Psalm 113, Op. 40 for Choir and Orchestra
Károly (Karl) Goldmark
(b. Keszthely, 18 May 1830 — d. Vienna, 2 January 1915)
Op. 40, for Choir and Orchestra
According to the autograph manuscript, Goldmark’s Psalm 113 was composed in January 1892 in Merano.1 At the time Goldmark was mainly working in Vienna, but spending the summer months composing in Gmunden. He was well known as a composer throughout Europe, and increasingly popular in America. He was most highly regarded for his operas, in particular, The Queen of Sheba (1871), but also for his concert overtures Sakuntala (1865), and Im Frühling (1889), and the symphony Ländliche Hochzeit (1876). During winter concert seasons he travelled widely overseeing productions of his operas and other works, and he may finished the manuscript of Psalm 113 during one such trip. Merano had a growing musical culture and his opera Das Heimchen am Herd was performed at the Stadt-Theater there in the 1897/98 season. However, there is a more likely reason for Goldmark’s presence there. From the late 1880s Goldmark visited Merano frequently for a ‘Kur’ to alleviate his digestive problems. Although Psalm 113 appears to be the only published work he completed there, his sketchbooks also contain an untitled piano piece (1887) and two fugues (both 1888), all marked ‘Meran’.2
Goldmark wrote several choral works, some of which achieved considerable popularity. Many were for men’s voices only, including the frequently performed Op. 15 Frühlingsnetz (1864). Goldmark also composed for a capella mixed voices, with a secular and light character, such as the 6 Songs Op. 24, Im Fuschertale (1873), which were often performed informally amongst his circle of friends in Gmunden and Bad Fusch.3 There were also a few works in a grander style with orchestral accompaniment, including Psalm 113.
When Goldmark composed Psalm 113, he had recently completed his second opera Merlin (1885) and the Cello Sonata Op. 39 (1890), both of which had demanded considerable time and effort. He was seeking suitable material for a new opera, which was eventually to be Das Heimchen am Herd (1895), but for a couple of years he produced nothing largescale. He was busy with performances of his works, but continued, as was his habit, to practise his counterpoint skills, writing fugues and canons daily. He also worked on shorter pieces, mainly for voices. Like Psalm 113, some of these (Op. 41 and Op. 42) were published in Berlin by Bote und Bock, a publisher he only used around this time. They published a handful of works by many of the top composers of the time, including Dvorak and Liszt, and were particularly known for scores of operatic repertoire.4 Goldmark’s choice of Bote and Bock may have been prompted by his frequent visits to Berlin for opera and concert performances, perhaps at the suggestion of his close friend, the composer Ignaz Brüll (1846–1907), many of whose works appeared with them.
Choral singing was a popular pastime in 19th-century Europe. Many cities had choral societies, such as the Budai Dalárda (also knwon by their German name, Ofener Singverein) in Budapest, who gave the first performance of Psalm 113 (1895), or the Wiener Singverien, who sang the work in Vienna in 1898. Psalm 113 (known as Psalm 112 in the Latin Vulgate) was rarely set to music in the latter half of the nineteenth century, but there is a setting by Bruckner (1863). Like the Goldmark, Bruckner’s Psalm 112 is scored for chorus and full orchestra, but stylistically they are very different. It is unlikely that Goldmark would have known this work since it remained unpublished during Bruckner’s lifetime. What is more, nineteenth-century performances of it are not recorded, and in any case, it is generally considered that there was little cross-over between the musical circles in which Goldmark and Bruckner moved.5 Bruckner was strongly associated with the Roman Catholic Church, whereas Goldmark was entrenched in the Jewish tradition. As the son of Jewish cantor in provincial Hungary, Goldmark had become familiar with the music of the synagogue at an early age. The exact nature of his involvement with synagogue music in Vienna is uncertain, although he knew well the cantor Salomon Sulzer (1804–1890). Although Goldmark did write music for the synagogue, probably for his brother-in-law, the leading Jewish cantor in Hungary, Moritz Friedmann (1823–1891). However, his setting of Psalm 113 is not one of these works, but was intended for concert performance.
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