Mastodon The Waghalter Project:Finding a "lost" composer & friend of Puccini - The Wagnerian

The Waghalter Project:Finding a "lost" composer & friend of Puccini

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 23 August 2012 | 7:46:00 pm

Left to right: Ignatz Waghalter, Irmina Trynkos, Alexander Walker, Giorgi Latsabidze

As you can no doubt imagine, we receive an ever growing number of press releases - most of which are, unfortunately,  ignored unless we feel they are worth mentioning to a Wagnerian audience. While the following has nothing to do with Wagner we were intrigued enough to investigate further and after having listened to some of the projects music feel that you might be interested. 

Following the release we include a brief biography of Waghalter plus some unique photographs originally provided by his grandson. Also included is a very brief video documentary.  For more information, please follow the links below.

Hidden Treasure:
The Waghalter Project


Ignatz Waghalter was born in 1881 into an impoverished Jewish family in Warsaw, with deep musical roots. His ancestors included Laibisch Waghalter, a violinist known as the “Paganini of the East”. His eldest brother Henryk was one of the most celebrated Polish cellists and a Professor at the Warsaw Music Academ

Displaying exceptional musical talents, he performed extensively as a piano prodigy. The teenage Waghalter yearned to develop his unique talent and at the age of 17 decided to leave his beloved home in Poland crossing the German border illegally on the way to an unknown future.

Waghalter’s tenacity paid off when by pure chance he came to the attention of Joseph Joachim, the great violinist and friend of Brahms, who supported the composer in his application to gain admission to the Academy of Arts in Berlin.

Before long, Waghalter’s talent for musical composition—especially his exceptional melodic imagination, began to make a well-deserved impression. His works were praised highly: the sonata for violin and piano received the prestigious Mendelssohn Award when he was only 21 years old!

The violin concerto and the Rhapsody for violin and orchestra were also composed during this early period of his musical career.

Waghalter’s reputation grew rapidly and soon he was appointed as Principal conductor at the Deutsche Opernhaus in Berlin. This established his position as a pre-eminent conductor and a major public figure in Germany.

Throughout his life,Waghalter was in love with melodicism and championed the music of many still unrecognized composers such as Giacomo Puccini in Germany. Without Waghalter’s stubbornness and belief in the composers genius, Tosca and many other highly regarded operas would not have emerged on the German stage. Waghalter was a celebrated opera and film music composer. Poland and Germany shared equally a special place in his heart and in his compositions, he was inspired by both cultures. The operas "Jugend", based on the tragic realistic work by the German dramatist Max Halbe and "Sataniel", inspired by a Polish fantasy tale, marked Waghalter out as one of the most lyrical of German operatic composers in the pre-1933 era. Waghalter's music was widely described as a "sensation."

Waghalter left the Deutsche Opernhaus, in 1925 succeding Joseph Stransky as Musical Director of the New York Philharmonic (then the New York State Symphony). Deeply attached to the cultural life of Berlin, Waghalter turned down an offer to remain there and returned to Germany.

Although not a religious man Waghalter refused to convert. As a result he faced discrimination from the musical establishment in Europe. Shortly after the Nazis came to power the composer was forced into exile finally fleeing to New York.

After arriving in the USA, Waghalter initiated a campaign to establish the first classical African-American orchestra.

Though Waghalter appeared occasionally as a guest conductor, his opportunities were extremely limited during these last years and he died in relative obscurity in New York in 1949.

Source: The Waghalter Project

Giacomo Puccini, Waghalter and Berlin Gala for The Girl of the Golden West - 1913

For more Information visit: Waghalter Project