Ernst Toch

Ernst Toch
7.12.1887 - 1.10.1964
Country:Austria, United States Of America
Period:XX age


Ernst Toch (7 December 1887 — 1 October 1964) was a composer of classical music and film scores.

 Toch, born in Leopoldstadt, Vienna, into the family of a humble Jewish leather dealer when the city was at its 19th-century cultural zenith, sought throughout his life to introduce new approaches to music. He studied philosophy at the university of Vienna, medicine at Heidelberg and music at the Hoch Conservatory (1909–1913) in Frankfurt. His main instrument was the piano, and he was a pianist of real stature, performing to acclaim throughout much of western Europe. Much of his writing was intended for the piano.

Toch continued to grow as an artist and composer throughout his adult life, and in America came to influence whole new generations of composers. His first compositions date from circa 1900 and were pastiches in the style of Mozart (quartets, 1905 album verses for piano). His first quartet was performed in Leipzig in 1908, and his sixth (Opus 12, 1905) in the year 1909. In 1909, his chamber symphony in F major (written 1906) won the Frankfurt/Main Mozart prize. From this time onwards Toch dedicated himself to being a full-time composer. He won the Mendelssohn prize for composition in 1910. In 1913 he was appointed lecturer of both piano and composition at the College of Music in Mannheim. After winning a further five major prizes for his works, Toch served 4 years in the army on the Italian Front during World War I. In 1916 he married Lilly Zwack, the daughter of a banker.

After World War I had ended, he returned to Mannheim to compose, developing a new style of polyphony. He received his Ph.D. degree from Heidelberg University in 1921. He then taught on the faculty of the Mannheim Conservatory where one of his pupils was Hugo Chaim Adler.

Following Adolf Hitler's seizure of power in 1933, he went into exile, first to Paris and then London, where he wrote film scores. In 1935 he accepted an invitation to go to New York (New School for Social Research). He could, however, only secure his living in California by composing film music for Hollywood. Unlike his colleague Erich Wolfgang Korngold, however, Toch never got much traction in the industry and was rarely top-billed. His score for the chase scene in Shirley Temple’s 1937 “Heidi” perhaps remains his best-known piece of film music.

He died in Santa Monica, California, and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. He is the grandfather of authors Lawrence Weschler and Toni Weschler.

His works often exhibit a humorous aspect (Bunte Suite (1929)). In 1930 he invented "Gesprochene Musik," the idiom of the "spoken chorus". His most performed work is the Geographical Fugue or Fuge aus der Geographie, which he himself regarded as an unimportant diversion. He wrote music for films, symphonies, chamber music, chamber operas. He also wrote books dealing with musical theory: Melodielehre (1923) and The Shaping Forces in Music (1948).

Toch was considered one of the great avant-garde composers in the pre-Nazi era. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1956 for his Third Symphony (premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on December 2, 1955). His notable students include Richard Wernick.

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