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Carl Goldmark. Lithograph by E. Fontana, [c.1880].

Karl GOLDMARK (1830-1915)

March 2015

GOLDMARK, Carl (Karoly, Karl) (b.Keszthely, 18 May 1830; d.Vienna, 2 January 1915)

Goldmark, the centenary of whose death fell on 2 January, was one of the 20 children of a small-town Jewish cantor in Hungary and his early years were marked by exceptional struggle and determination.  Even on the violin, his first instrument, he was unable to take lessons until the age of eleven.  As a composer he was almost entirely self-taught, and only became established after settling permanently in Vienna at the age of 30.

His works include six operas, two symphonies and ten large-scale chamber works, though only the violin concerto and the Rustic Wedding symphony are performed at all frequently today.  The second edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1904-1910) reflected contemporary opinion in stating, “Goldmark’s main characteristics are his complete mastery over every kind of musical effect, his wealth of melodic invention and skill in manipulating his themes.”  His own assessment was “Unable to be a pioneer and unwilling to be a fellow traveller, I went my own way.”

Goldmark’s first opera, Die Königin von Saba (Vienna, 10 March 1875, with Amalie Materna as the Queen of Sheba) enjoyed international success, reaching its 100th performance in both Vienna and Budapest in 1897.  It was performed in English by the Carl Rosa Opera Company in Manchester and London in 1910.  Two later operas have libretti derived from English literature: Das Heimchen am Herd (Vienna, 1896; based on Dickens’s The Cricket on the Hearth) and Ein Wintermärchen (Vienna, 2 January 1908; based on Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale).  However only the first of these achieved a UK performance (in English, Brixton Theatre, London, 23 November 1900.)

We show here a selection of first or early editions of some of his most popular works.

We are grateful to the Royal Academy of Music, London, for permitting the inclusion of two items from Sir Henry Wood’s former library.