program notes by composition > P > Polka and Fugue from "Schwanda, the Bagpiper"

Polka and Fugue from "Schwanda, the Bagpiper"

Jaromir Weinberger/trans. Glenn C. Bainum

The 1926 opera known in Czech as Švanda Dudák (German: Schwanda der Dudelsackpfeifer) became one of the most popular operatic works between the wars, with thousands of performances in hundreds of theaters including the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Today the opera is all but forgotten save for this concert suite.

A polka is a lively folk dance originating in Bohemia in the middle of the 19th century, performed by couples. It almost always has a 2/4 time signature. Although the Grammy category for polkas was discon- tinued in 2009, the polka is still popular in many countries in Europe and the Americas.

A fugue is a compositional technique in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts.

Jaromir Weinberger (1896 – 1967) was born in Prague into a Jewish family. As a youth he heard Czech folksongs at his grandparents' farm. He began to play the piano at age 5, and was composing and conducting by age 10. He moved to the United States in 1922 and took up a position as professor of composition at the Ithaca Conservatory at Cornell University. When he returned to Czechoslovakia he was appointed director of the National Theater in Bratislava, and later received appointments in Hungary and Prague.

In 1939 he fled his native country to escape the Nazis. He settled in New York State, teaching there and in Ohio. He wrote a number of works on commission from American orchestras. He became an American citizen in 1948 and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida.

Last updated on November 12, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band