Stefan Wolpe was a member of a generation of composers, born around the turn of the twentieth century, who sought to refashion the entente between the artist and society in the belief that modernist art could transform the individual and society. To that end they composed artful functional music for amateurs as well as for the theater and concert hall.
Born in Berlin in 1902, Wolpe was a disciple of Ferruccio Busoni and studied at the Bauhaus in Weimar. He collaborated with Hanns Eisler in the workers' music movement and left Germany in 1933 as an acute refugee. He studied briefly with Webern in Vienna before settling in Palestine. In 1938 he emigrated to the United States, where he remained until his death in 1972.
Wolpe responded to the musics of his adoptive homelands, incorporating elements from folklore in music of driving and exhuberant complexity. He was a leading member of the abstract expressionist milieu in New York and was much sought after as a teacher by avant-garde composers in the fields of jazz, film, and concert music. His deeply-held optimism sustained him through a continual struggle for livelihood and recognition.
The essays are by distinguished composers, critics, performers, and musicologists, many of whom were acquainted personally with the composer. They include recollections, studies of social and cultural contexts, and detailed analyses of particular compositions and performances. The book is edited by Austin Clarkson, professor emeritus of York University and general editor of the composer's music and writings. A chronological catalogue of Wolpe's works concludes this first book on an eminent American composer.
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