Log In

Sigmund Romberg Edit Profile

composer

He was an Austro-Hungarian composer who spent most of his adult life in the United States. He is best known for his musicals and operettas, particularly The Student Prince (1924), The Desert Song (1926) and The New Moon (1928).

Background

Romberg was born as Siegmund Rosenberg to a Jewish family, Adam and Clara Rosenberg, in Gross-Kanizsa (Hungarian: Nagykanizsa) during the Austro-Hungarian kaiserlich und königlich (Imperial and Royal) monarchy period.

Education

In 1889 Romberg and his family moved to Belišće, which was then in Hungary, where he attended a primary school. Influenced by his father, Romberg learned to play the violin at six, and piano at eight years of age. He enrolled at Osijek gymnasium in 1897, where he was a member of the high school orchestra. He went to Vienna to study engineering, but he also took composition lessons while living there. He moved to the United States in 1909 and, after a brief stint working in a pencil factory, was employed as a pianist in cafés.

Career

He eventually founded his own orchestra and published a few songs, which, despite their limited success, brought him to the attention of the Shubert brothers, who in 1914 hired him to write music for their Broadway theatre shows. That year he wrote his first successful Broadway revue, The Whirl of the World. He then contributed songs to several American musical adaptations of Viennese operettas, including the successful The Blue Paradise (1915). Even more successful was the musical Maytime, in (1917). Both involved love across generations and included nostalgic waltzes, along with more modern American dance music. At the same time, Romberg contributed songs to the Shuberts' popular revues The Passing Show of 1916 and The Passing Show of 1918 and to two vehicles for Al Jolson: Robinson Crusoe, Jr. (1916), an extravaganza burlesqueing the familiar story, and Sinbad (1918), an Arabian Nights-themed musical. Romberg wrote another Jolson vehicle in 1921, Bombo. He wrote the music for the musical comedy Poor Little Ritz Girl, which also had songs by Richard Rodgers.

Romberg's adaptation of melodies by Franz Schubert for Blossom Time (1921, produced in the UK as Lilac Time) was a great success.[9] He subsequently wrote his best-known operettas, The Student Prince (1924), The Desert Song (1926) and The New Moon (1928), which are in a style similar to the Viennese operettas of Franz Lehár. He also wrote Princess Flavia (1925), an operetta based on The Prisoner of Zenda. His other works, My Maryland (1927), a successful romance; Rosalie (1928), together with George Gershwin; and May Wine (1935), with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, about a blackmail plot; and Up in Central Park (1945), are closer to the American musical in style. Romberg also wrote a number of film scores and adapted his own work for film.

Columbia Records asked Romberg to conduct orchestral arrangements of his music (which he had played in concerts) for a series of recordings from 1945 to 1950 that were issued both on 78-rpm and 33-1/3 rpm discs. These performances are now prized by record collectors. Naxos Records digitally remastered the recordings and issued them in the U.K. (They cannot be released in the U.S. because Sony Music Entertainment, which is a parent company of Columbia Records, holds the copyright for their American release.) Much of Romberg's music, including extensive excerpts from his operettas, was released on LP during the 1950s and 1960s, especially by Columbia, Capitol, and RCA Victor. Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, who appeared in an MGM adaptation of The New Moon in 1940, regularly recorded and performed his music. There have also been periodic revivals of the operettas.

Romberg died in 1951, aged 64, of a stroke at his Ritz Towers Hotel suite in New York City and was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Achievements

  • Since 1970, Belišće organizes musical evenings in Romberg's honor; similar events are held in Osijek since 1995. He was named as one of the meritorious and notable citizens of Osijek. Romberg was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

Works

Views

Quotations: He once said, talking about musical trends: “I don’t care what the form is. But a melody is still a melody. Nothing succeeds like a popular tunc — a romantic tune. Romantic music will never die because deep at the roots of all people is the theme of love.”

Membership

Member American Society Composers. Mason.; Clubs: Lambs, Rotary (New York).

Connections

Romberg married twice. Little is known about his first wife, Eugenia, who appears on a 1920 federal census form as being Austrian. His second wife was Lillian Harris, whom he married on March 28, 1925, in Paterson, New Jersey. They had no children. Lillian Harris was born March 8, 1898, and died April 15, 1967, in New York City.

father:
Adam Romberg

mother:
Clara Romberg

spouse:
Lillian Harris