Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Riegger, Wallingford from Chambers Biographical Dictionary

1885-1961

US composer

Born in Albany, Georgia, he studied at Cornell University, at the Institute of Musical Art, New York, and in Berlin. He later held posts at Drake University and the Ithaca Conservatory, New York. His works, which show the influence of Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-note technique, received little attention until the performance of his 3rd Symphony in 1948, after which he was increasingly recognized. He wrote extensively for orchestra and for chamber music combinations.


Summary Article: Riegger, Wallingford (Constantin) from The New Penguin Dictionary of Music

US composer, a traditionalist who changed direction and then rather changed back again. Brought up in a musical family, he played the piano, violin and cello as a boy. His family moved to New York in 1900, and he studied at the Institute of Musical Art, becoming one of the first graduates, in 1907. He spent much of the next decade in Germany, studying with Bruch and starting out as a conductor; during this period he also got married. After a while teaching in Iowa — where he had made a fresh start as a composer with his Piano Trio Op.1 while still writing tonally — he returned to New York in 1922 and became acquainted with Ives, Varèse, Cowell and Ruggles. The result was a period of creative silence, 1923–6, followed by such works as Study in Sonority and Dichotomy, exploiting dissonant counterpoint and driving rhythms. He also worked frequently in the 1930s with modern dance companies, including Martha Graham's. Later works, in large, abstract instrumental forms, tend to be more conventional in style.

Orchestral: Study in Sonority, Op.7, 10 vn, 1926–7; Fantasy and Fugue, Op.10, 1930–31; Dichotomy, Op.12, chbr orch, 1931–2; Symphony No.3, Op.42, 1946–7; Music for Brass Choir, Op.45, 1948–9; Symphony No.4, Op.63, 1956; etc.

Chamber: Piano Trio, B minor, Op.1, 1919–20; Suite, Op.8, fl, 1929; 3 Canons, Op.9, wind qt, 1931; Bacchanale (dance for Martha Graham), Op.11, septet, 1930; Divertissement, Op.15, fl, vc, hp, 1933; Music for Voice and Flute, Op.23, 1936–7; String Quartet No.1, Op.30, 1938–9; No.2, Op.43, 1948; Wind Quintet, Op.51, 1952; Concerto, Op.53, pf, wind qnt, 1953; etc.

Piano: Blue Voyage, Op.6, pf, 1927; 4 Tone Pictures, Op.14, pf, 1932; New and Old (12 pieces), pf, 1941; etc.

Copyright © Paul Griffiths, 2006

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Riegger, Wallingford (Constantin) (29 Apr. 1885, Albany, Ga. - 2 Apr. 1961, New York)
The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music

His first formal training in music was undertaken at the Institute of Musical Art in New York in 1900, where he studied...

See more from Credo