Karl Weigl – Komödienouvertüre (Comedy Overture), op. 32 (1933)
(b. Vienna, 6 February 1881 – d. w York, 11 August 1949)
Karl Weigl was born to an economically comfortable Jewish family in Vienna. Showing his musical talent from an early age, he took lessons from composer Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942) — who famously also taught Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) — before engaging in more formal studies at the University of Vienna and the Conservatorium für Musik und darstellende Kunst der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. Further tutelage after graduation came in the form of coaching work at the Vienna Court Opera under Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). Weigl came of age in an era of extraordinary musical developments in Austria and throughout Europe, and he enjoyed the friendship and professional contact with countless conductors, ensembles, and soloists, many of whom championed his compositions.
Like so many composers of Jewish heritage, Weigl and his family sought asylum in the United States after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. Karl and his second wife Valerie (Vally) Pick — an erstwhile student and accomplished composer in her own right — set out for the U.S. with their son Wolfgang Johannes (later Americanized as “John”), never to return. They set roots immediately, eventually gaining American citizenship in 1943. Unfortunately, they both found it difficult in their new environs to establish themselves as musicians and thereby regain the economic security they had once enjoyed. Karl eventually held brief tenures at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut (1940-1941), Brooklyn College (1943-1945) and the Boston Conservatory (1945-1948). Separation from their children no doubt exacerbated this trying adjustment, with John finishing his childhood in foster care, and with Karl’s adult daughter Maria (from his first marriage) and her husband emigrating separately a year later. Weigl died in 1949 after years of serious illness. …
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