Lecture Concert Walter Bricht

An evening of Walter Bricht Lieder and American song, with lecture

“Gepresst bricht die Freude”

An evening of Walter Bricht Lieder and American song, with lecture

July  27, 2022, 19:00, Laudon Palace, Vienna


This lecture concert offers a glimpse into the life and Lieder of Austrian composer, pianist, and teacher Walter Bricht, who at the Anschluss of Austria emigrated to America, where he permanently remained and gained citizenship. In consideration of Bricht’s ties to both countries, and in the spirit of fostering musico-cultural exchange, the concert also features selected American songs. Soprano Kate Johnson and pianist David Gatchel, American Fulbrighters in Austria and Germany respectively, share a connection with Bricht via Indiana University (present-day) Jacobs School of Music, of which both performers are recent alumni and where Bricht served as a celebrated professor of piano, voice, and song literature in the 1960s. Johnson’s 2021-2022 Fulbright grant has focused on Bricht and his Lieder.


Songs to Poems by Langston Hughes (1906-1967)

Florence Price (1887-1953): Hold fast to Dreams

Ricky Ian Gordon (b.1956): From Only Heaven (1995): Stars

From Genius Child (1993): Joy

John Musto (b. 1954)

From Shadow of the Blues (1987): Litany    

Walter Bricht (1904-1970)

From Elf Lieder für Gesang und Klavier, WoO. 3 (1922)

3. Glück (Eichendorff)

Vier Lieder für Gesang und Klavier, Op. 24 (1930-31)

1. Gebet (Hebbel)
2. Ich und du (Hebbel)
3. Elisabeth (Hesse)
4. Ich fühle deinen Odem (Bodenstedt)

Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)

Five Hebrew Love Songs (Hila Plitmann) (1996)

I. Temuná
II. Kalá kallá
III. Lárov
IV. Éyze shéleg
V. Rakút

Kate Johnson, soprano
David Gatchel, piano

with guest violinist for the Whitacre cycle to be announced

Lecture: Kate Johnson, M.M.

About Walter Bricht:

Walter Bricht, born in Vienna in 1904 to a prominent musical family, studied composition and piano with Franz Schmidt at the Vienna Akademie für Musik. Starting in the 1920s, Bricht was professionally engaged as a composer, collaborative pianist, and teacher. Multiple of Bricht’s orchestral, chamber, piano, and choral works were premiered in Vienna. Arrangements were made for Berlin and Dresden performances of Bricht’s Symphonie in a-moll für grosses Orchester, Op. 33. However, the Third Reich’s 1938 Anschluss of Austria abruptly stopped Walter Bricht’s career in its tracks, with swift cancellations of scheduled performances. Nazi race laws categorized Bricht as Jewish, as surprise to Bricht as he and his parents had been raised Lutheran. Refusing Hitler’s offer of “Honorary-Aryanship,” Bricht instead emigrated to the United States speaking not a word of English, with “four dollars in his pocket” and two letters of professional support. After doing freelance work and heading the piano department at Mason College in Charleston, West Virginia, Bricht accepted a professorship at Indiana University School of Music. He gained American citizenship in 1944 and remained in the States until his passing at just 65 years old from emphysema in 1970.

Bricht left a treasure trove of 129 Lieder for voice and piano. All but eight were composed prior to his emigration to the United States and are set to German language texts. His diverse songs have beautiful, lyrical vocal lines. Even with his belief that “the music comes first,” Bricht set song texts with diligence and skill. And despite chromaticism, at times unconventional harmony and harmonic progressions, cluster chords and other bordering-on-modernist techniques found in Bricht’s late Romantic/early Modernist compositional style, his Lieder tend to start and end in a way that give an impression of tonal resolution. Bricht’s Lieder remain unpublished, but efforts are underway to change that. His musical estate is held by the exil.arte Center, mdw in Vienna.

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