piano piece Spasmodia (1938) represents the first use of a 12-note series by a Canadian composer. Born to Polish-Jewish immigrants with little musical background, Weinzweig received instruction on the mandolin at the Workman’s Circle Peretz School before beginning piano lessons. At the age of 17 he joined the school orchestra at Harbord Collegiate Institute playing the mandolin, tenor saxophone, sousaphone, tuba, double bass and piano. He also worked as a freelance musician. He pursued his musical interest further at the local library where he engaged in score study, particularly of the works of Wagner.

In 1934 Weinzweig entered the University of Toronto where he studied counterpoint and fugue with Healey Willan, orchestration with Ernest MacMillan and harmony with Leo Smith...


Oldřich Pukl

(b Prague, Feb 13, 1862; d Prague, April 4, 1944). Czech composer and folksong collector. He studied in Prague at the conservatory (1873–8) and the organ school (1878–81) and privately with Fibich. He was organist of St Štěpán and choirmaster at the main synagogue of Prague (1881–2), a teacher at the music school of the Moravan choral society in Kroměříž (1882–3), a violinist in the National Theatre orchestra, Prague (1883–6) and conductor of the Švanda Theatre Company in Prague and Brno (1886–7). Subsequently he edited the monthly Hudební květy (1895–9), conducted the Academic Orchestra (1898) and worked as an accompanist (1896–1904), mainly for the violinist František Ondříček. From 1896 to the end of his life he gave most of his attention to collecting and arranging folksongs, particularly those of the Chodsko region, south Bohemia. Weis’s large and varied output was influenced mostly by Smetana and Dvořák and included three operas in Czech, two in German and six German operettas. His only work to have stood the test of time, however was the 15-volume collection ...


Bruce Saylor


(b Ivançice, nr Brno, Oct 13, 1912; d Long Island, NY, March 11, 1997). American composer of Czech birth. One of America’s most important composers of operas and large-scale song cycles, the literary merit of his works, their original vocal style, and their serious attention to musical and dramatic detail mark a significant contribution to these genres.

At least four generations of cantors and composers were present in Weisgall’s family’s background. His father was his earliest and strongest musical influence; Adolph Joseph Weisgal, a composer of synagogue music (b Scheps, nr Płock, Poland, 13 Dec 1885; d Baltimore, 15 Nov 1981), had sung opera professionally before entering the cantorate. From an early age, Hugo Weisgall absorbed both central-European Jewish musical traditions and the standard opera and song repertory. His family emigrated to the USA in 1920, settling in Baltimore; Weisgall became a naturalized American citizen in ...


Max Loppert

revised by Jessica Duchen

(Sigismond )

(b Sofia, July 26, 1929). French pianist of Bulgarian birth . At the age of three he began musical studies under Pancho Vladiguerov. In 1945 he went as a refugee to Israel, where he gave his first performance with an orchestra. He entered the Juilliard School of Music in 1946 as a pupil of Olga Samaroff; the following year, having won the Leventritt International Competition, he made his New York début under Szell, and an international career commenced, which he interrupted in 1956 with a ten-year period of retirement, for study and teaching. In November 1966 he played again in Paris, and since then has fashioned a wide-ranging second career. His Royal Festival Hall début was in June 1974, and the same year he recorded the complete Beethoven piano concertos with von Karajan. He is an occasional member of international piano competition juries. A pianist of virtuoso technique, with wide repertory but a particular interest in the Romantic period (especially the music of Chopin and Schumann), he can give in live performance the impression of a forceful flamboyance of style in which sensitivity is sometimes swept aside....


Andrew D. McCredie

(b Berlin, Feb 22, 1922; d May 3, 2012). Australian composer of German origin. He received his early musical training from his father Boaz Bischofs Werder, a composer and conductor at a Berlin synagogue, and the Schoenbergian Arno Nadel. Following the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany, the family moved in 1934 to London, where Werder completed a patchwork education embracing music and architecture. In 1941 father and son were deported to Australia as voyagers on the notorious refugee ship ‘Dunera’; while interned at Tartura, Werder was able to work as a composer and arranger (the First Symphony would appear to stem from this period). After military service, he was active as a carpenter, music arranger, teacher in schools, and then lecturer for the council of adult education in Melbourne. As the most interdisciplinary literate of his generation, he became a lively and provocative force in public education and criticism. In ...


Israel J. Katz

(b Vienna, Aug 1, 1901; d New York, July 28, 1988). American musicologist of Austrian birth . He attended the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (graduated 1924) and the universities of Berlin, Graz, Göttingen, Prague and Vienna, simultaneously studying composition (with Busoni, Reitsch and Schreker), musicology (with Adler, Fischer, Lach, Ludwig, Sachs, Schünemann and Wolf) and Judaic studies. He took the doctorate in musicology (Strasbourg, 1928), with Théodore Gérold. Werner taught at Saarbrücken Conservatory (1926–33) and the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau (1935–8).

In 1938 he fled the Nazi regime, emigrating to the USA where in 1939 he joined the faculty at Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati) as A.Z. Idelsohn’s successor. There he drew upon the magnificent Eduard Birnbaum collection for his early research on Jewish music. At Cincinnati he conceived the idea for a school of sacred music in New York to be linked with the Jewish Institute of Religion (founded in ...


Helen Metzelaar

[Rosalie] (Marie)

(b Amsterdam, Feb 19, 1888; d Laren, May 27, 1949).Dutch composer. After gaining a piano teaching certificate in 1912 from the Koninklijke Nederlandse Toonkunstenaars Vereniging, she studied composition with Bernard Zweers and Sem Dresden. She also taught the piano and solfège at the Amsterdam Muzieklyceum. Deeply concerned about the social circumstances of the working classes, she gave piano lessons to poor children, conducted a children’s chorus in a working-class neighbourhood and financially supported a number of families. She also conducted the Jewish women’s chorus of the Religieus Socialistisch Verbond in Amsterdam. During World War I her song Neutraal was popular. She began her career writing mainly songs and choral works and after encountering the works of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky her music became increasingly Impressionistic. In 1929 she moved to Paris, where she studied with Louis Aubert. Until 1935 her home in Paris was a meeting-place for many composers, including Elsa Barraine, Arthur Honegger, Jacques Ibert, André Jolivet and Messiaen. After spending a year in Vienna, where she studied counterpoint with Karl Weigl, she went to the USA, where some of her works were performed by the Composers’ Forum Laboratory in New York. In ...


David Charlton

(b Berlin, Sept 1, 1768; d Potsdam, July 11, 1826). German composer. He came from a cultured Jewish family whose circle included Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn and K.W. Ramler. After studying music with J.A.P. Schultz he went to Hamburg to produce his cantata (on Ramler's text) for the coronation of Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1787; Ramler also wrote the text for Sulamith und Eusebia, Wessely's cantata on the death of Mendelssohn the previous year. Wessely was appointed second music director of the Berlin Nationaltheater in 1788 and eight years later Prince Heinrich of Prussia made him Kapellmeister at Rheinsberg. When the prince died in 1802 Wessely abandoned his musical career for family reasons and became a government official at Potsdam, where in 1814 he was co-founder of a society for classical music, which he conducted until his death. He was recognized by his contemporaries as an able pianist and composer. His works, according to Härtwig, were endeared to a wide public by having the clarity of Gluck or Mozart. He published a comparison of these composers in ...