top of page

  Carl Goldmark was born on May 18, 1830 in Keszthely on Lake Balaton, Hungary, the son of the Jewish cantor and bailiff Rubin Goldmark.  

  Goldmark grew up in a very poor family with many children. He spent a large part of his childhood and youth in Deutschkreutz, where his family moved when he was four years old. Both his school and his musical education was unregulated and largely self-taught. He received his first violin lessons at the age of eleven, at the age of 14 he moved to his half-brother in Vienna and gave his first solo performances as a violinist there at the age of 18. In Vienna he received private violin lessons from Leopold Jansa. In 1847 he enrolled at the conservatory of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, where he became a student of Leopold Böhm (violin) and Gottfried Preyer (harmony) until the outbreak of the March Revolution in 1848. During the following decade, Carl Goldmark made a meager income as a theater violinist in Sopron (Sopron, 1848-1849), Ofen (Buda, 1849-1851) and Vienna (Theater in der Josefstadt 1851-1852, Carl-Theater 1852-1857). From 1852 he also gave piano lessons; among his students was the later court opera singer  Caroline Bettelheim . In 1857, at the age of 27, Goldmark appeared before the public as the creator of his own works in a composition concert organized at his own expense in the Vienna Musikverein. Two more followed: in 1859 in Pest at the end of a one-year stay in this city and in 1861 again in Vienna. From then on his compositions were regularly played in public concerts.

With his overture to "Sakuntala", op. 13 (1865), actually a symphonic poem, Goldmark became a constant in musical Vienna. He then began to work on his first opera, "The Queen of Sheba", op. 27, with the financial support of a state grant. After a lengthy development phase and tough performance negotiations, the work was premiered in 1875 at the Vienna Court Opera and achieved sensational success with the public. The opera then established itself internationally and remained an integral part of the repertoire during the lifetime of its composer. He also completed five operas that differed in content and musical style. Goldmark could now stop giving lessons and live exclusively from composing, during the winter months in Vienna and in the beautiful summer season in Gmunden am Traunsee.
 

  At the beginning of the 1960s, Goldmark was the violist in a young string quartet. Johannes Brahms gave this quartet his String Quartet in F minor, which he later revised several times, for rehearsal. During this time, a friendship (not always without problems) developed between Brahms and Goldmark, which found expression in numerous excursions to Baden or Klosterneuburg, for example, and also in a joint trip to Italy. Goldmark was also one of the regular guests of the Johann Strauss family. Gustav Mahler, who had three Goldmark operas on his list of conductors, "Himchen am Herd" (1896), "Die Kriegsprivatee" (1899) and the new production of "Die König von Saba" (1901) and Goldmark approached each other with a certain reserve . This has been attributed in part to Mahler's resentment that Goldmark, as a member of the jury commission (consisting of Hanslick, Brahms, Hans Richter and Goldmark) awarded the "Beethoven Prize" of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1878 and 1881 in Vienna not awarded to him, but to Robert Fuchs and Victor von Herzfeld. 

Carl Goldmark was a very popular composer in his later years at the end of the 19th century, who was showered with superlatives. Jean Sibelius, Goldmark's student from 1890 onwards, wrote in 1892 that he had an extraordinary reputation in Vienna and that in many places one would envy being his student. Julius Korngold, Eduard Hanslick's successor, spoke of the "Goldmark cult". Karl Kraus certified him to be the greatest living musical dramatist since Richard Wagner's death. After Brahms' death, he was regarded as the last exponent of the dying late romantic era, although the Hungarian music world has paid more attention to him as a "national composer" to this day.
 


  Hanslick, who was at war with everything associated with Richard Wagner, believed that all of Goldmark's operas were too close to Richard Wagner. Many other critics also stigmatized Goldmark as a Wagner epigone. Hugo Wolf was the most ruthless in his criticism of Goldmark. The opera The Queen of Sheba was still present at the Vienna State Opera until 1936, when the verdict of the National Socialists caused reception to finally cease. After 1945 there was practically no room left for the music industry in Vienna's Goldmark.  

  At a time when choral music was flourishing, Goldmark's "Frühlingsnetz" for male voices, horn quartet and piano, op. 15 (1869), was particularly popular. Of his orchestral works, the Violin Concerto, Op. 28 (1877) has remained in the repertoire to this day; During Goldmark's lifetime, his symphony "Rural Wedding", op. 26 (1876), was regularly included in the concert programs. A small renaissance seems to be in the offing for some of Goldmark's chamber music works, while the piano works and songs, apart from isolated recordings, have fallen into oblivion. Goldmark's compositions for the synagogue have been lost except for a recently copied psalm setting.

Goldmark died on January 2, 1915, richly endowed with official awards and honors. After the death of
  Anton Bruckner  (1896),  Johannes Brahms  (1897) and  Johann Strauss  (1899) he was considered the leading composer in Vienna, even before  Gustav Mahler  and  Arnold Schoenberg . Around the turn of the century he was a member of the committee for the purchase of a new organ for the Musikvereinssaal alongside Gustav Mahler and Ludwig Bösendorfer. The extraordinary success of his "Queen of Sheba" can be understood above all against the background of the era of liberal Vienna, in which Goldmark, as an assimilated Jew, was able to hold a respected position. In addition, he succeeded in the dispute over the two prevailing at the time  Richard Wagner  and  Brahms  represented main currents to follow an independent path in music recognized by his contemporaries.  

  The increasing neglect of his works that began with Goldmark's death is not only due to the change in the intellectual climate in Vienna, but is also due to the fact that the dozen or so of his publishers, each of whom only had access to a small part of his numerically small output , no one made a lasting contribution to the composer. Also from the family side - Goldmark left a daughter Wilhelmine (Minna), who worked with the sculptor  Ernest Hegenbarth  was married - there were no significant activities in this direction.

Awards: Knight's Cross of the Order of Leopold (1887), Decoration of Honor for Art and Science (1910), honorary doctorate from the philological faculty of the Budapest Academy (1910), honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and numerous other music societies.  

  In the Vienna district of Hietzing, Goldmarkgasse and Goldmarkplatz were named after Carl Goldmark. In the municipality of Deutschkreutz, where Goldmark lived most of his childhood, there is now the Carl Goldmark Museum.

bottom of page