Wolfgang Darzins

Volfgangs Darzins ( 25. 09. 1906 Riga - 24. 06. 1962 Seattle, Washington USA)

One of the most important Latvian composers, he was also a concert pianist, music critic, theoretician, ethnomusicologist and teacher. He was the son of the prominent composer Emils Darzins (1975 - 1910). He attended the Latvian State Conservatory’s piano class of B. Roga (1920) and the composition class of J. Vitols (l924), graduating with highest honors in 1929. He enrolled in the piano class of N. Karklina, graduating in 1934, performing at year’s end his Piano Concerto No. 1, later described as "technically erudite, pleasingly melodic and romantic". It was said to show the influence of Scriabin. His Piano Concerto No.2 was composed in 1938 and performed by the National Opera Orchestra under T. Reiters a year later. It showed the strong influence of folklore and the beginning of an individual style. Darzins also wrote a Latvian Dance Suite in three movements (l937). All of his published music was produced after l944. He developed a strong original style, influenced to some degree by Bartok and Stravinsky. His compositions are in three categories: piano, solo vocal and choral.

In 1928 he was invited to contribute reviews and articles on Riga’s musical life to the paper Latvis. From 1934 to 1940 he was music critic of the newspaper Rīts, and in 1940-41 for the newspaper Darbs. He was active as a music critic until l944, even continuing his writing in the Displaced Person camps later in Germany. In all he published more than 1000 articles. During this time he also became known for extensive research into Latvian folk music, mapping the distribution of many folksongs. He found as many as 23 variations of one song in a narrow area along the Baltic Sea. He dated the earliest Latvian dainas to the time of Christ and even earlier, tracing the language back some 3000 years. It is closely related to the ancient Sanscrit of Western India. The mass of folksongs had their beginnings in the 8th to the l5th centuries A.D.

In December,1939 he married the painter Anna Ozolins, a graduate of the Latvian Academy of Arts. A daughter, Daina, was born in l953 after the couple had immigrated to the United States.

From 1944 until his death he livid in exile; till1950 in Eslingen (Germany), from 1950-55 in Spokane, Washington (USA) and from 1955 in Seattle. The Darzins’ emigration from the DP camps in Germany was sponsored by Grace Lutheran Church of Spokane, where he became choir director. He made several concert tours in the United States, including a Carnegie Hall concert in New York in 1954. His programs featured Chopin and Beethoven, often including his own works as well.

Also in this period he became close friends with three of his students, friendships that continued until his death: Kenneth Benshoof, composer-pianist later on the music faculty of the University of Washington; Alden Andreassen, tenor, and his wife, Myrtle Estelle, his piano accompanist. The Andreassens began performing Darzin’s songs in memorial concerts after 1962, which led eventually to two recordings. These three made the only LP records of Darzins’ music known to exist; Benshoof a recording of Darzins’ piano works (l955 –1960), the Andreassens a two-record set of Latviesu Tautas Dziesmas, Darzin’s arrangements of 38 dainas (in Latvian), including six of the eight through-composed songs (published by A. Kalnajs, Mannheim, in 1948). The other songs are from the collection of 200 set by Darzins (published by Kalnajs, Chicago, in 1966).



Compositions for Piano:

  • Variations on an Original Theme (Nora Alksne, Nordstemmen, 1947)
  • Two Preludes in G (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1953)
  • Sonata in F (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1953)
  • Latvian Folksongs for Beginners at the Piano (Otto Krolls, Chicago, 1951, 1953)
  • Play Little Fingers – Folksongs for Young Pianists I & II (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1954, 1959, l961)
  • Sonata No. 2 (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1955)
  • Suite in A (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1956)
  • Sonatina in G (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1956)
  • Triade de Preludes (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1957)
  • Trittico Barbaro (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1958)
  • Treludes (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 196l) Later republished as Petite Suite No. 8.
  • Petite Suites for Piano Solo 1, 2, 3. (A. Kalnajs, Chicago,1960)
  • Petite Suites for Piano Solo 4, 5, 6. (A. Kalnajs, Chicago,1960)
  • Petite Suites for Piano Solo 7, 8. (A. Kalnajs, Chicago,1963)

Choral and Vocal Arrangements of Folksongs:

  • 15 Folksongs for Mixed Choir
  • l Folksong for Male Choir
  • l Folksong for Female Choir
  • 3 Folksongs for Children’s Choir
  • 8 Latvian Folksongs for Solo Voice and Piano (A. Kalnajs, Mannheim, 1948)
  • 200 Latvian Folksongs for Solo Voice and Piano (A. Kalnajs, Chicago, 1953 – 1966)


  • Volfgangs Darzins: Piano Works (l955–l961) Kenneth Benshoof, piano
  • Latviesu Tautas Dziesmas (Latvian Folk Songs, Volume One) Arr. Volfgangs Darzins. Alden Andreassen, tenor; Myrtle Estelle, piano. DP 101, Daina-Life Records
  • Latviesu Tautas Dziesmas (Latvian Folk Songs, Volume Two) Arr. Volfgangs Darzins. Alden Andreassen, tenor; Myrtle Estelle, piano. DP 102, Daina-Life Records. Available from Daina-Life Records, 22578 Cedar Pines Ave., Twain Harte, CA 95383.

Materials for this page kindly provided by Richard W. Stiles (USA)

Biographical material courtesy of  S.M. Lashchuk



Updated 28 Nov 2000