The Goldmark family was a Hungarian Jewish family with roots in the 19th century Austro-Hungarian empire, and like most of the educated Jewish families of those times, they spoke German amongst themselves, as it was considered the language of the educated people. Two of the most well-known members of this family were the composoers Carl Goldmark (1830-1915) and his nephew Rubin Goldmark (1872-1936).
The patriarch Rubin Goldmark (senior) was presumably born in 1799 and died in 1868. He was cantor at the Jewish congregation of the Hungarian town of Keszthely, which was a favored summer destination for elegant visitors at the very west end of Lake Balaton.
Rubin Goldmark, who later moved to Budapest, was married first to Edelise Mendelsburg, who died shortly after giving birth to a son, Josef (1819-1880), and then to Marie Krauss who gave him many children: Carl (1830-1915) became an internationally well-known and established composer. Leo (1840?-1927), was first a cantor near Prague and later on moved to America where he had many different professions.
Other children of Rubin (senior) included Johanna, Sandor, Ignatz, Adolf (1848-191?), Rosalie and Anna. It is interesting to note that four of these children moved to America: Josef for political reasons (1848), and Leo, Adolph and Anna either for economic or family reasons (1860s).
Rubin (senior) was very poor at the end of his life, quite ill, and always concerned about his and his family's financial situation. In 1862, he made the attempt to leave for America too, but health prevented him from going. He had a high sense of culture, and education and learning were of great importance to him.
Carl (also known as Karoly) Goldmark, son of Rubin Goldmark (senior), was born on May 18th 1830 in Keszthely/Hungary, and died on January 2nd 1915 in Vienna. He was an internationally acclaimed and well-respected composer in his time, also played the violin and the piano, and during the Holocaust was labeled as entartet (degenerate) by the Nazis.
Growing up in a family that was receptive to music (his father was cantor of the local Jewish community), he received first violin lessons in 1842 at the Musikverein (musical academy) of Oedenburg (Sopron), where he gave his first promising performance in 1843, and was later on (1844) sent to Vienna in order to continue his studies with Leopold Jansa. In 1847, he passed both the entrance examination of the Vienna Technische Hochschule and the Conservatory, where he became a student of Joseph Boehm (violin) and Gottfried Preyer (harmony). In 1848, the outbreak of the Revolution forced him to interrupt his musical activities, and caused him to join the revolutionary movement for some time. In his early youth, Carl's attempts at composition were solely for the violin (fantasies, variations and concertos), and without great knowledge of harmony and counterpoint. In concerts at the Wiener Musikvereinssaal he became familiar with the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and heard also performances of the piano virtuosos Liszt and Thalberg.
Carl's older brother Josef, who was a physician at the hospital in Vienna, first supported him financially. In 1848, Josef was a member of the radical leftist party in the Reichstag, and in the turmoil of the Revolution had to flee to America (1850), because he was convicted of murder of the war minister Latour and sentenced to death, but acquitted in 1870. Leo, another brother, later on worked in Josef's Brooklyn factory in America, which produced copper percussion caps during the U.S. Civil War.
Carl was essentially self-taught as a composer, and in order to make a living, he played the violin in several theatre orchestras, amongst them the Josefstaedtertheater and the Carlstheater (1850s) in Vienna, which were a great schools of orchestration for him, and they also taught him how to stage his later operas himself. However, these years were marked with misery, and the need to teach the piano prevented him from devoting his entire time to composition. His most famous pupil was Caroline Bettelheim, who later on became an acclaimed opera singer. Carl's works in the 1850s (trio, string quartet, piano quartet) bore the strong influence of Felix Mendelssohn. Carl organized his first concert with own compositions at the Vienna Musikvereinssaal on 12th March 1858, which was well received by the general public. After a short stay in Budapest, Carl finally settled in Vienna in 1860.
He was acquainted with Wagner, Liszt, Rubinstein and Brahms, and with the latter he developed a long friendship based on mutual recognition of musical achievements. Carl was one of the first who publicly stood up for the then disputed music of Richard Wagner, and was also among the founders of a Wagnerian Society (1872), although a friendship between these two artists could never develop due to Wagner's outspoken anti-Semitism.
Carl also pursued a side career as a music journalist. He was later on made an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and received an honorary membership in the Academia di Santa Cecilia, Rome, together with Richard Strauss.
In 1865, the overture 'Sakuntala' established his fame as a composer. After 1870, he could afford to spend the summer months in Gmunden (Upper Austria), where he found an international public, and where he could devote all his time to composition.
Carl's much celebrated opera Die Koenigin von Saba (The Queen of Sheba) op. 27, which shows the influence of Hebraic melody, premiered in Vienna in March 1875, and subsequently played in Germany and Italy. It was produced at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on December 2, 1885, with Anton Seidl as conductor. Other well-known works include the operas Das Heimchen am Herd (after Charles Dickens), Goetz von Berlichingen (after Goethe), the overture Laendliche Hochzeit (Rustic Wedding), and the Violin Concerto no. 1 in A minor op. 28.
Leo Goldmark, another son of Rubin (senior) and a brother of Carl, was probably born in 1840 in Hungary, and died in 1927 in New York. Around 1863, he was a pupil at the Hauptschule in Prague, a time where he considered going to business school. In 1865, he became cantor and teacher at the Cultus Gemeinde (Religious Community) of the Bohemian town of Goltsch-Jenikau (now Golkov-Jenikov, Czech Republic). Leo wanted to get an identification card that he needed for taking examinations, in order to regularize his position with the congregation, but as Jews at that time were regarded as a special and basically disadvantaged group in the State, he had to try to use his influence in order to obtain what he wanted. Leo arrived in America in late 1866, and first worked in the factory of his brother Josef, but left it after 1870, probably because they had fallen out.
Afterwards, he had a very exciting professional career: he worked as an attorney and counselor at law, managed, amongst others, the pianist Hans von Buelow with his firm of Goldmark and Conried "Author's and Composers' International Agency," wrote a libretto for an opera (1776), had a connection with the United States Chemical Development Corporation, and after 1894, with the New Jersey Silk Company in Paterson, New Jersey.
He married Auguste Stern (died in 1891) in 1870, who bore him three sons: Rubin Jr. (1872-1936), who later on became a famous American composer; Emil (1874-1962), and Carl Jr. (1875-1942). Leo's second wife was Emma Bruel.
Rubin Goldmark (junior), son of Leo and Auguste Goldmark, was born in New York City in 1857, and died there in 1936. He was a well-known American composer, pianist, and educator, who is given credit for having advanced the development of American classical music as an answer to the European masters.
He completed his undergraduate studies at City College in New York (which would honor him after his death by naming a new building after him), and then went on to Vienna/Austria, to continue his studies at the Conservatory with Livonius (piano) and Johann Nepomuk Fuchs (composition). Back in America, he refined his knowledge with Antonin Dvorak (composition), and Rafael Joseffy (piano), both famous representatives of their respective subjects.
Between 1891 and 1893, Rubin taught piano and theory at the National Conservatory in New York City. Due to weak health and the need of a change of climate, he moved to Colorado (1895-1901), where he helped establish the Colorado Conservatory of Music in his position as director. Rubin is not considered a nationalist composer, but his compositions show the strong influence of American culture and history: Hiawatha Overture, Negro Rhapsody, The Call of the Plains and Requiem (suggested by Lincoln's Gettysburg Address). In 1902 Rubin returned to New York, where he devoted more than thirty years to teaching while also remaining active as a composer. In 1924 he became the head of the composition faculty of the newly founded Juilliard School of Music. Among his most well-known students were Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.
His lecture recital series on Wagner's operas during 1904 earned him unprecedented fame, a subject where he followed in the footsteps of his uncle Carl Goldmark, who had helped found a Wagnerian Society in Vienna in 1872.
Rubin was also the founder of, and frequent speaker at "The Bohemians' Musicians' Club New York (1907)."
In 1910, he received the Paderewski prize for his piano quartet.
Some of his other compositions include a piano trio, a violin sonata, several orchestral pieces, piano music and songs.
From the guide to the Goldmark Family Collection, 1832-1969, bulk 1863-1956, (Leo Baeck Institute)
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