Stephen Foster (1826-1864) born on the 4th of July, known as “the father of American music”, was an American songwriter known primarily for his parlor and minstrel music. Foster wrote over 200 songs; among his best-known are “Oh! Susanna“, “Hard Times Come Again No More“, “Camptown Races“, “Old Folks at Home” (“Swanee River”), “My Old Kentucky Home“, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair“, “Old Black Joe“, and “Beautiful Dreamer“. Many of his compositions remain popular more than 150 years after he wrote them. His compositions are thought to be autobiographical. He has been identified as “the most famous songwriter of the nineteenth century” and may be the most recognizable American composer in other countries. His compositions are sometimes referred to as “childhood songs” because they have been included in the music curriculum of early education. Most of his handwritten music manuscripts are lost, but copies printed by publishers of his day can be found in various collections.
Composer full Name: Johannes Brahms Date of Birth: 07 May 1833 Date of Death: 03 April 1897 Nationality: German Period/Era/Style: Romantic Contribution(s): Brahms was a German composer and pianist of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria. His reputation and status as a composer is such that he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the “Three Bs” of music, a comment originally made by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow.
Brahms composed for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, piano, organ, and voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works. He worked with some of the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim (the three were close friends). Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. An uncompromising perfectionist, Brahms destroyed some of his works and left others unpublished.
Brahms has been considered, by his contemporaries and by later writers, as both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Classical masters. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as Arnold Schoenberg and Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms’s works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers. Embedded within his meticulous structures, however, are deeply romantic motifs.
Composer: Eduard “Edi” Strauss Date of Birth: 15 March 1835 Date of Death: 28 December 1916 Nationality: Austrian Period/Era/Style: Contribution(s): Strauss, Eduard was an Austrian composer who, together with brothers Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss made up the Strauss musical dynasty. He was the son of Johann Strauss I and Maria Anna Streim. The family dominated the Viennese light music world for decades, creating many waltzes and polkas for many Austrian nobility as well as dance-music enthusiasts around Europe. He was affectionately known in his family as ‘Edi’.
Biography: Life and Music: Eduard Strauss’ style was individual and did not attempt to emulate the works of his other brothers or his contemporaries. But he was primarily remembered and recognized as a dance music conductor rather than as a major composer in the Strauss family, and his popularity was overshadowed by that of his elder brothers. Realizing this, he stamped his own mark with the quick polka, known in German as the “polka-schnell”. Among the more popular polkas that he penned for the Strauss Orchestra, which he continued to conduct until its disbandment on 13 February 1901, were “Bahn Frei!”, Op. 45, “Ausser Rand und Band”, Op. 168, and “Ohne Bremse”, Op. 238. He also found time to pen a few lovely waltzes, of which only a handful survived obscurity. The most famous is probably “Doctrinen”, Op.79.
Strauss’s musical career was pervaded with rivalry, not only from his brothers, but also from the military bandmaster and dance music composer Karl Michael Ziehrer, who even formed a rival orchestra called “Formerly Eduard Strauss Orchestra”, and began giving concerts in Vienna under this new title. Eduard Strauss successfully filed a court action against Ziehrer for the improper and misleading use of his name, but Ziehrer would eventually surpass the Strauss family in popularity in Vienna, particularly after the deaths of his more talented brothers, Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss. Their rivalry was to extend until the Strauss Orchestra was disbanded.
Strauss married Maria Klenkhart on 8 January 1863 and had two sons, Johann Strauss III and Josef Eduard Strauss. The elder son, Johann Strauss III, was to lead the Strauss revival well into the 20th century. Josef Eduard’s son, Eduard Strauss II, was active as conductor.
However, personal setbacks in the 1890s, such as the death of brother Johann Strauss II in 1899, and his realization that his immediate family had squandered his personal fortune, led Eduard Strauss to decide on retirement. Eduard Strauss engaged in the final tour of his musical career to North America in 1899 and in 1901, disbanded the Strauss Orchestra, and returned to Vienna, where he died in 1916. He retired from public life and never actively took part in any public musical activity, although he did document his family memoirs titled Erinnerungen in 1906. He is buried in Zentralfriedhof (Vienna) cemetery.
Since 1825, the Strauss Orchestra Archives collected the compositions of not only Eduard, but of Johann II and the rest of the Strauss family. In 1907, Eduard instructed that the archives be burned. Eighty years later, conductors Alfred Walker and Klaus Heymann managed to put together a semi-complete collection of Johann’s works (according to Johann Strauss II: The Complete Orchestral Edition).
Composer: Bedřich Smetana Date of Birth: 02 March 1824 Date of Death: 12 May 1884 Nationality: Czech Period/Era/Style: Middle Romantic Contribution(s): Smetana was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country’s aspirations to independent statehood. He has been regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast (“My Homeland”), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer’s native land.
Smetana was naturally gifted as a composer, and gave his first public performance at the age of 6. After conventional schooling, he studied music under Josef Proksch in Prague. His first nationalistic music was written during the 1848 Prague uprising, in which he briefly participated. After failing to establish his career in Prague, he left for Sweden, where he set up as a teacher and choirmaster in Gothenburg, and began to write large-scale orchestral works. During this period of his life Smetana was twice married; of six daughters, three died in infancy.
In the early 1860s, a more liberal political climate in Bohemia encouraged Smetana to return permanently to Prague. He threw himself into the musical life of the city, primarily as a champion of the new genre of Czech opera. In 1866 his first two operas, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride, were premiered at Prague’s new Provisional Theatre, the latter achieving great popularity. In that same year, Smetana became the theatre’s principal conductor, but the years of his conductorship were marked by controversy. Factions within the city’s musical establishment considered his identification with the progressive ideas of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner inimical to the development of a distinctively Czech opera style. This opposition interfered with his creative work, and might have hastened a decline in health that precipitated his resignation from the theatre in 1874.
By the end of 1874, Smetana had become completely deaf but, freed from his theatre duties and the related controversies, he began a period of sustained composition that continued for almost the rest of his life. His contributions to Czech music were increasingly recognised and honoured, but a mental collapse early in 1884 led to his incarceration in an asylum and subsequent death. Smetana’s reputation as the founding father of Czech music has endured in his native country, where advocates have raised his status above that of his contemporaries and successors. However, relatively few of Smetana’s works are in the international repertory, and most foreign commentators tend to regard Antonín Dvořák as a more significant Czech composer.
Composer: John Knowles Paine Date of Birth: January 9, 1839 Date of Death: April 25, 1906 Nationality: American Period/Era/Style: Middle Romantic Contribution(s): Paine was the first American-born composer to achieve fame for large-scale orchestral music. The senior member of a group of composers collectively known as the Boston Six, Paine was one of those responsible for the first significant body of concert music by composers from the United States. The Boston Six’s other five members were Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Edward MacDowell, George Chadwick, and Horatio Parker.
Biography: Paine grew up in a musical family in Maine. His grandfather, an instrument maker, built the first pipe organ in the state of Maine and his father and uncles were all music teachers. His father carried on the family musical instrument business. One uncle was an organist. Another was a composer. In the 1850s Paine took lessons in organ and composition from Hermann Kotzschmar, completing his first composition, a string quartet, in 1855 at the age of 16. After his first organ recital in 1857, he was appointed organist of Portland’s Haydn Society, and gave a series of recitals with the object of funding a trip to Europe where he hoped to further his music education.
On arrival in Europe Paine studied organ with Carl August Haupt and orchestration with Friedrich Wilhelm Wieprecht in Berlin. He also toured Europe giving organ recitals for three years, establishing a reputation as an organist that would precede his return to the United States. After returning to the US and settling in Boston in 1861, he was appointed Harvard’s first University organist and choirmaster. While acting in this role Paine offered free courses in music appreciation and music theory that would become the core curriculum for Harvard’s newly formed academic music department (the first such department in the United States) and his appointment as America’s first music professor. He would remain a member of the faculty of Harvard until 1905, just a year before his death.
Paine’s well received 1867 Berlin premiere of Mass in D would give Paine a reputation that helped him to shape the musical infrastructure of the United States. His pioneering courses in music appreciation and music theory made the curriculum of Department of Music at Harvard a model for American Departments of Music. His service as a director of The New England Conservatory of Music (and the lectures he gave there) establish his place at the root of an instruction chain that leads (through Eugene Thayer) from George Chadwick to Horatio Parker to Charles Ives. He was the first guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the final concerts of its first season, and his works were audience favorites. Paine is noted for beginning American’s symphonic tradition. He is also known for writing America’s first oratorio (St. Peter), the Centennial Hymn that (with orchestra) opened the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, was a founder of American Guild of Organists, and co-editor of “Famous Composers and their Works”.
In 1889, Paine made one of the first musical recordings on wax cylinder with Theo Wangemann, who was experimenting with sound recording on the newly invented phonograph.
John Knowles Paine was among the initial class of inductees into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
The Grove Music Encyclopedia says of him:
“… Paine served the Harvard community for 43 years. By his presence and by his serious concern with music in a liberal arts college he awakened a regard for music among many generations of Harvard men. His writings testify to his insistence upon the place of music within the liberal arts…”
Paine Hall, the concert hall for Harvard’s Department of Music, is named after him. A history of that building includes many references to his pioneering role in music at Harvard.
Composer: Max Christian Friedrich Bruch also known as Max Karl August Bruch Date of Birth: 06 January 1838 Date of Death: 02 October 1920 Nationality: German Period/Era/Style: Romantic Contribution(s): Bruch was a German Romanticcomposer and conductor who wrote over 200 works, including three violin concertos, the first of which has become a staple of the violin repertory.
Biography: Early life and education: Bruch was born in Cologne, the son of Wilhelmine (née Almenräder), a singer, and August Carl Friedrich Bruch, a lawyer who became vice president of the Cologne police. Max had a sister, Mathilde (“Till”).
He received his early musical training under the composer and pianist Ferdinand Hiller, to whom Robert Schumann dedicated his piano concerto in A minor. The Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles recognized his aptitude. At the age of nine he wrote his first composition, a song for his mother’s birthday. From then on music was his passion, and his studies were enthusiastically supported by his parents. He wrote many minor early works including motets, psalm settings, piano pieces, violin sonatas, a string quartet and even orchestral works such as the prelude to a planned opera Joan of Arc. Few of these early works have survived, however.
The first music theory lesson he had was in 1849 in Bonn, and it was given to him by Professor Heinrich Carl Breidenstein, a friend of his father. At this time he was staying at an estate in Bergisch Gladbach, where he wrote much of his music. The farm belonged to a lawyer and notary called Neissen, who lived in it with his unmarried sister. Later the estate was bought by the Zanders family who owned a large paper mill. The young Bruch was taught French and English conversation by his father. In later years, Maria Zanders became a friend and patron.
Career: Bruch had a long career as a teacher, conductor and composer, moving among musical posts in Germany: Mannheim (1862–1864), Koblenz (1865–1867), Sondershausen, (1867–1870), Berlin(1870–1872), and Bonn, where he spent 1873–78 working privately. At the height of his career he spent three seasons as conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (1880–83).
Composer: Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev Date of Birth: 02 January 1837 [O.S. 21 December 1836][see more about old style (O.S.) and new style dating HERE] Date of Death: 29 May [O.S. 16 May] 1910 Nationality: Russian Period/Era/Style: Middle Romantic-era Contribution(s): Balakirev was a Russian pianist, conductor and composer known today primarily for his work promoting musical nationalism and his encouragement of more famous Russian composers, notably Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He began his career as a pivotal figure, extending the fusion of traditional folk music and experimental classical music practices begun by composer Mikhail Glinka. In the process, Balakirev developed musical patterns that could express overt nationalistic feeling. After a nervous breakdown and consequential sabbatical, he returned to classical music but did not wield the same level of influence as before.
In conjunction with critic and fellow nationalist Vladimir Stasov, in the late-1850s and early 1860s Balakirev brought together the composers now known as The Five—the others were Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. For several years, Balakirev was the only professional musician of the group; the others were amateurs limited in musical education. He imparted to them his musical beliefs, which continued to underlie their thinking long after he left the group in 1871, and encouraged their compositional efforts. While his methods could be dictatorial, the results of his influence were several works which established these composers’ reputations individually and as a group. He performed a similar function for Tchaikovsky at two points in the latter’s career—in 1868–9 with the fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet and in 1882–5 with the Manfred Symphony.
As a composer, Balakirev finished major works many years after he had started them; he began his First Symphony in 1864 but completed it in 1897. The exception to this was his oriental fantasy Islamey for solo piano, which he composed quickly and remains popular among virtuosos. Often, the musical ideas normally associated with Rimsky-Korsakov or Borodin originated in Balakirev’s compositions, which Balakirev played at informal gatherings of The Five. However, his slow pace in completing works for the public deprived him of credit for his inventiveness, and pieces that would have enjoyed success had they been completed in the 1860s and 1870s made a much smaller impact
Composer: Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein Date of Birth: November 28 [O.S. November 16] 1829 Date of Death: November 20 [O.S. November 8] 1894 Nationality: Russian Period/Era/Style: Middle Romantic Contribution(s): Rubinstein was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor who became a pivotal figure in Russian culture when he founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He was the elder brother of Nikolai Rubinstein who founded the Moscow Conservatory. As a pianist, Rubinstein ranks among the great 19th-century keyboard virtuosos. He became most famous for his series of historical recitals—seven enormous, consecutive concerts covering the history of piano music. Rubinstein played this series throughout Russia and Eastern Europe and in the United States when he toured there.
Although best remembered as a pianist and educator (most notably in the latter as the composition teacher of Tchaikovsky), Rubinstein was also a prolific composer throughout much of his life. He wrote 20 operas, the best known of which is The Demon. He composed a large number of other works, including five piano concertos, six symphonies and a large number of solo piano works along with a substantial output of works for chamber ensemble.