Jaromir Comes Home: Returning a Musical Heritage
by Tristan Willems
As we approach the 125th anniversary of Weinberger's birth (and the 55th anniversary of his passing), it is remarkable that this composer, once as well known and popular as Richard Strauss, has languished in relative obscurity. True, until now, the vast majority of his musical output was unavailable, but this is only part of the tragedy. Concerted efforts to wipe his existence from all records by political regimes, combined with the lose of his works and the subsequent depression caused by these actions, took it's toll on Weinberger's creative and physical health. Yet, despite these setbacks, he continued to produce works of monumental depth and hope.
I have spent the past eight years travelling, interviewing, collecting and editing, any and all things Weinberger. Perhaps I have become obsessed! But then again, how could I not? His story could easily be my story - or your story. It is a struggle of survival in all sense of that phrase. When I am asked to summarize his life, I respond with a cinematic metaphor by saying "Weinberger's life is a little like 'Amadeus' meets 'Schindler's List' ". It is true that Weinberger was called 'The New Mozart' when he was nine years old - already giving concerts of his music as a pianist and conductor. But, unlike the 'Schindler' analogy, while Weinberger did escape to America,(via France, England, and Canada) his family did not, he did suffer in every other way (having his income and possessions taken from him, being persecuted and hunted). Finally, there is a growing interest in Weinberger as an overlooked musical figure, mostly by academics - but only as a subset to larger research projects - research for research's sake.
With this project, we now move into a more 'practical' use of this information. I have collected and edited his letters from over a 50 year period which provide valuable insight to this man's creative state of being as well as his sense of humor. With the help of this information and data from other sources, I am also in process of writing his biography - something that has never been done before. And now, we come to the music - and what music it is!
All of these works have not been heard for nearly 100 years. The simple fact that these materials still exist at all defies all odds. Weinberger's journey, though not unique for many Eastern European Jews of the mid-twentieth century, is an incredible story of courage, defiance and survival. Politically astute, Weinberger foretold of the impending Nazi invasions throughout central Europe. Personally, he had hoped, as many others had done, that somehow it would be prevented. This hope led to his staying in Prague until the last possible moment, but when he did finally flee, it was with only 2 suitcases full of books and clothes and his typewriter. All his possessions were left in his house which was later commandeered for the invading army officers. Many of his possessions were stolen or destroyed outright.
Somehow, five crates of his sketches, manuscripts, letters and personal papers were hidden and saved. In my research of Weinberger, I uncovered these materials; I transcribed them so all of you can have access to these works! Professional recordings of these pieces are to be scheduled in the near future.
If you would like to contribute to covering the recording costs, including the orchestral musician’s fees, conductor’s fees, and/or studio fees, please let us know via the “Contact Us” link at the bottom of the page!