Today in 1961, the American composer Wallingford Riegger died in New York City, about a month shy of what would have been his 76th birthday.
Riegger was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1885. Like many American musicians of that era, Riegger studied in Germany. In the years before America entered World War I, Riegger worked in both the US and Europe: for three years he was the principal cellist with the St. Paul Symphony in Minnesota; he then served as an assistant voice coach and conductor at German opera houses in Würzburg and Königsberg.
Returning home in 1918, Riegger spent the next ten years teaching, eventually settling in New York in 1928. There he got to know Henry Cowell, Charles Ives, and other "ultra-modern" composers. Riegger's early music had been in the traditional mode, but he quickly established himself as one of the leading figures in the more experimental American music scene.
In the '30s, Riegger, like Copland, worked with the pioneers of modern American dance, including Martha Graham, and he composed a number of ballet scores. From 1938 on, however, he concentrated on non-theatrical scores, including symphonies and chamber works.
Riegger's mature works blend atonality with traditional musical forms and dance rhythms. This music from 1953, the opening of his Concerto for Piano and Woodwind Quintet, even includes some jazzy American syncopation.
Music Played in Today's Program
Wallingford Riegger (1885 – 1961)Wind QuintetNew York Woodwind QuintetBridge 9068
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