[Dixielandjazz] Re:Stefan Volpe was clarinet event

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat May 24 16:39:42 PDT 2003

> Charlie Hooks wrote: (About Tony Scott studying with Stefan Wolpe)
>  Query: is this possibly (I doubt it) the same Stefan Wolpe as the
> contemporary classical composer, Stefan Wolpe, who taught at Black Mountain in
> the early fifites (along with Einstein and Oswald Spengler)?  I have several
> MMS by the classical Wolpe tht belonged to my late wife, one of his students
> in composition at Black Mountain.

Yes, the one and only. Here is his short bio: NOT FOR OKOM ONLY FOLKS, WHO MAY
As his bio says, his compositions are extremely difficult to play and so not
many orchestras, or pianists attempt them these days. He taught some very fine
modern jazz players in the 40s in NYC, and then again in the 50s/60s after Black
Mountain went belly up.

Tony Scott studied with him in the 40s& 50s. I met him when he was Chairman of
the music department in the late 50s at CW Post College on Long Island where I
took 2 courses in contemporary music. Bio follows:

"Stefan Wolpe was born in Berlin, August 25, 1902, and received instruction in
piano and theory as a boy of 14. The stifling atmosphere of the State Academy of
Music made his stay there a short one; nonetheless, he attended and graduated
from the Berlin Academy of Music, during which years he had the friendship and
counsel of Ferrucio Busoni. He was a student of Ferruccio Busoni, Anton v.
Webern and Hermann Scherchen (Brussels 1938). He was influenced by Hans
Schrecker, Scriabin, Hindemith, Satie and Paul Whiteman, and many artists of the
Bauhaus School. Raoul Pleskow once said there was a period of time when the
avant garde consisted of Wolpe and Varese. Morton Feldman, Ralph Shapey, David
Tudor, Yehuda Yannai were some of his pupils. His music and thoughts influenced
such composers as Elliot Carter, John Cage, Raoul Pleskow, and Howard Rovics. He
died in New York City in 1972.

In 1933 he left Berlin, arriving practically penniless in Vienna where he met,
was befriended by, and studied with Anton v. Webern. He reached Palestine by way
of Bucharest and remained in Palestine 1934-38, where he became head of the
composition department at the Conservatory of Jerusalem. In 1938 he left
Palestine and emigrated to the United States, via Brussels in 1939, becoming a
citizen of the US. He became head of composition at the Music Academy and the
Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. In 1948 Wolpe founded the Contemporary
Music School in New York City whose alumni are composers of music both classical
and jazz. In 1949, he received the Award of the American Academy of Arts and
Letters. "... in recognition of his devotion to highest musical ideals expressed
in his own music with striking originality ...". In 1952, Wolpe became musical
director at the experimental Black Mountain College not far from Asheville NC.
"Enactments" and "Symphony" were written there. When the college went bankrupt,
Wolpe returned to NYC, teaching at several institutions. During the '50's and
'60's there were trips to Berlin and Darmstadt. In Darmstadt he taught courses
at the International Summer Institute. He was chairman of the music department
at C.W. Post College of Long Island University from about 1955 until about 1967.
Wolpe's last years were plagued with the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease to
which he finally succumbed April 4, 1972.

At the age of 18, Wolpe was already recognized as a "phenomenal pianist" by
those who knew him; he was to remain a pianist at heart, always having a
preference for its crisp tones. The concept of virtuosity, but not of the garden
variety, was much with him and much of his music; even in the early years his
music has been characterized as ferociously and frighteningly difficult: a major
reason why his works have been performed so seldom, and why they are, for the
most part, not part of the standard repertory of serious musicians. The Wolpe
Trio (Essen, Germany) [Link] formed in 1992, took its name from their signal
performance of Wolpe's Trio in Two Parts (1963-64), and has since performed many
other Wolpe pieces."  (END BIO)

That Charlie's late wife studied with Wolpe at Black Mountain, and that Tony
Scott studied with him prior to that time is indicative of the fact that both
took music very seriously. Scott is an extraordinary musician and I suspect that
Charlie's late wife was an extraordinary musician also.

Scott in his very early years sounds like Benny Goodman who he adored, however
studying with Wolpe and being on the scene with Bird, et. al. changed his style
considerably over the years

Steve Barbone

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