Theodor Rogalski

Theodor Rogalski – Conductor, Composer, Pianist, Teacher (1901 – 1954)

Born in Bucharest on April 11, 1901, ten years after Mihail Jora, Rogalski shares with the renowned master a certain polyvalence, in addition to the major role they both played with regard to some fundamental institutions to inter-war Romanian musical life, which they helped define and mature.

Theodor Rogalski first studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Bucharest (Alfonso Castaldi – composition), moving on to the Leipzig Conservatory between 1920 and 1924 (Siegfried Karg-Elent – composition and conducting) and completing his education at the Parisian Schola Cantorom (Vincent d’Indy – composition and conducting, Maurice Ravel – orchestration) between 1923 and 1926.

Beginning his musical activity as piano accompanist at the Romania Opera in Bucharest, his remarkable abilities allowed him a rapid career advancement, so that from 1940 to 1951 he worked hard to coagulate and perfect the first Radio Orchestra (today the National Radio Orchestra) which Mihail Jora had founded. The ensemble was back then in charge of a symphonic season, but also served the needs of some air time or other, performing everything from orchestral music to oratorios, opera, salon music as well as an assortment of waltzes and promoting, from the beginning, both the great names of universal art music and the oeuvre of notable Romanian composers. Invited at the head of the Bucharest Philharmonic between 1950 and 1954, it was during these last years of his life that Theodor Rogalski also taught orchestration at the Bucharest Conservatory.

In 1926, composer Theodor Rogalski won first prize at the Enescu Competition (founded in 1913) for his String Quartet in F major, such works as Two Dances for Wind, Piano and Percussion (1927) and Two Symphonic Sketches (1930) subsequently played by the Bucharest Philharmonic (the latter’s qualities latter determined Enescu to include it in the concert he conducted at 1933 New York’s World Fair, the same year that the Rogalski was also awarded mention at the Venice International Composition Competition).

Writing vocal-orchestral, chamber, incidental, and film music and exploring the territory he had charted in the Two Symphonic Sketches, of a new vision on the valorisation of Romanian traditional music (with emphasis on rhythmic diversity, polytonality, with prominent and original rhythmic colours), Rogalski produced, in 1950, Three Romanian Dances, a landmark of our culture in the first half of the 20th century and still quite frequently performed.

An exceptional orchestrator, the artist gave a new look to a variety of choral, vocal and instrumental pages of the Romanian and universal repertoire, his 1942 orchestral version of Robert Schumann’s Carnaval op. 9 particularly successful.

Theodor Rogalski died in Zurich on February 2, 1954 – he had not yet turned 53.

Ioana Marghita