Wallingford Riegger

born on 29/4/1885 in Albany, GA, United States

died on 2/4/1961 in New York City, NY, United States

Wallingford Riegger

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Wallingford Riegger
Born April 29, 1885
Albany, Georgia
Died April 2, 1961
New York City, New York
Nationality American
Occupation Composer and teacher
Spouse(s) Rose Schramm

Wallingford Constantine Riegger (April 29, 1885 April 2, 1961) was a prolific American music composer, well known for orchestral and modern dance music, and film scores. He was born in Albany, Georgia, but lived much of his life in New York City.[1][2] He is noted for being one of the first American composers to use a form of twelve-tone technique.


Riegger was born in 1885 to Ida Wallingford and Constantine Riegger. After his father's lumber mill burned down in 1888, his family moved to Indianapolis, and later to Louisville, finally settling in New York in 1900. A gifted cellist, he was a member of the first graduating class of the Institute of Musical Art, later known as the Juilliard School, in 1907, after studying under Percy Goetschius.[3] He continued his studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin for three years. After returning in 1910, he married Rose Schramm in 1911, with whom he later had three daughters. He returned to Germany and served in various conducting positions until the United States entered World War I in 1917, after which he moved back to America.[2][3]

From 1918 to 1922, he taught music theory and violoncello at Drake University.[4] During the greater part of the time from 1930 to 1956, he continued to compose and publish while he taught at various colleges in New York State, notably the Institute of Musical Art and Ithaca College.[5] In 1957, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating Communism in the musical world. In 1958, Leonard Bernstein honored him by conducting his Music for Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He died in New York in 1961 when he tripped over the leashes of two fighting dogs, resulting in a fall and a head injury from which he did not recover despite treatment.[2] Bernstein said of him in his eulogy, "All who knew Wally loved him."

His students included Alan Stout and Merton Brown.

Musical style

Riegger was known for his use of a twelve-tone system, related to that of Schoenberg. He became familiar with the technique through Schoenberg's American student Adolph Weiss. However, he did not use it in all of his compositions and his usage varied from that of Schoenberg, for example in not always using rows with twelve tone and not using transposed forms of the rows. Riegger's Dance Rhythms, for example, did not use these techniques. Aside from Schoenberg, Riegger was also significantly influenced by his friends Henry Cowell and Charles Ives.[6] Along with Cowell, Ives, Carl Ruggles, and John J. Becker, Riegger was a member of the group of American modernist composers known as the "American Five".[7]

Early period

Early on in his career as a composer, the style of his compositions was markedly different from that of his later work, which mostly used the twelve-tone system. His compositions, following those of Goetschius, were somewhat romanticist.[8]

Later period

Starting in the mid 1930's, Riegger began to write contemporary dance music. Later, as his career progressed, he began to use Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique more and more often, though he did occasionally revert to his earlier styles.[8] From 1941 on, he focused almost solely on instrumental music. His Symphony No. 3 received the New York Music Critics' Circle Award and a Naumburg Foundation Recording Award.

Selected works

  • Fantasy and Fugue, Op. 10 (1930)
  • Dichotomy, Op. 12 (1931)
  • Consummation, Op. 31 (1939)
  • Passacaglia and Fugue, Op. 34a (1942)
  • Symphony No. 1 (1944)
  • Symphony No. 2 (1945)
  • Symphony No. 3, Op. 42 (1946-1947, revised 1960)
  • Music for Orchestra, Op. 50 (1958)
  • Suite for Younger Orchestras, Op. 56 (1953)
  • Romanza for string orchestra, Op. 56a (1953); Lullaby from the Suite for Younger Orchestras
  • Dance Rhythms, Op. 58 (1954)
  • Overture, Op. 60 (1955)
  • Preamble and Fugue, Op. 61 (1955)
  • Symphony No. 4, Op. 63 (1956)
  • Festival Overture, Op.68 (1957)
  • Quintuple Jazz, Op. 72 (1958)
  • Sinfonietta, Op. 73 (1959)
  • Canon and Fugue for string orchestra
Concert band and wind ensemble
  • Ballet for Band, Op. 18 (1935)
  • Passacaglia and Fugue, Op. 34 (1942)
  • Processional, Op. 36 (1943)
  • Music for Brass Choir, Op.45 (1949)
  • Prelude and Fugue, Op.52 (1953)
  • Dance Rhythms, Op. 58a (1954); original for orchestra
  • Elegy for cello and orchestra (1916)
  • Concerto for piano with wind quintet, Op. 53 (1953)
  • Variations for piano and orchestra, Op. 54 (1952-1953)
  • Variations for violin and orchestra, Op. 71 (1959)
  • Introduction and Fugue for cello and concert band, Op. 74 (1960)
Chamber music
  • Elegy for viola and piano (1915)
  • Piano Trio, Op. 1 (1919)
  • Revery for cello (or viola) and piano (1920)
  • Lullaby for cello (or viola) and piano (1922)
  • Study in Sonority for 10 violins or any multiple thereof, Op. 7 (1927)
  • Suite for flute solo, Op. 8 (1929)
  • String Quartet No. 1, Op.30 (1938-1939)
  • Duos for Three Woodwinds for flute, oboe, clarinet, Op. 35 (1944)
  • Sonatina for violin and piano, Op. 39 (1948)
  • String Quartet No. 2, Op.43 (1948)
  • Piano Quintet, Op. 47 (1951)
  • Woodwind Quintet, Op. 51 (1952)
  • Variations for violin and viola (soli or in choirs), Op. 57 (1956)
  • Etudes for clarinet solo (1957)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1957)
  • Movement for 2 trumpets, trombone and piano, Op. 66
  • Introduction and Fugue for 4 cellos or cello orchestra, Op. 69 (1962)
  • Blue Voyage, Rhapsody, Op. 6 (1927)
  • New Dance for 2 pianos (1932)
  • The Cry for piano 4-hands, Op. 22 (1935)
  • Four Tone Pictures (1939)
  • New and Old, Op. 38 (1944)
  • Petite Étude, Op. 62 (1956)
  • Evocation for piano 4-hands, Op. 17
  • Scherzo for 2 pianos
  • Skip to My Lou, Duet for 2 pianos
  • The Galway Piper, Duet for 2 pianos
  • The Harold Flammer Duet Album, Folk Songs arranged for piano 4-hands
  • La Belle Dame sans Merci (setting of John Keats' poem, for two sopranos, contralto, tenor, violin, viola, cello, double bass, oboe (English horn), clarinet and French horn; premiered 19 September 1924, at the 7th Berkshire Festival of Chamber Music)[9]


  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wallingford Riegger
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 New Georgia Encyclopedia
  3. 3.0 3.1 Naxos Composer Information
  4. Iowa Center for the Arts
  5. Art of the States: Wallingford Riegger
  6. Liner notes from First Edition Music
  7. Swafford, Jan. Charles Ives: A Life with Music. New York: W. W. Norton & Company (1998).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Morton, Lawrence. The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Apr., 1958), pp. 267-269
  9. Berkshire Festival of Chamber Music 1919-1938
This page was last modified 09.10.2012 18:59:03

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