Carl Goldmark – String Quintet in A minor, Op. 9
(b. Keszthely, 18. May 1830 – d. Vienna 2. January 1915)
Carl Goldmark was born in Keszthely, but spent the majority of his childhood in Deutschkreutz, one of the Siebengemeinden (Hebrew, Sheva Kehillot), seven communities in Burgenland on the border of modern-day Austria and Hungary, where Jewish communities had been granted charters and political protection by the Esterházys in the late 17th century.1 The communities were religiously, linguistically, and ethnically diverse, and many Jewish and non-Jewish composers including Haydn, Liszt, and Joachim also hailed from the region.2 While in his posthumously published autobiography, Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben, Goldmark declares, “I had the good fortune never to go to school,” the composer’s emphasis on a lack of education and being self-taught as a musicians is somewhat exaggerated.3 Goldmark was the son of a Jewish community’s cantor and notary, and thus it is highly likely that he received religious education from a very early age.
Additionally, despite Cantor Rubin Simcha Goldmark’s position as a community religious leader, the Goldmark family appears to have been relatively fluent in the broader culture. Goldmark’s mother, he writes, was an avid reader of secular books: “My mother was indeed an eager reader but the reading had to be done almost secretly. It was considered a sin to read a German book. In most households there were no books and least of all did they have any music just for its own sake.”4 Extant family correspondence, which was conducted almost exclusively in German, runs counter to Goldmark’s claim that the family had no awareness of secular music. Letters from the 1860s reveal how the family’s patriarch had embraced secular music, with Rubin Simcha encouraging his son Leo (several year’s Carl’s junior) not to follow in him in the cantorate, but instead to become a piano teacher.5 Leo Goldmark went on to become a lawyer and musical impresario in New York City and his son Rubin Goldmark was an Americanist composer and teacher of Aaron Copland, so it is highly likely that the Goldmark children—including Carl—had a good deal of secular music exposure.
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