As American classical music struggled for recognition in the mid-nineteenth century, George Frederick Bristow emerged as one of its most energetic champions and practitioners. Katherine K. Preston explores the life and works of a figure admired in his own time and credited today with producing the first American grand opera and composing important works that ranged from oratorios to symphonies to chamber music. Preston reveals Bristow's passion for creating and promoting music, his skills as a businessman and educator, the respect paid him by contemporaries and students, and his tireless work as both a composer and in-demand performer. As she examines Bristow against the backdrop of the music scene in New York City, Preston illuminates the little-known creative and performance culture that he helped define and create. Vivid and richly detailed, George Frederick Bristow enriches our perceptions of musical life in nineteenth-century America.
This dissertation centers on creating a new critical edition of the Rip Van Winkle overture. One of America's earliest opera composers, George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898), completed the opera Rip Van Winkle in 1855. When he revised it twenty-five years later in 1880, the composer omitted the original overture which was then thought to be lost. A concert version of this overture exists today only in manuscript form, located at the New York Public Library. Rip Van Winkle is significant to the history of American Music because it is one of the earliest operas composed by an American, and the first to be written on American subject matter (in this case, Washington Irving's story of the same name). Adding to the work's considerable historical significance is that the overture was one of the first American pieces performed by the New York Philharmonic Society, in which Bristow was a violinist. There is currently no scholarly edition of the overture, and thus this edition will fill a significant gap in the understanding of nineteenth-century American music. This critical edition of the overture to George Frederick Bristow's Rip Van Winkle was created in order to be published and available for performance and study, shedding light on the often under-represented American opera in the United States.
The Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Enterprise
Author: Douglas Shadle
Publisher: Oxford University Press
During the nineteenth century, nearly one hundred symphonies were written by over fifty composers living in the United States. With few exceptions, this repertoire is virtually forgotten today. In Orchestrating the Nation: The Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Enterprise, author Douglas W. Shadle explores the stunning stylistic diversity of this substantial repertoire and uncovers why it failed to enter the musical mainstream. Throughout the century, Americans longed for a distinct national musical identity. As the most prestigious of all instrumental genres, the symphony proved to be a potent vehicle in this project as composers found inspiration for their works in a dazzling array of subjects, including Niagara Falls, Hiawatha, and Western pioneers. With a wealth of musical sources at his disposal, including never-before-examined manuscripts, Shadle reveals how each component of the symphonic enterprise-from its composition, to its performance, to its immediate and continued reception by listeners and critics-contributed to competing visions of American identity. Employing an innovative transnational historical framework, Shadle's narrative covers three continents and shows how the music of major European figures such as Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, Liszt, Brahms, and Dvorák exerted significant influence over dialogues about the future of American musical culture. Shadle demonstrates that the perceived authority of these figures allowed snobby conductors, capricious critics, and even orchestral musicians themselves to thwart the efforts of American symphonists despite widespread public support of their music. Consequently, these works never entered the performing canons of American orchestras. An engagingly written account of a largely unknown repertoire, Orchestrating the Nation shows how artistic and ideological debates from the nineteenth century continue to shape the culture of American orchestral music today.