Remembering Harold Blumenfeld

Memorial concert honors emeritus composer April 19

I am the silence between two tones
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from “My life is not this steep hour”

Harold Blumenfeld was a powerful presence in St. Louis music for more than 60 years — an active composer, teacher, critic and advocate perhaps best known for his groundbreaking settings of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke and Arthur Rimbaud.


At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 19, the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences will honor Blumenfeld, who died last fall at 91, with a Memorial Concert in Graham Chapel.

The performance will feature four faculty musicians: pianist Seth Carlin, guitarist William Lenihan, cellist Kenneth Kulosa and soprano Tamara Campbell. The program will include excerpts from Blumenfeld’s “Three Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke” (1975) and “La face cendrée” after Arthur Rimbaud (1981), as well as works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Paul Hindemith and Franz Schubert.

Born in Seattle in 1923, Blumenfeld served as an interpreter in the U.S. Army Signal Corp during World War II and witnessed the liberation of Ohrdruf, the first Nazi concentration camp freed by U.S. troops. He joined the Washington University faculty in 1950 and directed Opera Theatre of St. Louis from 1962-66. He retired from teaching in 1989.

Bluemenfeld was the first composer to devote extensive attention to Rimbaud’s poetry, beginning with a setting of “Being Beauteous” (c. 1980) and culminating in the two-act opera “Seasons in Hell” (1996). Other major works include “Borgia Infami” (2001), an opera based on the notorious Renaissance family, and “Vers Sataniques” (2007), based on Baudelaire’s “Flowers of Evil.”

Graham Chapel is located just north of Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd. A post-concert reception will be held at the Whittemore House, 6440 Forsyth. For more information, visit the Department of Music, call 314-935-5566 or email