Ernst Toch

Composer, born 07.12.1887, Vienna, died 01.10.1964, Santa Monica, USA


Biography

Ernst Toch was the son of a Jewish leather dealer. Toch studied medicine and philosophy before being accepted to the Hoch conservatoire in Frankfurt in 1909. His main instrument was the piano, and much of his compositional writing was intended for this instrument.

In 1913 Ernst was appointed lecturer of both piano and composition at the College of Music in Mannheim. He served four years in the army on the Italian Front during the First World War. In 1916, he married Lilly Zwack, the daughter of a banker.

After the First World War, Toch returned to Mannheim to compose, developing a new style of polyphony. He received his PhD from Heidelberg University in 1921. It was also in 1921 that he published a book about melody. He then taught on the faculty of the Mannheim Conservatory. In 1929 he and Lilly moved to Berlin, where Ernst was regarded as a successful composer and innovator.

After Hitler came to power in 1933, Toch went into exile; first to Paris and then to London, where he wrote film scores. In 1934 he accepted an invitation from the New School for Social Research in New York. He could, however, only secure his living in California by composing film music for Hollywood. His score for the chase scene in Shirley Temple's 1937 'Heidi' perhaps remains his best-known piece of film music.

During his time in California Toch was a professor at the University of Southern California, where he taught both music and philosophy. He was also a guest lecturer at Harvard University. He wrote a book on music theory: 'The Shaping Forces in Music' which was published in 1948.

From 1950 onwards he went into a hive of compositional activity: writing seven symphonies, the third of which (Opus 75, 1954) received the Pulitzer Prize three years later. In 1958, Toch received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

He is the grandfather of authors Lawrence Weschler and Toni Weschler.


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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300
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