Amy Beach

Composer: Amy Marcy Cheney Beach
Date of Birth: September 5, 1867
Date of Death:  December 27, 1944
Occupation: Pianist; Composer
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: 20th century

Beach wasan American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Her “Gaelic” Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave featuring her own music in the United States and in Germany.

Her sacred choral works include a settings of the Te Deum first performed by the choir of men and boys at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston, St. Francis’s Canticle of the Sun first performed at St. Bartholomew’s in New York, and a dozen other pieces, which were extensively researched in the 1990s by Betty Buchanan, Musical Director of the Capitol Hill Choral Society in Washington, D.C.

She was most popular, however, for her songs. “The Year’s At the Spring” from Three Browning Songs, Op. 44 is perhaps Beach’s most well-known work. Despite the volume and popularity of the songs during her lifetime, no single-composer song collection of Beach’s works exists.

Biography:  Early years and musical education   |   Early career   |   Marriage   |   Rise to prominence   |   Chamber music   |   Widowhood, years in Europe   |   Return to America and later life   |   Compositions   |   Symphonic works   |   Choral works   |   Chamber music   |    Solo piano music   |   Songs   |   Writings   |   Late 20th century and early 21st century revival and reception   |   Gaelic Symphony   |   Piano Concerto   |   Tributes and memorials


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Amy Beach (Sept. 05, 1867 – Dec. 27, 1944)
🇺🇸 American, 20th Century
First successful American female composer of large-scale art music.
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Eric Coates

Eric Coates (27 August 1886 – 21 December 1957) was an English composer of light music and a viola player.


Composer:
Eric Francis Harrison Coates
Date of Birth: 27 August 1886
Date of Death: 21 December 1957
Nationality: English
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Contribution(s): Coates was an English composer of light music and a viola player.
Biography: Eric Coates was born in Hucknall in Nottinghamshire. His father was William Harrison Coates (d. 1935) who was a surgeon, and his mother was Mary Jane Gwynne, hailing from Usk in Monmouthshire. After studying at home with a governess, Eric enrolled (1906) at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he received viola lessons from Lionel Tertis and studied composition with Frederick Corder. From 1910 he played in the Queen’s Hall Orchestra under Henry J. Wood, becoming principal violist in 1912, “… which post I held for seven years,” he said, speaking in a 1948 BBC radio interview, “until, I regret to say, I was dismissed through sending deputies to take my place when I was conducting my works elsewhere. Henry Wood little knew what a great help he had been to me by dispensing with my services, for from that day I never touched my viola again and was able to devote all my time to my writing.”

In February 1913 he married Phyllis Marguerite Black (1894-1982). He had an early success with the overture The Merrymakers (1922), but more popular was the London Suite (1933). The last movement of this, “Knightsbridge”, was used by the BBC to introduce its radio programme In Town Tonight. Amongst his early champions was Sir Edward Elgar.

Coates’s autobiography, Suite in Four Movements, was published in 1953. He died in Chichester in 1957 aged 71, having suffered a stroke and was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium. His son, Austin Coates (1922–1997), was a writer who lived much of his life in Asia.

Eric Coates was not related to Albert Coates, the contemporary conductor and composer.

Works: Coates’s music, with its simple and memorable melodies, proved particularly effective for theme music. As well as “Knightsbridge”, the BBC also used Calling All Workers (1940) as the theme for the radio programme Music While You Work, and By the Sleepy Lagoon (1930) is still used to introduce the long-running radio programme Desert Island Discs. Coates’ “Halcyon Days”, the first movement of the suite The Three Elizabeths, was used as the theme to the popular 1967 BBC TV series The Forsyte Saga, although he received no credit. This piece was originally written in the early 1940s. It was later used as a celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It has had a recent resurgence in popularity, featuring on a number of CDs.

Coates also wrote a number of pieces that were used as television start-up music: the BBC Television March (for BBC-TV), was used daily from 1946 to the end of 1958 and occasionally from then until 1960, the Rediffusion March (written as Music Everywhere; for Associated-Rediffusion, from 1956 to 1957), Sound and Vision (for ATV in London from 1955 to 1968 and in the Midlands from 1956 to 1971), and the South Wales and the West Television March (for TWW from 1958 to 1968).

Coates is also well known for his contribution to the film score for The Dam Busters (1955); he composed the famous main title march. He was unwilling to write the entire score when asked by the film’s producers, but warmed to the idea of writing a signature march around which the rest of the film’s score was based – in fact, he submitted a piece that he had recently completed, so the famous Dam Busters March was not itself composed with the film in mind. The final film score was completed by Leighton Lucas.

His songs, some with lyrics by Arthur Conan Doyle and Fred E. Weatherly, are less well remembered, despite their initial success. He wrote some thirty songs before turning his attention to orchestral works.

Miniature Suite was the first of many orchestral works by Coates. It was written in 1911, and consists of three movements – Children’s Dance, Intermezzo and Scene du Bal.

Coates made a number of 78 rpm recordings of his music, initially for The British Columbia label and then for Decca Records (released in the U.S. on the London Records label). He recorded his London Suite and London Again Suite for Columbia. Some of his recordings were later issued on LP and CD. From the surviving recordings, it is clear that he was a very competent conductor, who benefited from advances in high fidelity recording.

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Rebecca Clarke

Rebecca Clarke (08/27/1886 – 10/13/1979) was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola. She was born in Harrow and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music in London, later becoming one of the first female professional orchestral players. Stranded in the United States at the outbreak of World War II, she settled permanently in New York City and married composer and pianist James Friskin in 1944. Clarke died at her home in New York at the age of 93.

Name: Rebecca Clarke
Date of Birth: 27 August 1886
Date of Death: 13 October 1979
Occupation: Composer, Violist
Nationality: 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 English, lived her later years in the USA
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century
Biography: 

Rebecca Clarke (08/27/1886 – 10/13/1979) was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola. She was born in Harrow and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music in London, later becoming one of the first female professional orchestral players. Stranded in the United States at the outbreak of World War II, she settled permanently in New York City and married composer and pianist James Friskin in 1944. Clarke died at her home in New York at the age of 93.

Although Clarke’s output was not large, her work was recognised for its compositional skill and artistic power. Some of her works have yet to be published (and many were only recently been published); those that were published in her lifetime were largely forgotten after she stopped composing. Scholarship and interest in her compositions revived in 1976. The Rebecca Clarke Society was established in 2000 to promote the study and performance of her music.



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Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein (08/25/1918 – 10/14/1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the US to receive worldwide acclaim. According to music critic Donal Henahan, he was “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.”

Full Name(s): born, Louis Bernstein; Leonard Bernstein; aka Lenny Amber
Occupation(s):  Composer, Conductor, Author, Music Lecturer, Pianist
Date of Birth: August 25, 1918
Date of Death: October 14, 1990
Nationality: 🇺🇸 American
Period/Era/Style:
20th century; Jazz-influence; Pop-influence

His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world’s leading orchestras, and from his music for West Side StoryPeter Pan, CandideWonderful TownOn the TownOn the Waterfront, his Mass, and a range of other compositions, including three symphonies and many shorter chamber and solo works.

Bernstein was the first conductor to give a series of television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. He was a skilled pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard. He was also a critical figure in the modern revival of the music of Gustav Mahler, the composer he was most passionately interested in.

As a composer he wrote in many styles encompassing symphonic and orchestral music, ballet, film and theatre music, choral works, opera, chamber music and pieces for the piano. Many of his works are regularly performed around the world, although none has matched the tremendous popular and critical success of West Side Story.

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Roger Nixon

Roger Nixon (1921 – 2009) was an American composer, musician, and professor of music. He wrote over 60 compositions for orchestra, band, choir and opera. Nixon received multiple awards and honors for his works, many of which contain a feel of the rhythms and dances of the early settlers of his native state of California.

Composer full Name: Roger Alfred Nixon
Date of Birth: August 8, 1921
Date of Death: October 13, 2009
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: The 20th century
Biography: Nixon was born and raised in California’s Central Valley towns of Tulare and Modesto. Nixon attended Modesto Junior College from 1938–1940 where he studied clarinet with Frank Mancini, formerly of John Philip Sousa’s band. He continued his studies at UC Berkeley, majoring in composition and receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941. His studies were then interrupted by almost four years of active duty in the Navy during World War II, serving as the commanding officer of an LCMR in the Atlantic.

Following the war Nixon returned to UC Berkeley, first receiving a M.A. degree and later a Ph.D. His primary teacher was Roger Sessions. He also studied with Arthur Bliss, Ernest Bloch, Charles Cushing, and Frederick Jacobi. In the summer of 1948, he studied privately with Arnold Schoenberg.

From 1951 to 1959, Nixon was on the music faculty at Modesto Junior College. He was then appointed to the faculty at San Francisco State College, now San Francisco State University, in 1960 and began a long association with the Symphonic Band, which premiered many of his works. Most of Nixon’s works are for band, but he has also composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo piano, choral ensembles, as well as song cycles and an opera. His most popular and most-performed work is Fiesta del Pacifico, a piece for concert band.

Nixon received several awards including a Phelan Award, the Neil A. Kjos Memorial Award, and five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was elected to the American Bandmasters Association in 1973, the same year he won the association’s Ostwald Award for his composition Festival Fanfare March. In 1997, Nixon was honored by the Texas Bandmasters Association as a Heritage American Composer. At his death, he was Professor Emeritus of Music at San Francisco State University.

His students at San Francisco State University include Kent Nagano.

Nixon died on October 13, 2009, from complications from leukemia at Mills Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame, California.


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Arthur Bliss

Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) was an English composer and conductor.

Composer full Name: Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss
Date of Birth: 02 August 1891
Date of Death: 27 March 1975
Nationality: 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 English
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century

Bliss’s musical training was cut short by the First World War, in which he served with distinction in the army. In the post-war years he quickly became known as an unconventional and modernist composer, but within the decade he began to display a more traditional and romantic side in his music. In the 1920s and 1930s he composed extensively not only for the concert hall, but also for films and ballet.

In the Second World War, Bliss returned to England from the US to work for the BBC and became its director of music. After the war he resumed his work as a composer, and was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music.

In Bliss’s later years, his work was respected but was thought old-fashioned, and it was eclipsed by the music of younger colleagues such as William Walton and Benjamin Britten. Since his death, his compositions have been well represented on record, and many of his better-known works remain in the repertoire of British orchestras.

BiographyEarly years: Bliss was born in Barnes, a London suburb, the eldest of three sons of Francis Edward Bliss (1847–1930), a businessman from Massachusetts, and his second wife, Agnes Kennard née Davis (1858–1895). Agnes Bliss died in 1895, and the boys were brought up by their father, who instilled in them a love for the arts. Bliss was educated at Bilton Grange preparatory school, Rugby and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied classics, but also took lessons in music from Charles Wood. Other influences on him during his Cambridge days were Edward Elgar, whose music made a lasting impression on him, and E.J. Dent.

Bliss graduated in classics and music in 1913 and then studied at the Royal College of Music in London for a year. At the RCM he found his composition tutor, Sir Charles Stanford, of little help to him, but found inspiration from Ralph Vaughan Williamsand Gustav Holst and his fellow-students, Herbert Howells, Eugene Goossens and Arthur Benjamin. In his brief time at the college he got to know the music of the Second Viennese School and the repertory of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with music by modern composers such as Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky.

When the First World War broke out, Bliss joined the army, and fought in France as an officer in the Royal Fusiliers until 1917 and then in the Grenadier Guards for the rest of the war. His bravery earned him a mention in despatches, and he was twice wounded and once gassed.

His younger brother Kennard was killed in the war, and his death affected Bliss deeply. The music scholar Byron Adams writes, “Despite the apparent heartiness and equilibrium of the composer’s public persona, the emotional wounds inflicted by the war were deep and lasting.” In 1918, Bliss converted to Roman Catholicism.

Early compositions   |   1940s   |   Later years


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Ernest Bloch

Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was a Swiss-born American composer. Bloch was a pre-eminent artist in his day and left a lasting legacy. He is recognised as one of the greatest Swiss composers in history. As well as producing musical scores, Bloch had an academic career that culminated in his recognition as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952.

Composer full Name: Ernest Bloch
Date of Birth: July 24, 1880
Date of Death: July 15, 1959
Nationality: American (Swiss-born)
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century
Biography: Bloch was born in Geneva on July 24, 1880 to Jewish parents. He began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon after. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. He then travelled around Europe, moving to Germany (where he studied composition from 1900–1901 with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt), on to Paris in 1903 and back to Geneva before settling in the United States in 1916, taking US citizenship in 1924. He held several teaching appointments in the USA with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Quincy Porter, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils. See: List of music students by teacher: A to B#Ernest Bloch.

In 1917, Bloch became the first teacher of composition at Mannes School of Music, a post he held for three years. In December 1920 he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. Following this he was director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music until 1930. He spent most of the following decade in Switzerland where he composed his Avodath Hakodesh (“Sacred Service”) before returning to the USA in 1939.

In 1941, Bloch moved to the small coastal community of Agate Beach, Oregon and lived there the rest of his life. He taught and lectured (mostly summers) at the University of California, Berkeley until 1951. In 1952 he is named “Professeur Eméritus de l’Université de Berkeley,” even though he was not a full-time professor.

He died on July 15, 1959 in Portland, Oregon, of cancer at the age of 78. In keeping with a special tradition, Lucienne Bloch and her husband, Steve Dimitroff, prepared several death masks of Ernest Bloch. This once-common practice was usually undertaken to create a memento or portrait of the deceased, but it is unusual for an immediate family member to make the death mask. The Center for Creative Photography and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music each have a copy of Bloch’s death mask. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered near his home in Agate Beach.

     Family   Photography   Legacy


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Ottorino Respighi

Ottorino Respighi (9 July 1879 – 18 April 1936) was an Italian violinist, composer and musicologist, best known for his three orchestral tone poems Fountains of Rome (1916), Pines of Rome (1924), and Roman Festivals (1928). His musicological interest in 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century music led him to compose pieces based on the music of these periods. He also wrote several operas, the most famous being La fiamma.

Respighi’s Career

Composer full Name: Ottorino Respighi
Date of Birth: 09 July 1879
Date of Death: 18 April 1936
Nationality: Italian
Period/Era/Style: 20th century, impressionism
Biography: Early life: Ottorino Respighi was born on 9 July 1879 in an apartment inside Palazzo Fantuzzi on Via Guido Reni in Bologna, Italy, into a musical family. His father, a local piano teacher, encouraged his son’s musical inclinations and taught him basic piano and violin at an early age. Not long into his violin lessons, however, Respighi suddenly quit after his teacher whacked him on the hand with a ruler when he had played a passage incorrectly. He resumed lessons several weeks later with a more patient teacher. His piano skills too, were a hit and miss affair, but his father arrived home one day surprised to find his son reciting Symphonic Studies by Robert Schumannon the family piano, revealing that he had learned it by himself in secret.

Respighi studied the violin and viola with Federico Sarti at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, composition with Giuseppe Martucci, and historical studies with Luigi Torchi, a scholar of early music. Respighi passed his exams and received a diploma in the violin, in 1899. By the time his studies had finished, he had acquired a large book collection, the majority of which were atlases and dictionaries due to his interest in languages.


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Percy Grainger

Percy Grainger (08 July 1882 – 20 February 1961) was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. In the course of a long and innovative career, he played a prominent role in the revival of interest in British folk music in the early years of the 20th century. Although much of his work was experimental and unusual, the piece with which he is most generally associated is his piano arrangement of the folk-dance tune “Country Gardens”.

Grainger left Australia at the age of 13 to attend the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. Between 1901 and 1914 he was based in London, where he established himself first as a society pianist and later as a concert performer, composer and collector of original folk melodies. As his reputation grew he met many of the significant figures in European music, forming important friendships with Frederick Delius and Edvard Grieg. He became a champion of Nordic music and culture, his enthusiasm for which he often expressed in private letters, sometimes in crudely racial or anti-Semitic terms.

In 1914, Grainger moved to the United States, where he lived for the rest of his life, though he travelled widely in Europe and in Australia. He served briefly as a bandsman in the United States Army during 1917–18, and took American citizenship in 1918. After his mother’s suicide in 1922 he became increasingly involved in educational work. He also experimented with music machines that he hoped would supersede human interpretation. In the 1930s he set up the Grainger Museum in Melbourne, his birthplace, as a monument to his life and works and as a future research archive. As he grew older he continued to give concerts and to revise and rearrange his own compositions, while writing little new music. After the Second World War, ill health reduced his levels of activity, and he considered his career a failure. He gave his last concert in 1960, less than a year before his death

Composer full Name: George Percy Aldridge Grainger
Date of Birth: 08 July 1882
Date of Death: 20 February 1961
Nationality: Australian/American in 1918
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Biography: Early life: Family background   |   Childhood   |   Frankfurt
London years: Concert pianist   |   Emergent composer
Career maturity:   Departure for America   |   Career zenith
Inter-war years:   Traveller   |   Educator   |   Innovator
Later career:   Second World War   |   Postwar decline   |   Last years


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Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.

Composer full Name: Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky
Date of Birth: 17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882
Date of Death: 06 April 1971
Nationality: Russian-born, Naturalized American in 1945
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Contribution(s): Stravinsky’s compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Serge Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: The Firebird(1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The last of these transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky’s enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical design. His “Russian phase” which continued with works such as Renard, the Soldier’s Tale and Les Noces, was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassical music. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue and symphony), drawing on earlier styles, especially from the 18th century. In the 1950s, Stravinsky adopted serial procedures. His compositions of this period shared traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells and clarity of form, and of instrumentation.

 

Biography: Early life in the Russian Empire   |   Stravinsky and Ukraine   |   Life in Switzerland   |   Life in France   |   Life in the United States   |   Innovation and influence   |   Personality   |   Religion   |   Reception   |   Awards   |   Recordings and publications

Music: Russian period (c. 1907–1919)   |   Neoclassical period (c. 1920–1954)   |   Serial period (1954–1968)


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