Goldmark, Rubin


Goldmark, Rubin

Samson, tone poem for orchestra

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Rubin Goldmark – Samson, Tone-Poem for Orchestra

(b. New York City, 15 August 1872,– d. New York City, 6 March 1936)

Samson p. 3
Delilah p. 36
The Betrayal p. 63
In the Temple p. 75

American composer Rubin Goldmark was the son of Jewish immigrants from Pest. His father and grandfather were both synagogue cantors. He was the nephew of the composer, Carl Goldmark, best known for his successful Biblical opera, Die Königin von Saba (1875). Goldmark first studied in New York at City College, CUNY, before traveling to Europe in 1889, where he studied for two years with Anton Door and Johann Nepomuk Fuchs at the Vienna Conservatory. He spent his summers during this period with his uncle Carl, receiving musical mentorship: “In all his writings [Carl] Goldmark shows a mastery of form combined with a certain freedom from restraint, and that frequent disregard of the established laws of harmony and counterpoint that characterize the modern composer. As he himself once remarked to me, the chief consideration is the tonal effect [Klangwirkung]. While strongly urging young composers to acquire thoroughly, and to practice according to the strictest rules, all that is technical in their art, he advises them, at the same time, to give their individuality full scope, and rid themselves of that timidity in writing which is the bane of the so-called Kapellmeister-musik.”1

Goldmark took his uncle’s words on individuality to heart, composing in a wide variety of genres in a career that emphasized teaching and his own mentorship of the next generation.

Over the course of his career, Goldmark was no stranger to an Orientalist approach to composition. After returning from Vienna, he studied under Antonín Dvořák at the National Conservatory in New York City from 1891 to 1893. He absorbed his teacher’s suggestions to emphasize American music through the integration of Native American and African American musical material. Among Goldmark’s more exoticist-Americanist works were the tone poems Hiawatha (1900), A Negro Rhapsody (1922) and the four pieces for violin and piano, The Call of the Plains (1916).

Goldmark completed his tone poem early drafts of Samson in 1913. While still in manuscript, the work was performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in March 1914; a review indicates only the titles of the first three movements.2 A review in the Boston Evening Transcript was mixed: “His purpose is clear enough; to invent melodies that should characterize Samson and Delilah, to derive other incidental motives form them that should still further disclose the Hebrew and the Philistine and then to develop all this material in such fashion that it should unfold the biblical legend through the temptation and the yielding of the hero to the final destruction of the temple at his hands. So far as the development and manipulation of motives goes, Mr. Goldmark fulfills his purpose skillful and according to the Lisztian precepts for a symphonic poem. He knows his process; but he cannot impart the smallest delineative vividness or imaginative heat to it.” …


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