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THE COMMENTARIES AND CRITICISMS OF
WILLIAM FOSTER APTHORP
ROBERT B. NELSON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Robert B. Nelson
As one wends along the path of scholarly endeavors, there are certain
markers that seem to say you are on the right track. My supervising chairman, Dr.
David Kushner, is one of the most illuminating of those markers. He has guided my
progress not only through his feedback but by his example as well, and I shall always
be indebted to him. The others of my committee have also taken numerous hours
out of their schedules to lend a hand. Special thanks go to Dr. Camille Smith for
her willingness to step in on relatively short notice. Another valuable asset to any
researcher is those librarians who provide much-needed technical assistance.
Robena Cornwell, the music librarian, and the interlibrary loan staff deserve my
gratitude. I wish to acknowledge my parents for their support and for encouraging
me to persevere toward lofty goals, and past teachers and professors who have
provided me with the specific tools and examples to achieve them. I especially wish
to thank my wife, Diane, for her encouragement and for keeping things going while
I was "away." Otto and BJ have also been somewhat neglected while I was hard at
work on this project, and I look forward to spending more time with them. Finally,
I wish to express thanks to friends and fellow students who have always had an
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..................................... iii
ABSTRACT .................................... ........... vi
1 INTRODUCTION ............. ........... ............ 1
The Problem .................. ........... ........... 6
Research Questions ................................... 11
Focus of the Study .................. .................. 12
Limitations ................... ....................... 13
Significance of the Study ................................. 13
Assumptions................... ............ .......... 15
Review of the Literature ................................. 16
Method of Analysis ..................................... 22
2 JOHN SULLIVAN DWIGHT ....................... .......... 25
3 ATLANTIC MONTHLY ................................. 50
The Folio ....... ......... ........ .......... 50
Dexter Smith's Paper ........................ ........... 59
Dwight's Journal and the Atlantic Monthly ................... 67
4 BOSTON EVENING TRANSCRIPT ........................ 99
Edward H. Clement .................................... 100
Boston Daily Advertiser .................................. 104
William Foster Apthorp ................................. 107
Henry T. Parker .................. .................... 111
Specific Reviews .................. .................... 117
5 BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PROGRAMME ........... 161
General Comparison .................................. 164
Specific W orks ............................ ........... 178
6 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS ........................ 199
Musicians and Music-Lovers .............................. 200
Johann Sebastian Bach .................................. 204
Additional Accompaniments to Bach's and Handel's Scores ....... 209
Giacomo Meyerbeer .................................... 219
Jacques Offenbach ..................................... 223
Two Modem Classicists (Robert Franz and Otto Dresel) ......... 226
John Sullivan Dwight ................................... 231
Some Thoughts on Musical Criticism .................. ..... 232
Music and Science ..................................... 234
7 OTHER WRITINGS ................................... 242
Hector Berlioz .... .................................. 242
By the Way, Vol. 1, "About Music"......................... 247
By the Way, Vol. 2, "About Musicians" ...................... 253
The Opera Past and Present............................... 259
8 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS ....................... 268
Summary ............................................ 268
Conclusions .......................................... 270
Implications for Higher Education .......................... 272
Suggestions for Further Research .......................... 274
APPENDIX A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
WILLIAM FOSTER APTHORP ............................. 278
APPENDIX B WRITINGS OF WILLIAM FOSTER APTHORP .... 283
APPENDIX C INDEX OF TOPICS, MUSICIANS, AND MUSIC
REVIEWED IN THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, 1872-1877 .......... 285
BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................................... 302
Books and Articles ....................................... 302
Journals and Newspapers ................................... 308
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................. 309
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE COMMENTARIES AND CRITICISMS OF
WILLIAM FOSTER APTHORP
Robert B. Nelson
Chairman: Dr. David Z. Kushner
Major Department: Instruction and Curriculum
Much is known and has been written of John Sullivan Dwight, Boston's infamous
music critic of the latter 1800s, largely due to the significance of his Journal of Music.
Likewise, there is much information available on the life and work of Philip Hale
and other well-known music critics around the turn of the century. However, the
man in the middle, William Foster Apthorp, has received no attention in the
literature whatsoever. This is unfortunate, since it was Apthorp who parted from
Dwight's dogmatic style of music criticism and developed a more temperate,
objective, personal-opinion style that became the norm for critics that followed.
Apthorp wrote music columns for the Atlantic Monthly, the Boston Courier, and
the Boston Evening Traveller. His most remarkable work, however, was for the
Boston Evening Transcript, from 1881-1903. Apthorp was praised for his
open-mindedness, perception, and common sense, and he successfully balanced
progressive and conservative viewpoints in his criticisms. He championed new music
and American music. Ever mindful that the public was his true audience, his lucid,
instructive writing style appealed to everyone.
Although he had significant influence on public taste and music criticism as a
form of literature, Apthorp is better known for his commentaries. He was the
annotator for the Boston Symphony Orchestra Programme book, authored several
books about music, and selected, translated, and edited writings of Hector Berlioz
and Emile Zola, as well as songs by Robert Franz and Adolf Jensen. In these
educational writings he used his vast knowledge of science, math, psychology, and
painters and writers to inform the public on the proper relationship of music to
society. In so doing, he provided modern music scholars with valuable accounts of
some little-known musical matters.
William Foster Apthorp was a significant influence both on his public and on
the next generation of music critics. Others have gained recognition for their work,
but it was Apthorp who paved the way for them, enabling them to flourish. It is
time he received credit for his notable work.
There are two major areas of concern to music educators: musical concepts
or content, and the teaching of those concepts or content. The content area that is
the most exhaustive, and is therefore the most interesting and receives considerable
attention, is the history of music.For example, the time line of music history is
divided into style periods, such as Baroque and Romantic, based on various features
that the music of that style period has in common, and music curricula require
courses in such style periods. Music students, then, do learn something about music
of the past. What is often missing from music courses, even at higher levels, is an
examination of the people who listened to that music as evidenced by those who
wrote about them, the music critics. Critics' views were but a reflection of society,
its tastes and appreciations. This study will focus on one such music critic, William
Foster Apthorp, and will legitimize the study of his criticisms in higher lever
As important and elemental as the study of composers and their music is, it
is unidirectional. It flows from the composer to the audience. It is here that the
role of music criticism comes into sharp focus, for it is the music critic who records
for posterity how society feels about the music it is hearing. Although the role of
music critics is extremely valuable, little research has been completed in this area,
and music criticism is largely missing from music curricula in higher education.
Perhaps a fundamental cause for this shortcoming is the subjective nature of such
a study. Music criticism is but a branch of the stout trunk of musicology. Music
theory, historiography, performance practice, bibliography, and acoustics and physics
are only a few of the areas of "hard" research wherein definitive data are sought to
discover relics of the past. For example, music students learn that La Serva Pedrona
was a comic intermezzo composed by Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-36). Its first
performance in Paris took place without incident in 1746. Such definitive data will
The raison d'tre for music critics, on the other hand, is the audience, which
is always changing and is more difficult to "define." When La Serva Pedrona played
in Paris only six years later, in 1752, the attitude of the audience was so different
that its performance sparked what is now known as the "War of the Buffoons," and
an entirely new style of opera, comic opera, was born.1
Music criticism, then, is an extremely valuable area of study, since it calls
attention to the audience. Commentaries on musical matters significantly enliven
the music for future generations, for they are provided through the writings of critics
a social context. We are able to experience vicariously the music as it was, which
enhances our hearing of it today and deepens our understanding and appreciation.
A study of a music critic, then, would be enlightening and informative.
Criticism itself is difficult to define. We have often heard it said that
everyone is a critic. But just what is a critic, or just what is it that everyone is doing
1 For more on the War of the Buffoons, see the essay on Giacomo Meyerbeer
in Chapter 6, "Musicians and Music-Lovers," 219ff.
when they are being "critical"? That is a question that has received more attention
within the general heading of music criticism than any other. Today's music journals
are sprinkled with regular contributions attempting to clarify the goals of criticism.
Ever since musicians and journalists have been writing music reviews of one sort or
another there has been a concomitant discussion, either from the pen of the writer
himself or from a second or even third party, of what the role of a music critic is.
What is the objective? What are they attempting to accomplish?
These are pertinent queries, and the answers naturally lead to discussions of
how critics go about their work. For example, is the writing style appropriate? Does
the critic accomplish the task by writing stinging, caustic reviews, or would a less
dogmatic approach, perhaps, be more suitable? Does the critic broach topics of
discussion that are pertinent, or are there areas that are extraneous to the topic at
hand? This is, in itself, a noteworthy feature of music criticism, for what is discussed
in reviews, especially consistently among critics of a particular time and place, is a
reflection of the people of that time and place. About what are they interested in
reading? Are they interested in musical compositions, or how the ensemble or
soloist sounded, or how the performers) were attired, or who else was at the
performance and what they wore and how they behaved?
The role of a music critic, then, is not a simple one, nor can it be described
simply. Oscar Thompson's statement that "criticism is opinion and opinion is
criticism" does little to clarify the issue.2 Nevertheless, it is a valid statement, and
2 Oscar Thompson, Practical Musical Criticism (New York: M. Witmark & Sons,
it was written in all candor. The task is never-ending, and the reason for this endless
discussion deals more with the audience--the readers--than with musicians and music.
To Joseph Kerman, "Criticism deals with pieces of music and men listening, with fact
and feeling, with the life of the past in the present, with the composer's private
image in the public mirror of an audience."3
Each generation formulates its own perspective on current events, even in the
arts, based on what has preceded it and on where it hopes to go from there. There
is no aspect of a culture that is not redefined in this manner, and music is no
exception. As demonstrated in the La Serva Pedrona example, the music did not
change. What did change was the manner in which a new generation perceived that
music. As historical events unfold, ideas and values are re-examined in light of the
new present. There comes a time when a society contemplates the past, reconsiders
it, and honors it or casts it aside. It has to move on from there, however, with its
own sense of ethics and values. Thompson's observation on criticism and opinion,
then, begins to ring true.
The role of a music critic, as seen in its practice throughout the ages, is to
offer insight and opinion with regard to musical tastes and standards. One
qualification of a music critic, then, is keen perception of the components of music,
or what is considered compositional craftsmanship, and, more important, of the
affective impact of music. Call it cultivated musical taste. More than any other art
form, music has the capacity to affect human feelings and emotions. What is
3 Joseph Kerman, "A Profile for American Musicology," Journal of the American
Musicological Society 18 (Spring 1965): 63.
emotionally stimulating and pleasing to one society, however, probably will not have
the same effect on another. Witness La Serva Pedrona. The emotional impact of
the music, therefore, needs to be reconsidered.
There is more to music criticism than musical knowledge and taste. The critic
must also possess journalistic skill, the ability to convey ideas in a manner that is
comprehensible to the audience. Oscar Thompson states the case plainly: "The
ability to write is second to no other qualification.... Criticism is literature ....
Vital among the critic's qualifications is the literary gift .. The critic .must
possess and cultivate a love of words."4
It is clear, then, that a critic who is not read is not contributing to his society.
Indeed, the critic who is widely read by his constituents may be taken as a faithful
representative of the values of his society.
A third qualification of a music critic is fair, practical assessment of what is
heard. The public will tolerate a writer so long as the content is accurate.
Sentimental attachments aside, if a concert were poorly done, the critic is not out
of bounds in saying so. If, however, the critic seems to engage in personal vendettas,
needlessly attacking the musicians, then the public will soon lose respect for the
writer, and the effect will be lost.
Music educators traditionally study the music of the past. It is also important,
however, to go beyond the music itself and to study, at least to some degree, how
the people felt about music in their day. Music critics play a key role in this
extended study of the history of music, and music educators need to be
4 Thompson, Practical Musical Criticism, 26f.
knowledgeable of critics' views of music in order to develop curricula and
instructional techniques at higher levels of education that will present a more-
comprehensive impression of music in society throughout its history.
The purpose of this study is to investigate the musical criticisms and other
written works of William Foster Apthorp (1848-1913). There have been studies
completed on his immediate predecessor and successor in Boston--John Sullivan
Dwight and Philip Hale, respectively. No research has been published on Apthorp,
however, and this study is intended to fill that gap.
It was John Sullivan Dwight (1813-93) who became the first significant voice
in musical matters in America. Dwight's Journal of Music, which graced the
American scene from 1852 until 1881, was the first organ of musical thought and
opinion that succeeded in interesting the musically literate, the musically untrained,
and even the musically indifferent reader.
Because his Journal is such a rich source of information about music in
America during the latter half of the nineteenth century, much study has focused on
Dwight and the precedents of music criticism that he established. There have been
four dissertations in the past thirty-five years devoted to John Sullivan Dwight:
Walter L. Fertig, "John Sullivan Dwight: Transcendentalist and Literary Amateur of
Music"; Marcia Wilson Lebow, "A Systematic Examination of the 'Journal of Music
and Art,' Edited by John Sullivan Dwight: 1852-1881, Boston, Massachusetts";
William Joseph Beasley, "The Organ in America, As Portrayed in Dwight's 'Journal
of Music,'"; and William Anson Call, "A Study of the Transcendental Aesthetic
Theories of John S. Dwight and Charles E. Ives and the Relationship of Those
Theories to their Respective Work as Music Critic and Composer." In addition,
George Willis Cooke has written a biography on Dwight: John Sullivan Dwight: Brook
Farmer, Editor, and Critic of Music. There has been sufficient research, then, into
Dwight and the mark he has made on the history of music in the United States.
It may seem extraordinary, but in spite of his esteemed reputation as a writer
of music in Boston, Dwight never undertook any formal study of music. His degree,
which he took from Harvard University in 1836, was from the Divinity School. He
was always an enthusiastic supporter, however, of music as an art. To him, the aim
of art music, as well as the other art forms, was "to remedy the effects of
materialistic society by familiarizing men with the beautiful and the infinite."5
Indeed, even in his Harvard dissertation, "The Proper Character of Poetry and Music
for Public Worship," he expressed a need to view music on its own terms and as a
means of genuine culture.
The views Dwight expressed, however, were of a man who experienced music
more than studied it. His mother had a keen sense of aesthetic value and beauty
which had a lasting impact on him. It was this affinity for the beautiful in music,
coupled with his intense desire to write his thoughts and his ability to do so in a
popular manner, that made possible his reputation as an authority on music.
In Introduction to Musicology Glen Haydon addressed the issue of the
shortcoming of the appreciation of aesthetic values by itself in music criticism:
5 H. Wiley Hitchcock, Music in the United States: A Historical Introduction
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969), 47.
Criticism implies evaluation. It is based upon evaluation but is not
identical to it. The critical evaluation of a work of art implies more
than a mere appreciation of aesthetic values; it requires a justification
of the evaluative judgment through pointing out potential aesthetic
values. Hence, criticism is not mere evaluation, but justification
through intelligent description and comparison.6
This statement would explain Dwight's dogmatic approach to music criticism.
His sense of aesthetic value, gifted as it was, nevertheless lacked a rigorous
involvement of the intellect. He relied on feeling, not thought; on imagination, not
understanding.7 His opinions could never be explained; they could only be felt.
Fertig also noted Dwight's disdain for education; he always had trouble coping in the
real world, and he lamented that his education did him little good in finding a
secure vocation.8 Aside from Dwight's chapter "The History of Music in Boston" in
Justin Winsor's The Memorial History of Boston and Dwight's continuation of Charles
C. Perkins's History of the Handel and Haydn Society, Fertig concluded that "Dwight
had little taste for research or antiquarianism."9 It would seem inevitable, then, that
some change had to take place to further music criticism in the United States.
SGlen Haydon, Introduction to Musicology: A Survey of the Fields, Systematic and
Historical of Musical Knowledge and Research (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1941), 151.
7 Walter Fertig, "John Sullivan Dwight: Transcendentalist and Literary Amateur
of Music" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, 1952), 65f.
8 Ibid., 180f.
9 Ibid., 256. The references are to Justin Winsor, The Memorial History of Boston
4 (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1881): 415-64, and Charles C. Perkins and John S.
Dwight, History of the Handel and Haydn Society, of Boston, Massachusetts (New
York: Da Capo Press, 1977). Perkins completed only the first three chapters, and
Dwight wrote chapters four through fifteen.
The next Boston critic who receives attention is Philip Hale (1854-1934),
although less research has been completed into his life and work than Dwight's. At
least one dissertation has been cited: Jean Ann Boyd, "Philip Hale, American Music
Critic, Boston, 1889-1933." Hale wrote for several Boston dailies during his
illustrious career. Standard music biographical dictionaries have made glowing
pronouncements regarding his writing of the program notes for the Boston
Symphony Orchestra, which he recorded from 1901 to 1933.
There is even an entry for Hale in the monumental Die Musik in Geschichte
und Gegenwart.10 What is curious about this fact is the absence of an entry for John
Sullivan Dwight, who was perhaps better known in Europe than Hale. It is no
surprise that Apthorp is not included. Finally, although Henry W. Levinger does
mention Apthorp in "The Critic's Eye View," he further asserts that "the greatest
critic of this time was his successor in writing the program notes [of the Boston
Symphony Orchestra] up to 1933, Philip Hale."" Warren Storey Smith wrote on
"Four Distinguished American Music Critics--A Centennial Note," and his discussion
includes Hale and three New Yorkers: Henry Krehbiel, William Henderson, and
Henry Finck.12 The slighting of Apthorp in both of these writings is only further
indication of the need to complete the story of music criticism in America.
10 Article "Philip Hale," in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 5:1341.
1 Henry W. Levinger, "The Critic's Eye View," Musical Courier 151 (1 Feb.
12 Warren Storey Smith, "Four Distinguished American Music Critics--A
Centennial Note," Musical America 74 (15 Feb. 1954): 6, 130, 134.
One might assume from the literature that Philip Hale was direct heir to
Dwight's legacy, since his career blossomed in Boston soon after. That is not the
case, however. Another voice was heard after John S. Dwight's but before Hale's,
one that reflected greater musical training, one that changed the direction of musical
criticism in the United States from the somewhat dogmatic, authoritative approach
of Dwight toward the French style of personal criticism. That voice was of William
The opinions he expressed were not only personal, as were Dwight's, but were
educated as well. He studied harmony and counterpoint with John Knowles Paine
at Harvard University and took a degree from there in 1869. He was an
accomplished pianist, and he even composed a song; Dwight was neither an
accomplished pianist nor a composer. So sufficient was Apthorp's reputation as a
music scholar that he joined the faculties at the National College of Music, the New
England Conservatory of Music, and the College of Music of Boston University.
During these tenures he taught piano, general theory, harmony, counterpoint, fugue,
aesthetics, and musical history. In addition, he presented a series of lectures at the
prestigious Lowell Institute, a series which he repeated in New York and at the
Peabody Institute in Baltimore.
His music criticism career began in 1872 with the Atlantic Monthly and
mushroomed into assignments with dailies and journals. In his criticisms he
preferred not to make pronouncements; rather, his aim was to set people thinking.
Of his programs for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, no less than the New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians, a preeminent resource in English, says he gave
them "a value and an individual character that were afterwards maintained by Philip
Hale."13 It was this style of writing that influenced and became the standard for the
next generation of music critics, beginning with Philip Hale and even extending to
his peers in New York.
Time seems to have forgotten the significant work of Apthorp. Like Hale,
he contributed articles and writings to numerous dailies and journals in the Boston
area. His work on the program notes for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, from
1892 to 1903, has already been cited. In addition, Apthorp busied himself with
translating writings from French and German into English and with editing songs
of Robert Franz and Adolf Jensen. He coedited a single-volume encyclopedia about
music, and one of the first histories of opera came from his pen. In spite of his
numerous contributions to music in America, his name is surprisingly missing from
musical studies and journals. There is discussion of Dwight, Hale, and the New
York critics, but Apthorp is barely mentioned. There have been no theses or
dissertations about him. Since he was such an important and pivotal figure in music
criticism, he deserves serious scrutiny. It is the purpose of this study, then, to
investigate and discuss the contributions to music journalism of William Foster
It has been generally accepted that the musical commentaries of John S.
Dwight were somewhat dogmatic and authoritative and that music critics who
13 Richard Aldrich, "William Foster Apthorp," in New Grove Dictionary of Music
and Musicians, 1:511.
followed him were more tempered in their writings. Since William Foster Apthorp
immediately followed Dwight in music criticism in Boston, it would be appropriate
to begin to trace the development of modern music criticism with Apthorp. There
are two major research questions concerning him that this study will attempt to
answer in an effort to clarify this aspect of music history, especially as it relates to
the inclusion of Apthorp in curricula in higher education.
1. What were the contributions made by Apthorp to music criticism,
especially when compared to his predecessors?
2. Were his contributions to music criticism recognized and adopted by his
Focus of the Study
There are natural points of division for this study. The first delimitation is
time, which ran from 1872, when Apthorp began to write for the Atlantic Monthly,
to 1903, when he left the United States to retire in Switzerland. Although the major
focus was on Apthorp, it was necessary to deal with immediate predecessors,
especially John Sullivan Dwight, to emphasize the contributions made by Apthorp.
In addition, it has already been noted that his work was ably continued, especially
by Philip Hale. Looking at his immediate successors validated his work, i.e., were
his changes accepted, or did further improvements need to be made?
The second area of concern is place. Here again the choice was easily
defined: Boston. There was no need to investigate beyond this important New
The third area of concern is writings. There are two categories here:
criticisms and commentaries. Criticisms were regarded as reviews that appeared in
any of several daily newspapers. The pertinent issues were what these critics wrote
about and what kind of language they used. Commentaries include other writings,
such as program notes, entr'actes (editorial columns within the program bulletins),
journal and newspaper articles, books, etc.
One important matter that prevailed throughout this study was the matter of
personal opinion. The views expressed by Apthorp and the other critics are their
own. There never has been, nor will there ever be, any set standards of music
criticism. Any reservations or weaknesses, then, are simply human.
Significance of the Study
The names of Dwight, Hale, and the New Yorkers--Richard Aldrich, Henry
T. Finck, William J. Henderson, James G. Huneker, and Henry E. Krehbiel--are
commonplace in sources and literature, but Apthorp is seldom mentioned, if at all.
This will become evident in the "Review of the Literature." Because there is a
definitive gap in our knowledge of the development of music criticism in the United
States during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a study focusing on this area
will serve to advance recognition of the true state of the practice. In so doing,
general knowledge, as purported in most music textbooks, will necessarily be
redefined or re-evaluated in light of new information and/or relationships that will
Music educators today are becoming increasingly aware of the relationships
of the various disciplines under the general rubric of music. It is becoming more
difficult to view any one area of music without acknowledging its dependence on and
relationship to other areas. This recognized need for an integrated approach to
music education is clearly shown by the Contemporary Music Project [CMP].
Conceived by Norman Dello Joio and funded by the Ford Foundation, this project,
which began in 1959, was designed to teach students the relationships between music
theory, music history, and performance. This is a fundamental shift from the norm
in music teaching, particularly in public schools, where education is performance
oriented. The goal of the CMP was to emphasize musical literacy and musical
As a result of this renewed awareness of the integration of music disciplines,
such fields as performance practices, aesthetics, and music criticism have made
progress. Because the in-depth study of music criticism is still relatively new, it is
no surprise that there are some gaps in our understanding of specific critics.
Apthorp is one of those critics.
With regard to curriculum and instruction, the implications are important.
Despite a growing interest in music criticism in America, most standard textbooks
do not sufficiently address the topic. To cite only three examples here, Donald J.
Grout's A History of Western Music, a popular text for undergraduate students,
contains no references to music criticism in the table of contents or in the index in
spite of the fact that a Library of Congress subject heading for this book is Music--
History and Criticism.14 The Schirmer History of Music contains two brief sections
on music criticism, but they are limited to Europe and do not go beyond the middle
of the nineteenth century.15 Finally, the article on music criticism in the New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians includes its discussion of music criticism in the
United States during the last quarter of the nineteenth century under "Early 20th
Century," which is obviously misrepresentative.16 It is apparent, then, that little
attention is paid to music criticism in standard sources and texts, and what attention
there is is sometimes inaccurate. In addition, courses in music criticism are not
included in many curricular programs, even at the graduate level. For these reasons
succeeding generations of music students have been uninformed or, worse,
misinformed on the value of music criticism in our culture.
Because most, if not all, of this research study will focus on primary sources,
i.e., newspapers and similar published works, and the purposes of printing these
works are, in effect, to make a profit for the publisher, one would expect some
subjectivity in what information is printed. This is a matter of external criticism,
since the source itself may come under question at times. There may also very well
be a personal slant or bias on the part of the writers, which is a matter of internal
14 Donald J. Grout, A History of Western Music (rev. ed., New York: W. W.
15 Leonie Rosentiel, ed., Schirmer History of Music (New York: Schirmer Books,
1982). See "The Rise of Music Criticism," 463, and "The Rise of Music Criticism,"
'6 Winston Dean, "Criticism," in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,
criticism. In general, however, since most of these sources will be newspapers,
journals, and publishers of high standards and esteemed reputations, there should
be little doubt as to their integrity. With regard to the authors themselves, it has
been stated that what they have written for print is simply personal opinion. They
are subjective impressions, but that is precisely what this study proposes to
Review of the Literature
In his address "A Profile of American Musicology" Joseph Kerman has stated
a case for criticism as being the top rung of a musicological ladder whose steps are
comprised of specialized studies, such as biography, bibliography, performance
practice, theory, etc.17 With this in mind, one would expect to find references to
music criticism, and perhaps even notable music critics, in standard musicological
works. In general, however, that is not the case. Glen Haydon's comments on
criticism as evaluation in Introduction to Musicology has already been cited under
"The Problem."18 The essays in Musicology by Frank Ll. Harrison, Mantle Hood,
and Claude Palisca contain no mention of music criticism. Research Guide to
Musicology by James W. Pruett and Thomas Slavens includes analytical and style
criticism as research, but not as a journalistic endeavor for the enlightenment of the
public. Denis Stevens also recognizes analytical criticism, but he does note that the
analysis of music is heavily technical and not humanistic, since "it is incomparably
easier to write plausible analysis than to give the impression that musical criticism
17 Joseph Kerman, "A Profile For American Musicology," 61-69.
18 See pp. 7-8 above.
should belong to the sphere of humane letters."19 Noting that criticism has played
a vital role in art and in English literature, Kerman laments that "theory and
analysis are still being treated as ends rather than as steps on the ladder of
criticism."2 Henry Levinger states the case well: "Music, to really come alive, needs
four helpers: the composer, the re-creative artist, the audience, and (last but not
least), the critic. For, it is the latter who, pleading its case sine ira et studio, puts it
in its proper place and perspective and makes it the commonplace property of all."21
Hosts of musicologists seem to have forgotten the beauty of live music and
the important role of the critic to make that music come alive to those who were not
fortunate enough to have been present at the performance. There is no
acknowledgment of criticism of musical performances in any of these sources. It
seems, therefore, that while noting its eminent position, musicology texts are slight
in their coverage of journalistic music criticism.
A search of the Music Index and RILM, two major preliminary sources of
articles and writings about music, has turned up no references to Apthorp
whatsoever, save reprints of his books. Looking further into more general articles,
only one has been found that includes any mention of Apthorp, "The Critic's Eye
View," and it is only a mention. There are five sentences that are merely a
19 Denis Stevens, Musicology: A Practical Guide (New York: Schirmer Books,
20 Kerman, "A Profile for American Musicology," 65.
21 Levinger, "The Critic's Eye View," 60.
distillation of Max Graf's brief discussion in Composer and Critic.22 Interestingly,
there are more substantial writings on Philip Hale and especially the New York
"Mighty Five," but that is beyond the scope of this discussion. As regards
dissertations, Rita H. Mead's Doctoral Dissertations in American Music has likewise
turned up no references to Apthorp.
The information on this subject in major reference books presents quite an
interesting picture. One standard music reference, Harvard Dictionary of Music, does
not even list Apthorp's name in its article on music criticism in America, although
Dwight's name is prominent, and Hale is also mentioned.23 In most standard music
references, however, citations of Apthorp are at least present, but they are
exceedingly brief. The first major work to cite a biography of him was the third
edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which came out in 1935.24
The article was written by Richard Aldrich, who was one of the next generation of
American music critics working in New York. Actually, the articles on Apthorp are
nearly identical in this, in the International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, in the
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, in Baker's Biographical Dictionary of
22 Levinger, "The Critic's Eye View," loc. cit.; Max Graf, Composer and Critic
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1946), 307ff.
23 Hugo Leichtentritt, "Music Criticism," in Harvard Dictionary of Music (2nd ed.,
ed. by Willi Apel, 1970), 553ff. Article revised by John Reeves White.
24 Richard Aldrich, "William Foster Apthorp," in Grove's Dictionary of Music and
Musicians (3rd ed., ed. by Henry C. Colles), 1:104.
Musicians, and in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music.25 It is obvious that
they have not been updated at any time during the past fifty years.
As previously mentioned, New Grove proclaims that Apthorp gave the
program notes for the Boston Symphony Orchestra "a value and individual character
that were afterwards maintained by Philip Hale."2 It is interesting to note, however,
that the article on Hale gives no credit to Apthorp for beginning this momentous
work. Here, too, this important standard reference fails to give Apthorp due honor
It is strange that the editors of both Grove's Dictionary and the New Grove
Dictionary seemingly paid no attention to the entry on Apthorp in the American
Supplement to Grove's Dictionary, which also came out in 1935. Apthorp is treated
in more detail here by the editor, Waldo Seldon Pratt.27 By far the most substantial
article on Apthorp, however, was published over forty-five years earlier in A
Hundred Years of Music in America, edited by G. L Howe and published in 1889.28
Apthorp's career was well underway but by no means over when this was printed,
25 Article "William Foster Apthorp," in International Encyclopedia of Music and
Musicians (9th ed., ed. by Robert Sabin, 1964), 78; Richard Aldrich, "William Foster
Apthorp," in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1:511; article "William
Foster Apthorp," in Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (7th ed., ed. by
Nicolas Slonimsky, 1984), 68; Richard Aldrich, "William Foster Apthorp," in New
Grove Dictionary of American Music, 1:62.
26 Aldrich, "William Foster Apthorp," in New Grove Dictionary ofMusic, loc. cit.
27 American Supplement to Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Waldo
Seldon Pratt, ed., 1935), 116f.
28 Granville L Howe, ed., A Hundred Years of Music in America (Chicago: G.
L. Howe, 1889), 370f.
for Apthorp did not retire until 1903. It is uncertain why, then, Aldrich's article on
his near contemporary was relatively sparse, for not only did he certainly know
Apthorp personally but he must also have been familiar with Howe's A Hundred
Still another curiosity is found in Friedrich Blume's German monument Die
Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, as previously cited. This would be an unlikely
reference to search, and it is mentioned only because it highlights the inconsistency
that is present in American sources. If one were to expect any entry at all, it would
be one on Dwight, to whose Journal Europeans did indeed contribute articles. His
name is absent, as is Apthorp's. There is, however, an article on Philip Hale!29 No
possible explanations for this anomaly come to mind.
Finally, standard textbooks are worthy to note, since few undergraduate
students go beyond what is contained in such references, and their sense of what
constitutes musical studies is usually limited to them. Certainly the most common
music text is Donald J. Grout's A History of Western Music. Here, there are
references to the rise of music criticism in Europe in the early 1800s, including
quotes from E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) and from Robert Schumann (1810-56),
whose founding of the Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik was an important event in music
history. There are, however, no citations beyond these.30 References to the
29 Article "Philip Hale," in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 5:1341.
30 Grout, A History of Western Music. The E. T. A. Hoffmann quote, p. 536,
concerns Beethoven's romanticism. Of Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift Grout states,
"His essays and reviews were an important progressive force in the Romantic
movement," p. 563.
illustrious writings of Hector Berlioz (1803-69) and Richard Wagner (1813-83) are
missing. Likewise, Cannon, Johnson, and Waite's The Art of Music mentions
Schumann's newspaper--in parentheses--but there is no discussion of any other music
critics.31 It is no surprise, then, that music criticism in America is omitted. In
another popular text, the Schirmer History of Music, there is a section, "The Rise of
Music Criticism," devoted to the topic, but there is little here that is not in Grout,
and there is still nothing on music criticism in America.32
The most glaring deficiency is in Paul Henry Lang's Music in Western
Civilization. His discussion of music criticism in Europe is more detailed than most
texts and includes more writers. Of particular interest is a remark on John S.
Dwight: "After his journal ceased publication, he joined the staff of the Boston
Transcript as its first music critic."33 This contrary to the facts. From 1874 to 1881
an assistant editor, Edward H. Clement, took care of dramatic and musical subjects,
but William Foster Apthorp was added to the staff of the Boston Evening Transcript
in 1881, as was Francis H. Jenks, to "devote their whole attention to the subject."
Apthorp concentrated on music and theater, while Jenks spent more of his time on
administrative matters, as well as "everything that Mr. Apthorp did not choose to
31 Beekman Cannon, Alvin Johnson, and William Waite, The Art of Music: A
Short History of Musical Styles and Ideas (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company,
32 Rosentiel, Schirmer History of Music, 592f.
33 Paul Henry Lang, Music in Western Civilization (New York: W. W. Norton,
1941), 983. The last issue of Dwight's Journal appeared 3 Sept. 1881.
take in hand."3 In his biography of Dwight, Cooke noted that while Apthorp was
away in Europe Dwight did indeed fill his post with the Transcript. So although
Dwight may have served as an interim, he never actually joined the staff full time,
and he certainly was not the first music critic for the Transcript. Lang's assertion is
simply incorrect. Whereas most textbooks are noneducational by not including any
discussion of music criticism in America, Lang's Music in Western Civilization is
miseducational by this erroneous statement. It is of utmost importance that
American music criticism in general, and William Foster Apthorp in particular,
receive their rightful places in music curricula and textbooks. This study is intended
to begin this process.
Because the dissertation is in essence a study of what Apthorp has written,
it was appropriate to include a list of works by Apthorp, some of which will be
scrutinized in this study. This list in included as Appendix B. These writings have
been compared with contemporary documents in order to determine more precisely
what contributions Apthorp made with regard to content and style. All of these
writings, taken together, present a clear picture of the activities and contributions of
Apthorp. Noteworthy features are discussed and compared and/or contrasted with
writings of Apthorp's peers.
Method of Analysis
Preliminary sources such as RILM and the Music Index have been searched
to discover primary and secondary sources. Also, music biographical dictionaries
34 Joseph Edgar Chamberlin, The Boston Transcript: A History of its First Hundred
Years (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930), 206.
such as Baker's Biographical Dictionay of Musicians have revealed additional primary
sources, including newspapers and journals to which Apthorp contributed.
Most of the sources pertinent to this study are available in one form or
another. Books by Apthorp are in the holdings of the University of Florida library,
as are some of the journals. Other periodicals, as well as newspapers, can be found
in the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the Boston Public
Library. Still other sources are available through Interlibrary Loan.
Although the quantity of material to be investigated was voluminous, the
method of analysis was relatively simple. There are two primary matters here: what
was said, and how it was said. Topics of discussion were compared, as was the
language used to describe those topics.
The procedure was to compare the subject matter with which Apthorp dealt
with the writings of his immediate predecessors) and successor(s). Topics of
discussion were various, including analyses of musical compositions, background
information on composers and their works, how the performance sounded, what the
performers were wearing, who was at the performance, etc. This phase of analysis
shed light on the reading tastes of the audience, since critics endeavor to write what
the audience will read.
The second area of analysis was Apthorp's exposition of subject matter as
compared to his predecessors) and successor(s). Writing styles ranged from
stinging, caustic language to flowery praises, from popular to erudite. The critics'
personal style of scholarship ranged from cursory to substantive.
From this analysis, conclusions have been drawn concerning the importance
of Apthorp in the history of music criticism, particularly the changes that became
evident when examining writings before and after Apthorp. The conclusions were
divided between actual criticisms and commentaries, since the purposes of each were
very different. Other contributions were duly noted as they became evident.
Finally, a place for the study of Apthorp and his criticisms has been related directly
to the study of music in higher education.
There are three other concerns that are worthy to observe. First, the matter
of presentism, or the viewing of past events with contemporary perspectives, was
lessened by a near emersion in the times, the late 1800s. In addition to the primary
sources described, additional secondary sources provided insight into the scope and
vitality of the musical scene in the last decades of the nineteenth century in the
Northeast. Second, the purpose here was not necessarily to show causal inference
with regard to the influence of Apthorp on his peers in New York and on his
successors in Boston. Third, there was no intention to generalize the results of this
study to other times and places; the focus here was narrow.
JOHN SULLIVAN DWIGHT
However useful it would be to examine the criticisms and commentaries of
William Foster Apthorp, their significance would be mitigated it they were not
placed in the context of his time. To give them still greater import it would be
illustrative to describe the constitution of music criticism from which his writings
sprang. There was but a single luminary on music in America immediately prior to
Apthorp: John Sullivan Dwight. This chapter is a discussion of Dwight's style of
Numerous appellations have been bestowed on Dwight, all of which reflect
the highest respect and admiration for his contributions to music in Boston. The
most common is "the father of music criticism" in the United States. High praise,
indeed. As Franz J. Haydn is considered the father of the symphony and W. A.
Mozart the father of the concerto, so Dwight is the one most recognized as the
person who brought music criticism into full flower in America. Apthorp himself
described Dwight as "a born critic in the highest sense." Of his professional life,
Apthorp said, "It is exceedingly seldom that one finds such a man pass a long life in
intimate, almost daily, communion with literature and the fine arts, and preserve
intact all the native spontaneity and naivete of his feelings."' Of course, the organ
William Foster Apthorp, Musicians and Music-Lovers, and Other Essays (New
York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1894), 284, 277.
of preservation to which Apthorp was referring is Dwight's Journal of Music: "In it
Dwight's fineness of artistic instinct and his unflinching intellectual honesty found
adequate expression."2 It is obligatory to examine and understand Dwight's style of
music criticism in order to discern Apthorp's approach to the task. Dwight truly
passed the torch to Apthorp, but what was the nature of that torch? That is, what
was the status of writing about music that Apthorp inherited from Dwight?
John Sullivan Dwight was born 13 May 1813. He was the eldest of four
children--two younger sisters and a younger brother. Being the first-born, he was
given his father's name, a practice that had been in the Dwight family for
generations. His father prepared for the ministry, but, finding Calvinism too severe
for his personal taste, he undertook the study of medicine, a profession in which he
was moderately successful. He was a free thinker in religion, a background which
would become a strong force in young John's life. His mother "was a handsome
woman, sweet, amiable, and sensible, of exquisite taste, and of superior character."3
It was her natural inclination toward the aesthetic, the artistic, and appreciation of
beauty that played a major role in the life of Dwight.
Dwight's early musical experiences were practically nonexistent. Music classes
did not exist at the grammar school and Latin school where he attended. He was
impressed by brass bands and street music, but, according to Walter Fertig, he
2 Ibid., 283.
3 George Willis Cooke, John Sullivan Dwight: Brook Farmer, Editor, and Critic of
Music (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1973), 6a. Hereafter Brook Farmer.
played no instrument until he entered Harvard College.4 It was in the summer of
1829 when he enrolled at Harvard, and while there was no course of study in music
there at that time, there was a club of students who were interested in the study and
practice of music called the Pierian Sodality. Dwight was "captivated and converted
to the gospel of the college flute, as the transcendent and most eloquent of
instruments."5 Since the club was amply endowed with flutists, however, Dwight took
up the clarinet. Not being a respectable performer--Fertig claims he could not play
a note on any instrument--he was interdicted from playing with the Pierian Sodality.
Instead, as Dwight himself put it, he was ushered into the Arionic Society, "the
purgatory which half-fledged musicians of [my] own ilk had to pass through before
they could be candidates for the Pierian paradise."6 It was during and especially
after his days at Harvard that he spent time learning how to play the flute and
Dwight graduated from Harvard in 1832, whereupon he entered the Divinity
School of Harvard College. But music was never far from his thoughts. His thesis,
"On the Proper Character of Poetry and Music for Public Worship," dealt specifically
4 Walter Fertig, "John Sullivan Dwight: Transcendentalist and Literary Amateur
of Music" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, 1952), 8. Hereafter
"Transcendentalist." Cooke asserts that Dwight "devoted much time to the piano and
flute" (Brook Farmer, 6a). Whether or not he did so prior to his Harvard years is
flummery, since if he did, he did not achieve a level of performance corresponding
to that of his peers.
5 Cooke, Brook Farmer, 7a.
6 Fertig, "Transcendentalist," 9; Cooke, Brook Farmer, 7a.
with church music.7 His position on music in the church reveals a great deal of how
he viewed both music and the church. In an article in the 18 May 1872 issue of his
Journal he outlined six "Hints on Musical Worship." First, music "must be dealt with
as principal, and not as mere subordinate and handmaidd' to some other language,
... but as a thing sacred in itself." Good music does not depend on a text, which
may be rather ambiguous. "True music is a direct, transparent medium of the living
Word." He felt that "a few genuine tunes, with the divine spark in them," wedded
to "few spontaneous, short, sweet poems, may answer the real needs of worship
better than the thousands of new psalm tunes manufactured every year to sell."8
Second, since "all tunes grow commonplace and stale by frequent
repetition," they should rather be set in harmony, in polyphony, so that "they are
rescued from decay and clothed with a perennial freshness." He cited various
combinations of congregation, choir, and organ. Third, Dwight did not appreciate
popular tunes, such as "snatches of Verdi and Donizetti," finding their way into the
worship service: "Better silence than such mockery of music."9
Fourth, pure music deepens feeling and musical experience. Specifically, he
cited Beethoven's Third Symphony (the Funeral March), the Fifth Symphony (the
Andante), and the Ninth Symphony (the Adagio). "They that know the experience
of being completely transported under a Beethoven Symphony, can well believe
that Music has but very feebly yet fulfilled its mission as an element in public
7 The work was published in the Christian Examiner 21 (Nov. 1836): 254-63.
8 Dwight's Journal of Music, 18 May 1872, 238b, 238c.
9 Ibid., 238c, 239a.
worship." Fifth, he urged quality over quantity: "All bravura and mere music of
effect, is false in Art and ministers to no religious feeling." It is the practice of
engaging huge choruses and the like that he was addressing here. "The miracle
resides, after all, in the composition itself, and not in any magnifying glass of
countless armies of executants."10
Finally, since true art "seeks perfection" and "aspires forever," it is religious,
and "to think of having true religious music by shutting Art out, in the idle interest
of what we call 'simple,' 'unsophisticated,' 'popular,' is the sure way to run into all
sorts of affection and of shallow sentimentalism." He concluded that worshipers
have not believed in great music, which is why "music has not done its great work
in the churches.""
Dwight completed his course of study in 1836 and undertook his first real
position, that of preacher. At the same time he remained passionately devoted to
music. He contributed articles to the Christian Examiner and played piano whenever
he got close to one. His success as a preacher, however, was marginal, and less than
one year later he confided to Theodore Parker, "I am almost afraid that I cannot
succeed as a preacher." Parker responded kindly and honestly, pointing out his
merits as well as his shortcomings. In essence, Dwight had strong likings, a keen
love for the beautiful, and creative imagination, but his discernment of the truth fell
short and remained cloudy and vague, and he was directed by impulse and not will.
"Duty, not dreaming, is for men. You must get a place in the real world before you
10 Ibid., 239a.
can walk into the ideal like a gentleman."12 Finding that place in the real world
eluded him for most of his life.
Perhaps his ineffectual pastorate is directly related to his view of music in
worship, especially the fourth item discussed above. "We want to avail ourselves, in
worship, of the religion which is in all high and real music; that interior religion,
though it be untaught, unformulated, out of which all great, inspired, enduring music,
of whatever form, originally sprang."13 In "The Catholicity of Music" he spoke of the
Catholic Church: "Where it could not teach the Bible, where its own formal
interpretations thereof were perhaps little better than stones for bread, it could
breathe the spirit of the Bible and of all love and sanctity into the most ignorant and
thoughtless worshipper, through its sublime Masses."14 He was not interested in
teaching his parishioners about the gospel, in leading them to a greater understanding
of their Lord, or in instructing them on the specifics of music. He merely
endeavored to stir their souls and transport them to higher planes, even if they had
no understanding of what was going on.
It is uncertain precisely when Dwight's career in the ministry ended.
Convinced that he was unable to bring his ideals to the church and the profession,
he ventured forth, unknowing where the winds of fate would lead him. While his
work as a minister waned, he took up with the Transcendentalism movement. In the
thinking of George Ripley and Ralph Waldo Emerson, principals in the Brook Farm
12 Cooke, Brook Farmer, 8a, 8b.
13 "Hints on Musical Worship," Dwight's Journal, 18 May 1872, 238c.
14 Ibid., 18 July 1868, 278c.
experiment, Dwight found the rich, fertile soil suitable for his sensitive ideals. The
major purpose of the Brook Farm experiment was to develop individual talent and
character, including individual expression. It was a noble shibboleth in freedom of
thought and expression wherein members encouraged others, even if they did not
necessarily agree. Emerson plainly stated that the Transcendentalists were "lovers
and worshippers of Beauty. In the eternal trinity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty,
each in its own perfection including the three, they prefer to make Beauty the sign
and the head."15 Dwight would have appreciated and was perhaps aware of the
resemblance between this "trinity" and Paul's message in I Corinthians 13:13: "But
now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Dwight's ideas of music as a religion in itself fit right into place at Brook
Farm. In fact, he was expressing the Transcendental attitude toward music even
before the group was formed, indeed even before he finished his ministry degree.
Simply, if words were regarded as the language of thought, then music must be the
language of feeling--especially religious feeling or devotion. One did not have to
understand the particulars of music to plumb the depths of truth and life. Although
Emerson himself "was totally unacquainted with musical technique,"16 being a true
Transcendentalist he was transported by music beyond reality: "[Music] takes us out
15 Irving Lowens, Music and Musicians in Early America (New York: W. W.
Norton, 1964), 249. The quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Transcendentalist.
16 Vivian C. Hopkins, Spires of Form: A Study of Emerson's Aesthetic Theory
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), 190.
of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we
The role of music in this society was extremely important. These men were
seeking a better world, if only in their minds. Money and power had become the
idol of society, due largely to the Industrial Revolution, and "it was the holy mission
of music to remedy the defect by 'familiarizing men with the beautiful and the
infinite.'"18 Just as music in worship brought the people closer to God by the its
sheer beauty, so music would improve the aesthetic, moral, and spiritual values of
But not any music--only great music. Pure music--since greatness was in the
music itself and not in any association with words--and the works of Bach, Handel,
Mozart, and especially Beethoven withstood this trial by fire. Perhaps it would be
more illustrative to describe music that was not great than to discern the infinity of
Dwight scorned virtuosity. "All vain musical display and sounding
advertisement, all bravura and mere music of effect, is false in Art."19 Too, "When
perfect execution becomes so indispensable to true enjoyment of great music, we
begin to have our doubts about the quality, the depth of the enjoyment."2 Indeed,
17 Lowens, Music and Musicians, 262. Lowens cites Hopkins, ibid. The quote
is from The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1838).
18 Ibid., 256; Fertig, "Transcendentalist," 35.
19 Dwight's Journal, 18 May 1873, 239a.
2 Ibid., 26 June 1875, 47b.
it was the spirit of a performance that appealed to Dwight more than the technical
execution of the music. In addition to virtuosity, Dwight railed against brass bands,
"those brazen lungs of the Sax family," and the sentimentalism of brass music, which
he felt was "of a positively rancid quality";21 Patrick Gilmore's jubilee concerts,
although he did acknowledge a certain positive, patriotic effect; and Italian opera,
not to mention Richard Wagner's opera dramas and New Music.
On the other hand, Dwight's affinity for "great" music came about because he
saw a direct relationship between music of the masters and the yearning for spiritual
freedom, for the dignity of human nature that was largely responsible for the settling
of America in the first place. These ideas are plainly outlined in "Music a Means
of Culture." The culture they sought was freer and more open--and superior--than
"the barren routine of a narrow, utilitarian, provincial, and timid education."22
Dwight was speaking here of an "atmospheric" education necessary in a democracy
to luxuriate a beautiful, lovely culture devoid of the crudities of everyday life. To
be sure, understanding was not at all important, since great paintings, poems, and
cathedrals are enjoyed by many who have absolutely no understanding. They simply
feel the presence of and are thus influenced by something great.
21 Ibid., 1 Aug. 1868, 287a, 286c.
22 Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 1870, 321-31, 322a. Dwight had presented "Music in
Relation to Culture and the Religious Sentiment" on the Horticulture Hall Sunday
Afternoon Lectures series on 26 March 1870. Publication of the homily, which came
about at the impulse of a leader of musical interests in Boston, was printed in two
parts: this, and "The Intellectual Influence of Music," Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 1870,
Dwight pondered what such a culture would be without art, and what form
of art better meets the needs of the people and is more available than music? "The
great music came in then because it was in full affinity with the best thoughts stirring
in fresh, earnest souls." The music of Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart was eagerly
accepted by "these believing ones, who would not have belief imposed upon them,
who cared more for life than doctrine, and to whom it was a prime necessity of heart
and soul to make life genial." Still, a precise definition of "great" is remiss. Dwight's
point, simply, was that "the great music has been so much followed and admired
here, not by reason of any great musical knowledge in the said followers, not
because we have any technical musicianship or proper musicality, but purely because
the music was great, deep, true, making itself felt as such; we love the music for the
great life that is in it."23
Whether he knew it or not, Dwight was completely absorbed in the general
philosophic tone of the nineteenth century, that of neo-Platoists such as Immanuel
Kant (1724-1804) and Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831). Kant espoused that we can
know only our reality, which we experience through our senses. We are certain of
existence beyond our experience, so using what we do know we can reason the rest,
this world of idea. There is, then, a higher truth than human intelligence. Moral
integrity is achieved, since we believe in the existence of such ideals--God and
freedom, for instance--when we are impelled to behave as if they were real. That
is, we create our own existence, as opposed to existential thought. Furthermore,
since our minds basically think in the same manner, knowledge is universal. These
2 Ibid., 323b, 323-24, 325a.
ideas are apparent in Dwight's article "Music a Means of Culture," wherein he
envisioned a democratic society whose members found pleasure in great music.
Hegel took the idea of moral integrity a step further. Such universal reason
is reached only in a society of free individuals, where each member is focused on
this universal truth and not their own ideas. An individual who exercises his own
caprice is not free. True freedom is attained by blending with the group so the will
of the whole is his own will. Hegel's idea is clearly the basic ideology of the
members of Brook Farm.
Marcia Lebow interprets these concepts in the following manner. Scientific
knowledge is sought by industrious people, but only truly inspired people may attain
artistry and prophecy. Since human knowledge and reason are firmly rooted in the
scientific realm, it is only natural that the supernatural realm, wherein lie aesthetic
and religious truths, would be of a higher order. Further, since music is the art form
most removed from materialism, it must be the most spiritual. "Music, accordingly,
may no longer be regarded as mere entertainment and pleasure ... but as a pure
art with a social mission."24 Again, Dwight conceived a culture that loved great
music--even though the people did not necessarily understand it. Finally, since these
ideals were grounded in nineteenth-century German philosophy, it is no surprise that
music of German composers--details of precise dates and locale aside--was most
venerated, namely, that of J. S. Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven.
24 Marcia Wilson Lebow, "A Systematic Examination of the 'Journal of Music
and Art,' Edited by John Sullivan Dwight: 1852-1881, Boston, Massachusetts" (Ph.D.
dissertation, University of California at Los Angeles, 1969), 22.
Dwight's ideals were harmonious in toto with those of the Transcendentalists
and were expounded in the Dial, a journal which came slightly before the Brook
Farm experiment, and in the Harbinger, the organ devoted to the interests of Brook
Farm which soon became the distinct voice of the American Union of
Associationalists. In short time Dwight became co-editor of the journal, and he
contributed editorials on the association, literature, book reviews, and poems. More
important, he deliberately set aside a portion of each issue to musical interests. In
the very first issue he reviewed the musical defects with present society and heralded
the new social spirit which would cling to the highest ideals of music.25
After that, Dwight turned to more practical musical matters: he endeavored
to convey "(1) the criticism of music as an art; (2) the interpretation of it as an
expression of the life of the age; and (3) the development of its correspondence as
a science with the other sciences."2 Indeed, in its four years of existence in Boston,
from 1844 to 1847, Dwight contributed over one hundred articles on the musical
scene, and he continued to contribute even after the paper was removed to New
York.27 Because of his straight-forward approach to musical interests, the Harbinger
soon became one of the best musical journals the country has ever seen. The
criticisms were strong and effective, the literary style inspiring, and artistic insight
25 Dwight's prospectus to the Harbinger, quoted in Cooke, Brook Farmer, 33.
27 A list of Boston articles--183 of them--is included in Lowens, Music and
Musicians, Appendix C, 311-21.
keen.28 Because of his significant work with the Harbinger, Irving Lowens christened
Dwight "the Transcendental pope of music."29
Already experiencing financial difficulties, the Brook Farmers suffered a
disastrous fire in 1846. In spite of a vigorous effort to keep alive an interest in the
association, Dwight and his fellow prophets of a new society were unable to restore
their noble experiment, and Brook Farm breathed its last the following year, leaving
Dwight to face yet another turning point in his diverse career.
As it happened, several of the residents of Brook Farm attempted to continue
their concept of social living in a boarding house in Boston. The Religious Union
of Associationists was formed, and Dwight, ever the harbinger of great music, led the
music at their meetings. He continued to write for a number of tabloids, including
the Boston Commonwealth, the Daily Chronotype, the Daily Advertiser, Sartain's
Magazine in Philadelphia, and the Messenger Bird in New York. In addition, he was
in demand as a speaker on music.
During this same time period, around 1850, efforts were made on behalf of
Dwight by George Ripley (leader of Brook Farm), Charles Dana (member of Brook
Farm), and Parke Godwin to lure him to New York City to continue his career as
a music journalist. He was well known in New York, having contributed articles for
several periodicals and given a series of lectures on music during the Brook Farm
8 Cooke, Brook Farmer, 33f. See also Lowens, Music and Musicians, 253.
29 Lowens, Music and Musicians, 250. Lowens's discussion of the Harbinger,
Transcendentalism, and music, 249-54, is enlightening. See also Fertig,
"Transcendentalist," Chapter 4, "Association and the Harbinger: 1845-1847," 104-74.
days. Dwight did not find New York to his liking, however, and he hastened his
return to Boston.
While Dwight's spirit was suffering--with no real work and no real income--
good fortune did waft his way, for it was in 1851 that he married Mary Bullard. A
frequent visitor to Brook Farm, she "was a beautiful, winning, unselfish woman, a
fine singer, and a person of many attractions of body and mind."30 Actually, the
wedding was postponed while he endeavored to secure rewarding pursuits. It was
during this time that he seriously considered editing and publishing his own music
journal. Perhaps he felt sufficiently confident in his plan that he felt it safe to take
on the added responsibility of a wife.
To gain support for his journal project, Dwight took the idea to the Harvard
Musical Association [HMA], an organization from which he was never far removed.
The HMA offered its undivided endorsement. Dwight suggested that the endeavor
would be successful if each member secured ten subscribers to the journal, a plan
to which they agreed. Naming the periodical was another major concern. Dwight,
"not liking to hear persons say that 'Harper's has come,' decidedly objected
to 'Dwight's has come.'"31 A New York friend, George William Curtis, took the
problem to the staff at the New York Tribune, and their suggestion was decided upon:
Dwight's Journal of Music, with the subtitle "A Paper of Art and Literature."
Just as Dwight has been dubbed numerous superlatives, his Journal is similarly
praised and esteemed. It is a comprehensive digest of musical events especially in
30 Cooke, Brook Farmer, 43a.
31 Ibid., 44b.
Boston, but also around the United States and, indeed, the world. Composers,
performers, works, concerts, philosophy, and other musical matters were extensively
reported. As a primary source of the music scene in America it is without peer.
In the "Prospectus" in the first issue of the Journal Dwight outlined the
purposes of his work.32 The journal would include critical reviews and "timely
analyses" of notable works of major genres performed, notices of new music
published in America and overseas, a summary of musical news around the country
and Europe, correspondence, essays on a wide assortment of musical topics, and
translations "from the best German and French writers upon Music and Art." Since
it was a paper of art and literature, Dwight also wished to include occasional notices
of other art forms, as well as poems and "short tales."
The relevance of a deliberation of Dwight's Journal to a study of Apthorp is
apropos. Apthorp was a mere four years old when publication of the Journal began.
Since it is such a significant chronicle of the music scene in America, it would
naturally reflect musical tastes of society, especially in Boston, during Apthorp's
formative years. These tastes and convictions would become a permanent ingredient
of Apthorp's personality and musical sense which, in turn, would be reflected in his
own criticisms and commentaries. Hence, understanding the musical setting in which
Apthorp developed and matured is paramount to understanding his views. We shall
see if he was conservative, looking back to past ideals--as expressed in Dwight's
Joumal--or if he was progressive. With this in mind, it is important to take a close
look at Dwight's views of how old music reflected the ideals of the past and new
32 Dwight's Journal, 10 April 1852, 1.
music of the present. Since American music was still relatively young during
Dwight's most productive years, it would also be enlightening to see how he, and
later Apthorp, viewed American music.
When there is a reference to "old" music, naturally there follows the question,
"How old?" Indeed, how old does a composition have to be before it is regarded as
"old"? In the case of Dwight, there is no clear delineation. He was more interested
in the spirit of the music than when it was composed. The music that he most
revered was that of L. van Beethoven, W. A. Mozart, G. F. Handel, and J. S. Bach.
That the works of these masters span over a hundred years is inconsequential.
Clearly there was no single musical ideal, but that is no surprise, considering
Dwight's concept of "great music" as discussed earlier.
In Dwight's time the spirit of romanticism was fresh, and he was absorbed in
the ideas of free thinking and free spirits. While he was yet a preacher he
envisioned a church where the pulpit was in the center; the preacher and
congregation could thence engage in a free exchange of ideas. He was always
earnestly opposed to any prescribed doctrine. He simply felt that each person could
find truth and beauty in the high ideals of "great thoughts," and music was certainly
included in his Elysian world. He never strayed from his ideals. Later, Dwight was
one of those cultural leaders, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow, Oliver Wendel Holmes, George Ripley, and others, who met in
intellectual fellowships like the Saturday Club for "social recreation" and "mental
Against this background, Dwight's veneration of Beethoven is to be expected.
He greatly praised Beethoven in his earlier Harbinger articles, and his opinion never
changed; indeed, some of the articles were reprinted without revision in his Journal.
Beginning with Brook Farm, it was true that "music, and of the best kind, the
Beethoven Sonatas, the Masses of Mozart and Haydn ... was one of the chief
interests and refreshments of those halcyon days." The reason was simple: "The
music was quite innocent of creed, except that of the heart and of the common
deepest wants and aspirations of all souls, darkly locked up in formulas, till set free
by the subtile [sic] solvent of the delicious harmonies."35 These "disciples of
newness" pursued only the finest in life, believing that the rest of society, witnessing
the profundity of their example, would themselves come to worship this great music.
As late as 1877 Dwight confessed, "For some time I have begun my day's work with
delightful matins:--I read every day a Quartet by Haydn,--to the most pious Christian
a chapter from the Bible can do no more good."3 The music of Bach was certainly
included, since it "testifies to the profound religious nature of man; it is the daily,
hourly offering of a sincere, a rich, all-absorbing, manly, cheerful, childlike piety; an
33 For more on the Saturday Club, see Cooke, Brook Farmer, Chapter 10, "The
Saturday Club," 67-75.
SFertig, "Transcendentalist," 292. Fertig's study encompasses Dwight's writings
in both the Harbinger and his Journal.
5 "Music a Means of Culture," Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 1870, 322b.
36 Dwight's Journal, 4 Aug. 1877, 70c.
offering in which all his faculties gathered themselves up for a complete, ideal art,
to realize the beauty of holiness."37 Man instinctively knows what is good and right,
and great music resounded with that goodness.
Perhaps one of the most obvious of Dwight's shortcomings as a true music
critic was his ability to keep up with the times. Even Apthorp recognized this
peccancy in Dwight's vestment. By the 1870s, new music--that of Berlioz, Liszt, and
Wagner--had taken root. Dwight tried to fight off its adverse effects, but to no avail.
It is all over with the old art of Music which as ministered so sweetly
and so deeply to our souls. That is the divine Art no longer. Bach
and Handel, Mozart and Beethoven, and all that sit upon high thrones,
are superceded, hurled like Saturn down into endless night to make
way for this terrible Jupiter, this Nibelungen cloud-compelling Wagner.
Yet we dare believe that musical humanity will still hail with more
delight than ever "the large utterance of the elder gods."38
Dwight was not at all opposed to "new music" in the early days of the Joural.
Not wanting to commit to new music as the wave of the future, he nevertheless
hoped to receive it without prejudice and prayed for "a long life on this earth ..
that we may hear and hail the MUSIC OF THE FUTURE!"3 He hailed Wagner's
opera of the future as a "creative act of genius." But near the end of the 1860s his
views turned. What was it about new music that offended his sensitive soul? By
1877 he was possessed to enumerate nine reasons why Wagner's music would not
37 Ibid., 18 May 1861, 53b.
8 Lebow, "Systematic Examination," 217. The quote is referenced to Dwight's
Journal, 14 April 1877, but the page number is omitted, and a search through the
entire issue has not revealed the citation. As before, however, this is a just
representation of Dwight's attitude toward the classics and new music.
39 Dwight's Journal, 30 July 1853, 133a.
endure, including the elevation of words over the music, endless melody, leitmotifs
("Exasperating bores, the pack of them!"), lack of real beauty, and, most important,
a wont of quiescence." Dwight acknowledged that although Beethoven was restless
and driven by passion he never "violated that principle of repose, which critics
celebrate in all the perfect models of all Arts, but toward which Wagner is the
Macbeth that murders sleep."41 Finally, while great music ministered to his aesthetic
instincts, the "new in music fails to stir us to the same depths of soul and feeling that
the old masters did and doubtless always will."42
Although Dwight was born and raised in the United States, he was not an
advocate of the music of American composers, except for music that reflected
German influence: "Native composers are treated on a par with their European
contemporaries, criticized with the same severity, and expected to conform to
technical and genre standards of the 'best' German school."43 John Knowles Paine
clearly fit the mold (need we be reminded that Paine's musical training was
primarily German), and his work was esteemed in Dwight's Journal. Of his Mass in
D, which was premiered in Berlin in 1867, Dwight printed, "A genuine German
musical spirit breathes through the work, which, built up in the school of Bach and
40 Ibid., 28 Apr. 1877, 15.
41 Ibid., 15a.
42 Ibid., 3 Sept. 1881, "Valedictory," 123b.
3 Lebow, "Systematic Examination," 320.
Handel, yet reveals throughout the writer's own creative power."44 Dwight found
Paine's "New Symphony" (Symphony No. 1 in c) "beautiful," "earnest," "learned"; "[it]
flows naturally as from a full deep source." More important, "The work is free from
modern extravaganza and mere straining for effect, and yet it is original."45 A
portion in the middle of Paine's "Domine, fac salvum Praesidem nostrum" reminded
Dwight of Mozart's Requiem.4 A "chaste and learned composition," it provided
welcome relief for Dwight from the raucous brass bands which usually provided
music for Harvard ceremonies. Finally, Dwight felt that Paine's Spring Symphony
(Symphony No. 2 in A) marked "the highest point yet reached in the early stages of
American creative art in music. It is worthy to hold a place among the works of
masters."47 Dwight's veneration of Paine was as great as for the past German
masters simply because Paine poured old wine into new skins. He did not adopt the
compositional techniques of the new school, but rather chose to utilize established,
if not exhausted, practices. Perhaps that is why the music of Paine is relatively
obscure to today's audiences. Why should we listen to a portion of Paine's "Domine"
when Mozart's Requiem is so much more popular?
Dwight's Journal, 24 Nov. 1866, 352b. The quote is from a leading Berlin
critic, Flodoard Geyer, and appeared in the Spenische Zeitung.
45 Ibid., 5 Feb. 1876, 175a-b.
46 Ibid., 7 Mar. 1863, 391b. The work was performed by a choir of some thirty
men at inauguration exercises for Harvard University President Thomas Hill (1862-
47 Ibid., 27 Mar. 1880, 54a. For more on this symphony, see also Chapter 4,
"Boston Evening Transcript," 142.
Dwight spent a good deal of effort in exalting Paine, not only as a composer,
but also with regard to the ultimate establishment of the first professorship of music
in the United States. Dwight made certain to include articles in his Journal pressing
for the need for the scholarly study of music. Indeed, the conferring of a Doctor of
Music on Lowell Mason, the appointment of Levi P. Homer as the first instructor
of music at Harvard University, and finally the engagement of John Knowles Paine
as the first professor of music in America (also at Harvard University) can all be
attributed to Dwight's influential pen. He also made his position known on such
academics as coursework and the need for ensembles so students may receive
practical experience in the performance of music.
Dwight was far less genial with popular American music, as might be
expected. Little attention is given to folk, popular, or ethnic music. Of Patrick
Gilmore's National Peace Jubilee of 1869, and the World Peace Jubilee three years
later, Dwight had little good to say. His principal objection was that there was "no
genuine recognition to music as an expression of the deeper sentiments of mankind,
and that the whole spirit of it was dominated by show and self-gratulation."48 Even
so, he did recognize the success of Gilmore's endeavor, praising the execution of the
music and, in particular, of the chorus.
With Dwight's objections to these jubilee concerts in mind, it is no surprise,
then, that he shunned virtuosity. For this reason, and others, he defamed America's
own Louis Moreau Gottschalk. He was contracted to perform two recitals in
Boston, the first being primarily of his own works, and the second being more
48 Cooke, Brook Farmer, 56a.
traditional fare--classical music--although he did add a few of his own compositions
there, as well. Dwight said little of the first, remarking that he played "like a merely
executive virtuoso."49 That Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were acknowledged virtuosi
in their respective times seems irrelevant. Dwight also noted that the few pieces of
his own (on the first concert) could not be compared to the "little mazourkas [sic]
or notturnos [sic] of Chopin and much more that we might name."50 Finally,
Dwight missed the fire and earnestness of Beethoven in the Adagio of the Kreutzer
Sonata (Mr. Suck, violinist). Of the second concert, Dwight said Gottschalk played
"with clearness, delicacy, and feeling." Some of the passion may have been missing
due to the fact that just prior to the second concert Gottschalk received word of his
father's death. Dwight mentioned this parenthetically and added that it had perhaps
actually enhanced his playing: "There was a touch of genuine feeling added to his
grace of execution."51
As a music critic, John Sullivan Dwight happened to be the right person at
the right place at the right point in time. In Apthorp's words, Dwight was drawn to
music because it was "the art which could be enjoyed most intensely, immediately,
and with the least effort."52 Even by his own admission, Dwight was not "in any
sense a thoroughly educated musician, either in theory or practice." Nevertheless,
this "most hacknied [sic] player ... seemed invested with a certain halo, and saving
49 Dwight's Journal, 29 Oct. 1853, 30b.
50 Ibid., 20 Oct. 1853, 30.
51 Ibid., 30b-c.
52 Apthorp, Musicians and Music-Lovers, 279.
grace, as it were, from a higher, purer, and more genial atmosphere than this of our
cold, selfish, humdrum world."5 He possessed a "keen instinct for and appreciation
of the highest and noblest things in life, whether in art, literature, or the character
of men and women whom he knew and met." He had a sunny disposition, a sweet
nature, and a love of beauty. Dwight was sensitive, bashful, and diffident in
extreme. He loved flowers and watching fireflies. He had no appreciation for
money, probably because, as Apthorp asserts, he had contempt for greed.5
Dwight had a passion for music and felt called to educate the public on its
finer points. He became the autocrat of musical taste in Boston, and his opinions
were unquestioned. He advised cultured intellectuals and directed amateurs on what
to expect in classical music. Great music was not mere entertainment but had
spiritual meaning which would transport the listener above the trivialities and
fribbles of everyday life.
To Dwight, "one of the most important and useful functions of criticism is
that of measuring acknowledged great men by the highest, even an absolute
standard."" Although he did study musical scores before performances, his primary
modus operandi was intuition. "I have divined, recognized (through the glass
darkly), genius in the works of great composers through the imperfect medium of
53 Dwight's Journal, 10 Apr. 1852, 4a, 4b.
5 Cooke, Brook Farmer, 76b. Cooke devoted an entire chapter, Chapter 10, to
Dwight's personal traits, 75-80.
55 Lebow, "Systematic Examination," 376. The quote is referenced to Dwight's
Journal 13 (n.d.): 21, but the citation cannot be found. Nevertheless, this view is
consistent with Dwight's practice of assessing American composers against the same
high standards as the masters--the Germans. See Note 43 above.
uninspired performers, or through my own poor efforts to study myself into their
meaning by slow and painful transfer of the printed notes to the keys of my piano."5
Although he was not deaf to the quality of a performance, it was the spirit of
the music that made the greater impression on him, hence his disdain for virtuosity
for virtuosity's sake. Too, since he interpreted the music through the mind of a
poet, technical analysis was unimportant to him. In particular, Dwight felt that
explication of Beethoven's music was unnecessary, since understanding Beethoven
was not found in the details but in the depths of the music itself.
Marcia Lebow highlighted three tenets that Dwight followed in his music
criticism: (1) musical expression is of an intellectual sort, (2) its creators use
God-given genius, and (3) their works reflect their spiritual commitment.7 Such
music is fit for society and will improve it. In fulfillment of his purposes as a music
critic, Dwight was candid, appreciative, and faithful to his convictions. Although he
was vibrantly gregarious, he remained at arm's length from artists. Finally, Apthorp
especially praised his writing style as brilliant, although he also noted that that style
did not reach the general public.
While remaining true to personal convictions is a virtue, in Dwight's case it
was also a flaw, simply due to the longevity of his Journal. His ideals were twenty
years behind the times when he started, and he never caught up. Although he
6 Dwight in a letter to Lydia Maria Child, 24 Dec. 1843, quoted in Cooke,
Brook Farmer, 25b.
57 Lebow, "Systematic Examination," 158.
recognized the fashion of giving new music a chance, his vilification of it is
notorious. He never deigned to embrace the music of the future:
Are we, (the learning public, yet a child in music), so thoroughly well
versed in the music of the great masters, those works of highest genius
which are called "classics," simply because they are of no age,--are we
so settled in our taste, that these heaven-stormers, piling Ossa upon
Pelion, can expect us to spend all the precious s are time we can save
for music, in settling their tremendous claims?
Society had changed, and Dwight had not kept pace but rather marched to
his own drummer. Dwight lamented a "serious blunting and demoralization of the
musical sense ... in the young generation born into this strange phase of what its
disciples call musical 'progress.'"N William Foster Apthorp was the preeminent
critic of that next generation.
8 Dwight's Journal, 29 May 1875, 30c.
9 Ibid. 37 (April 14, 1877), 6b.
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
In 1872 the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, William Dean Howells, at the
suggestion of composer Francis Boott, asked Apthorp to write a music column for
that periodical, which he did until 1877. It was unusual for such a journal to include
a regular column devoted to music, but the Atlantic Monthly was no ordinary
periodical. The Monthly provided its readers with a wide variety of interesting and
informative articles, including columns in art, literature, music, and education.
Apthorp's contribution to the Monthly is without peer, as there were no other
journals published in Boston during the period 1872 to 1877 that were comparable
to the Atlantic Monthly in depth of coverage. Since Apthorp's columns were geared
toward an educated audience, one might assume that his articles would compare to
those found in periodicals that were devoted primarily to the musically literate.
There were three such journals in Boston at that time: John S. Dwight's Journal of
Music, The Folio, and Dexter Smith's Musical Literary, Dramatic, and Art Paper.
Apthorp's columns compare only to those in Dwight's Journal, as we shall see.
The first to be discussed is The Folio, which was published monthly in Boston
from 1869 to 1895. White, Smith & Perry, a music publishing firm, issued the
journal, and Dexter Smith served as its first editor, from 1869 through 1871. The
next editor was George Lowell Austin, in 1872, which was the first year that Apthorp
began to write for the Atlantic Monthly. Austin was followed by T. D. Hooker, from
1873 to June 1881, which encompasses the balance of Apthorp's tenure with the
The full title of the paper was The Folio, A Monthly Journal of Music, Drama,
Art, and Literature. The paper initially cost ten cents per copy, a dollar for a year's
subscription, and claimed a wide distribution--Boston, New York, Philadelphia,
Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, San Francisco, and even London. Part of the
reason for the wide appeal of The Folio was the fact that "presents" and "splendid
gifts" were awarded for subscriptions. In addition to premiums (sheet music or music
books) or cash commissions (forty cents per subscription), patrons ("agents") could
also receive Watham watches, Weed sewing machines, New England parlor organs,
and Henry F. Miller pianos for supplying the publisher with lists of names (along
with a one-year payment) of new subscribers.' Each issue was generally about thirty
pages--approximately five pages of articles, five pages of notes, ten pages of sheet
music, and ten pages of advertisements. Articles about music and musicians were
quite short and general, as were music reviews.
Surprisingly, there was little attention to drama, art, and literature; the paper
was mostly concerned with musical happenings in Boston. Regular features of The
Folio included a story that was usually continued over several issues, foreign
correspondence, Book Table, Drama in Boston, Minor Chords (brief notices of
musicians, musical events, and anecdotes), cards (music teachers), schools
(advertisements), various short articles (usually about one-half column out of three
1 The Folio, Dec. 1876, 204b.
on a page) of some musical interest (including "reviews"), a fashion column, and lots
of ads for music (songbooks, piano music, brass band music, music rolls) and
accessories (pianos, Ole Bull violin strings) available from White, Smith & Perry.
A strong selling point of the paper was the sheet music. There were usually
four or five songs and piano arrangements published in every issue, as might be
expected from a paper issued by a music publisher. Sheet music was of the simple
and popular variety, primarily songs and piano solos. For example, the January 1872
issue included "The Poor Drunkard's Child" (words by G. L Austin, music by C. A.
White, arranged by Wimmial Gooch), the "Fairy Dream Waltz" (piano solo by J. W.
Turner, Op. 311), and "Be Thou Faithful" (sacred quartet by C. A. White, arranged
by William Gooch).
Each monthly also featured a fine portrait, usually of a musician, including
soprano Adelina Patti (1843-1919), bandleader Patrick S. Gilmore (1829-92),
composer/educator Lowell Mason (1792-1872), soprano Ilma di Murska (1836-89),
pianist/conductor Hans von Billow (1830-94), French composer Charles Gounod
(1818-93), and German violinist Joseph Joachim (1831-1907). Other celebrity
portraits that appeared in the journal included Phineas Taylor (P. T.) Barnum and
"Buffalo" Bill Cody.2
White, Smith & Perry's selection of Dexter Smith as the first editor must have
quite deliberate. They published a great deal of "popular" music, and Smith
2 Ibid., Mar. 1872, 80b (Patti); Apr. 1872, 112b (Gilmore); May 1874, 157
(Mason); Nov. 1874, 166 (Murska); Nov. 1875, 182a (Bilow); July 1876, 17a
(Gounod); Sept. 1877, 324a (Joachim); Aug. 1873, 91b (Barnum); Aug. 1874, 51
admirably set the tone of light entertainment and easy, fun reading. He quickly
became disfranchised, however, with editing a paper that was issued by a music
publisher. Feeling that he was constantly catering to their vested interests, Smith
struck out on his own. His Paper will be discussed later.
The Folio was continued under the hand of George Lowell Austin, and then
under T. D. Hooker. The format remained essentially the same. Hooker's
"Salutatory" stated that
To be truly valuable, a magazine should be, not the exponent of any
particular hobby, but a repository of all things worth knowing, so far
as that may be possible, in its own particular domain. Our best
energies shall be devoted to rendering the FOLIO both interesting and
instructive, and, in doing this, we have the promise of assistance from
some of the best talent in the country.3
Indeed, the list of contributors is extensive. The Folio was entertaining, to be
sure. The paper was in line with the thinking of Joseph W. Turner, a composer and
arranger of piano music: "There is a grandeur in simplicity, and it is this simplicity,
this pure melody, God's sweetest gift to mortals, that this world at large delights in
as music and literature." As Turner composed, so the Folio was compiled and
edited for the immediate pleasure of its readers. Articles were short, the writing
was personable, and the topics were current and amusing, seldom controversial. The
Folio was just plain fun to read.
For all its trifles, The Folio did make attempts to be instructive. Articles
concerning topics of music that would be enlightening or informative were few, but
3 Ibid., Jan. 1873, 8.
4 Ibid., Nov. 1873, 132.
interesting. Generally, there was no discussion of facts or views, only plain
statements that were probably intended to foment discussion among readers. For
example, an article in the March 1873 issue, "Wanted; An American School of
Opera," commented on the fact that many talented American singers had to go to
Europe to learn the art of operatic singing and argued that opera in America was
developed to the point that we should be able to support our own training schools.6
Beginning in the October 1872 issue (p. 102) and concluding in November (p.
133) were three questions that were--and are--frequently posed by people that know
a little about music, and the answers, presumably by the editor (many comments and
reviews were taken from other sources) were simple, direct, and succinct. The first
question was why is C called 1, Do, and Tonic? The answer: C, the note name, is
Absolute; 1, the degree of the scale, is Relative; Tonic is Technical; and Do, a
solfege syllable, is Auxiliary. That is a good answer to a question that vexes
nonmusicians but does not bother musicians, who simply accept them as different
names for the same thing, as if distinguishing one term from the other is pointless.
Question two was why are so many teachers dissatisfied with the antiquated method
of teaching? The answer assumed the question was in reference to solmization and
basically said that teachers were not disillusioned with the method. Finally, why do
students of figured bass theory progress slowly? Answer: students do not progress
when working with figured bass because it does not call on their powers of
invention. Why this question/answer rapport between editor and readers was not
5 Ibid., Mar. 1873, 72.
continued is puzzling, since these are sincere, fitting queries for the readers of a
Another instructive yet interesting article was "How Pianos are Injured,"
which dealt primarily with improper tuning. The same issue recounted the story of
how the text for the hymn "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" came to be.6 This
article made an unfortunate use of the pronoun he, however, thereby confusing who
actually wrote the text: Bishop [Reginald] Heber or Dean Shirley, Vicar of
Wrexham, with whom Heber was staying. A true example of the perfunctory style
of the Folio, however, the article failed to mention that Lowell Mason composed the
tune that appears in most hymnals today.7 That such an article was published
nevertheless shows some interest, albeit scant, in such matters.
A series of brief, two-line "Musical Biographies in Miniature" were published
in March and May of 1876. These were taken from the Organists Journal. In July
1876, in honor of America's centennial, the texts to J. G. Whittier's "Centennial
Hymn" (from the Atlantic Monthly) and the Centennial Cantata (Centennial
Meditation of Columbia, text by Sidney Lanier, music by Dudley Buck) were
included. A most interesting feature was the inclusion of the "Centennial Hymn"
6 Ibid., Jan. 1874, 4, 5.
7 Heber wrote the text at the request of Dean Shirley, who happened to be his
father-in-law, for a series of sermons to begin Whitsunday, 1819. Heber used an old
ballad, "'Twas when the seas were roving," for the tune, and the hymn was published
in February 1823 in England and America in The Christian Observer. Mary W.
Howard, of Savannah, Georgia, noticed the hymn and asked Lowell Mason to
compose a new tune for the hymn. "Missionary Hymn" was composed by Mason the
next year and appeared in the ninth edition of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society
that first appeared in Gospel Magazine, March 1776. "The hymn," said Hooker, "is
appropriate from its merits as well as the accident of its age for centennial
James M. Tracy, a professor of music at the Boston Conservatory of Music,
provided several notable articles to the Folio. In April 1873 he wrote on "The
Importance of Systematic Studies in Music." In January 1876 he wrote on the
"Education of Pianists."9 Most ambitious, however, was his "Theory and Rudimental
Harmony." Published in ten parts, from February to November 1877, each issue of
the Folio printed four pages of the theory manual (reduced to the size of one
journal page), which explained notes, rests, intervals, scales, the circle of fifths,
syncopation, graces and embellishments, time signatures, phrases, arpeggios,
fermatas, and musical shorthand for repeated notes. There were a total of
forty-seven pages published in all. The December 1877 issue began a similar series
Not all articles were for the edification of the readers. In fact, most were of
the "interesting notes" variety. The paper was full of columns--"Official Bulletin" and
"Minor Chords" in particular--of one- and two-line anecdotes and remarks
concerning who was where doing what. Such briefs served more to entertain the
audience and provide them with humorous material that would be appropriate in the
parlance of light social settings. For example, the April 1872 issue included these
"Minor Chord" items:
8 The Folio, July 1876, 7.
9 Ibid., Apr. 1873, 102; Jan. 1876, 6, concluded June 1876, 205.
(1) --The height of impudence--Taking shelter from the rain in an
umbrella shop. (2) --A clean shirt is one of woman's best gifts to man.
(3) --Schoolmistress:--"Johnny, I'm ashamed of you! When I was your
age I could read as well as I do now." Johnny-- "Aw! but yow'd a
different taycher to wot we'm got!" (4) --"You there Jenkins! How the
deuce did you find your way out?" "Find my way out? Out of where?
What do you mean?" "Why, the last I saw of you, you were lost--in
slumber." "Oh, ah; well, I rode out on a nightmare."
There were also short articles that delighted the readers. For example, the
February 1872 issue included an article of Gioacchino Rossini's personal comments
on how the deal was struck for him to compose his Stabat Mater. A May 1873
article claimed that Johann Strauss, Jr., conducted with "friskiness," whereas Richard
Wagner hissed, stamped, and used facial expression: "Wagner's men appear to derive
the notes they play from his glances as much as from their books." The September
1872 issue featured an article on "How P. T. Barnum Paid the Trombone Player.""
Barnum expected the musicians to pay him for providing them a place to practice
and an audience, so the story goes.
Finally, the June 1874 issue featured an article to answer the query posed by
a reader "What is the highest note any soprano has sung, and who?" The editor
replied that the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute reaches a high F, and
that Carlotta Patti, [Ilma] di Murska, and other sopranos can sing that high. (Note
that the particular aria, "Der Holle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen," is not
mentioned, as Apthorp would have done.) The editor commented that the usual
was a high C, adding that [Maria Felicita] Malibran (1808-36) could sing a C or
10 Ibid., Apr. 1872, 108.
Ibid., Feb. 1872, 42-43; May 1873, 138; Sept. 1872, 71.
C# and that [Kristina] Nilsson (1843-1921) could sing a high D. In a follow-up
entry in July 1874 a reader commented that Mrs. H. M. Smith could sing a G or A
and had a range of three and one-half octaves. The editor then quipped, "If
anything better can be repeated, lets [sic] hear it."12 Such information was not
printed for any serious interest but was primarily intended for conversational
As informative and entertaining as articles in The Folio were, such concern
for the public did not include meaningful reviews of music and performances.
Seldom was complete information cited as regards date, time, place, performing
group/soloist/director, and program. It is possible that most readers were aware of
such information, so the editor saw no need to reiterate known details. Comments
on the music were completely missing, and remarks concerning the performance
were scant. For example, a review of a concert by the Apollo Club stated:
We must specially note the appreciative rendering of Fischer's Spring
Night, and we have never heard the Chorus of Dervishes given with so
much truth, and natural vigor. Mendelssohn's grand overture, Calm
Sea and Prosperous Voyage, was almost faultlessly played, and served
as a fitting prelude to the Soldier's Farewell." Mr. [Benjamin J.]
Lang's playing of Chopin's Scherzo, in Bb minor, was in his usual style,
and of course above criticism.13
Another entry in the Opera and Concert column stated that "Mr. [Whitney]
Eugene Thayer [1838-1889, organist, Boston Music Hall] gave an interesting Organ
Recital March 3d, on the Boston Conservatory organ. He had the assistance of Mr.
[Julius] Eichberg [director of the Conservatory], and Miss Persio Bell, with her
12 Ibid., July 1874, 6.
13 Ibid., Feb. 1872, 40a-b.
violin. Those present were most agreeably entertained [emphasis added]."14 Finally,
again from the Opera and Concert page: "Mr. B. J. Lang's series of concerts at
Mechanic's Hall closed March 26. They have been decided favorites with the lovers
of classical music, every concert being largely attended. With able assistants, Mr.
Lang presented on each occasion good selections, and rendered them in a manner
worthy of his high reputation as a musical artist."15
There were numerous topics that were treated in the Folio, among them
festivals (including those of public school children), Anton Rubinstein, Chopin, Liszt,
Schumann, Wagner, Theodore Thomas, C. A. White (who contributed many of the
songs printed in The Folio), Cherubini, the Fisk Jubilee singers, Anton Stradivarius,
Lowell Mason, classical music, Guido and the staff, church acoustics, and vocal
technique. There were brief obituary notices for such music personalities as Lowell
Mason, Ferdinand David, Sir William Stendale Bennett, and Jule E. Perkins (a
whole page!). Beginning in August 1876 was a column devoted to the Freemasons.
Finally, to accompany the full-page portrait of some musician--usually local--that was
included in every issue, there was often a short article about that artist.
Dexter Smith's Paper
After setting The Folio on its course, Dexter Smith, its first editor, struck off
on his own. The first issue of Dexter Smith's Musical Literary, Dramatic, and Art
Paper, edited and published by Dexter Smith, appeared in January 1872. In the
salutatory Smith proclaimed that his paper was "the only musical monthly in the
14 Ibid., Apr. 1874, 110.
15 Ibid., May 1874, 148.
United States that is not issued by a music-publishing house. We intend to make
our paper the most lively and progressive musical journal in the country."16 The
monthly was to include Reading matter ("Not a line shall be published in these
columns that may not be safely placed before the purest minded lady in the land"),
stories, poems, "spicy paragraphs," "Sparks" (news, gossip, one-liners), jokes, and
foreign correspondence. There were also columns devoted to Masonic activities and
baseball. Like The Folio, Smith's paper contained sheet music: "We shall regard
quality, rather than quantity, and shall prefer to give our subscribers two good pieces
rather than a hundred commonplace ones, which hardly repay the trouble of
learning." Most of the songs and piano pieces were composed or arranged expressly
for the Paper. Smith also included a column by Mme. Demorest of the "newest and
most reliable fashions," as well as illustrations. Finally, like The Folio (again), in
order to entice subscribers Smith offered premiums: "We present every subscriber
with a splendid picture, entitled 'The Catspaw!' which is valued at four dollars." The
picture was from Bufford's engraving house.
When Smith moved to his own monthly, he took with him the list of The
Folio's subscribers in order to bolster his circulation. He also had the advantage of
adding to his list of subscribers the readers of Boston's People's Leader and
Chicago's Musical Independent. Edited by W. S. B. Matthews, the Musical
Independent had folded shortly before. As a result, as of January 1874, Smith
proclaimed, "We are able to claim the largest circulation of any musical journal in
'1 Dexter Smith's Musical Literary, Dramatic, and Art Paper, Jan. 1872, 6.
Hereafter Smith's Paper.
the United States." Smith claimed a readership from Boston, New York,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal,
Toronto, Dublin, Glasgow, and London. So Smith's enterprise started off on a
positive note, with a large circulation base. Advertisements appeared for Steinway
pianos, Wm. A. Ponds (publisher), Weber pianos, Haines pianos, Boston Musical
Instrument Manufacturers, etc. As with The Folio, Smith's Paper included some fine
portraits of musicians of local prominence, including soprano Clara Louise Kellogg
(1842-1919), Carlotta Patti, Emma Albani, Pauline Lucca, and Theodore Thomas.
One portrait of particular interest was of "Little Charlie Ross." Apparently
the lad had been abducted from his home in Philadelphia, 1 July 1874, and held for
$20,000 ransom. The portrait was run in the November 1874 issue, along with two
songs written in his support: "Bring Back Our Darling" (words by Dexter Smith,
music by W. H. Brockway) and "Poor Little Lost One" (words by George Cooper,
music by Violetta). Whether Smith was sincere in this effort or promoted the affair
simply for circulation is unknown. But at least it indicates that he was aware of
what was on the minds of his readers and the community.
Smith made it a point to provide his readers with material that they could
digest quickly and easily. His writing style was personable. Anecdotes and
humorous stories were commonplace in Smith's Paper. Direct quotes of a humorous
nature were often used to make composers and musical celebrities more
approachable. For example, in an interview with Julius Eichberg, the director of the
New England Conservatory of Music, he was asked about his forthcoming operetta
Mackerel Catcher. "The absurd rumor about my writing the "Mackerel Catcher" was
a foolish joke, based probably upon the fact that during my summer vacation at the
Isle of Schoals, I amused myself in catching a large number of mackerel."17
Other items of interest to Smith's readers were diverse, but all were intended
for light, easy reading. A series of articles appeared on man/woman relationships:
why men don't marry, why women lose their beauty, what women look for in a man,
why rich men don't marry, marrying for money, "How she got a husband," etc. Like
The Folio, Smith's Paper contained stories, like "Why the Organ Whistled" and
"Choosing a wife, or melting an icicle." For the sports-minded, the Baseball column
kept them abreast of happenings. The February 1873 issue printed a list of scores
for the complete 1872 season of the Boston Club baseball team. For those that love
animals, Smith included stories like the "Canine Chorus," a pack of dogs that barked
during the performance of Wagner's Tannhauser in Vienna; as well as "Snakes that
love music," an item about a boa constrictor that responded to an accordion; and
"Monkeys for opera bouffe."18 Smith made no further comment there. There were
also entries on "Cow Music," "Horse Music," and "Singing Mice." For the lady of the
house, Smith provided a domestic column and a fashion column. Finally, a column
called "Sparks" featured short notices of local interest (?): "Tom Karl is again ill";
"Boston's Pantheon is worth visiting"; "Louis P. Goulland has published a
'Spelling-Match' song, which is having immense popularity" [popular is a word that
appears with regularity in both Smith's Paper and in The Folio]; "J. H. Bartlett is
engaged upon a bust of Oakes Ames"; "'Are hard boiled eggs healthy?' We never
'7 Ibid., Nov. 1874, 132.
'8 Ibid., Feb. 1876, 39; Dec. 1876, 169; Dec. 1876, 176.
heard one complain"; "The tenor and soprano in a Boston choir were married
recently. They met by chants, the usual way, and ultimately agreed to duet." No
further comment here, either.
How well received was Smith's Paper? The Boston Times, for one,
complimented it in high fashion. It was issued for the first time in January 1872,
and a letter from the Times was printed in the March issue:
It is not a dry, "classical" paper, filled with uninteresting treatises on
"hobbies," but a lively, spicy journal, running over with good things.
A glance at the list of contributors will show the strength of the
musical and literary talent engaged to furnish articles for its columns.
In addition to its excellent reading-matter, the February number
contains seven complete pieces of beautiful vocal and instrumental
music. It is not surprising that such a paper is in great demand. It
deserves its wonderful success.19
The reference to sheet music is particularly interesting. As mentioned, Smith
promised his readers quality sheet music. Songs of Arthur Sullivan were often
"arranged expressly for Dexter Smith's Paper." In general, however, the songs were
extremely simple and, most important, "popular." For example, "Dot Leedle Yawcob
Strauss" first appeared in Smith's Paper in April 1877. The following issue claimed
that over 100,000 copies had been sold. On such was built the popularity of Smith's
The Times made reference to the music in the February issue. Those items
were "Strangers Yet" (music by Claribel), "I'd Choose to be a Daisy" by Frederick
Buckley, "The Lone Fish-Ball" (directions are for all to join on the chorus), "Saw My
19 Ibid., Mar. 1872, 60. The reference could be either to the Boston Evening
Times, which also was simply known as the Boston Times, a paper that was issued
from Monday through Saturday, or to the Boston Times, which was issued on
Sunday and continued the Boston Sunday Times as of 1871.
Leg Off' (the words are "Saw my leg off, saw my leg off, saw my leg off short"; the
entire song is then repeated), "Laurel Schottisch" for piano by E. Mack, "Les Roses
Grand Waltz" for piano arranged by J. S. Knight, and "Come Where My Love lies
Dreaming" for piano by C. Foster. Perhaps the Boston Times had some vested
interest in promoting such ditties as "beautiful vocal and instrumental music." They
are distinctly in the popular vein, a genre that Apthorp chose not to review, as we
On the subject of music reviews, it was not Smith's intention to provide his
readers with penetrating, discerning reviews of music or performances. The
superscript to the December 1872 issue quoted W. S. B. Matthews: "There is no such
thing as intelligent and discriminating criticism possible while the music-publisher
pays the editor's salary." Smith's relationship with any music-publisher is consistent
with Matthews's statement, since Smith broke away from White, Smith & Perry's
Folio. The first part of Matthews's dictum, however, is completely absent in Smith's
Paper. At least the Folio featured an Opera and Concert column; Smith's Paper did
not include a regular column devoted to commenting on musical events in and
around Boston. When he did attempt remarks of a performance, his words were
drivel. For example, a review of the "Seventh Symphony Concert" in the March
1872 issue states, in toto,
This concert took place at Music Hall, Feb. 1st. It was not very well
attended, nor did the performance very greatly please those who were
present. Liszt's Symphonic Poem, Haydn's Symphony, No. 3, in E-flat
and Rubenstein's [sic] Piano-forte Concerto No. 3 in G were the new
numbers on the program. Mr. B. J. Lang gave a very effective
rendering of the concerto.2
There is no meaningful comment on either the music or the performance.
To Oscar Thompson, the function of music criticism is to "hold up a mirror to what
has been composed or performed and to the performance."21 Dwight and Apthorp
both held to this concept of musical criticism. Using this definition, then, it is
apparent that Smith was not a music critic.
One of Smith's most detailed reviews can be found in the June 1877 issue,
wherein he commented on a recent Handel and Haydn Society Festival. There was
no mention of where and when the performance took place. He did remark that
such a festival "could not be gotten up in any other city in the country" because
"there is no such chorus anywhere else in the country. And an oratorio needs a
good chorus!" He then named the principal singers and listed some of the works
performed, including Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah and G. F. Handel's Samson and
Israel in Egypt, "all of which were artistically performed." Clara Louise Kellogg was
praised first, but she was also admonished not to devote herself to oratorio but to
remain on the opera stage. Soprano Emma Thursby (1845-93) "gave evidence of
much ability as a bravura singer. But she has not yet a sufficiently massive style for
oratorio." Contralto Annie Louise Cary, as usual, "is a thorough artist." English
2 Ibid., Mar. 1872, 57. The concert was presented by the Harvard Musical
Association, and the program consisted of Beethoven's overture to Coriolanus, Liszt's
symphonic poem Tasso: Lamente e Trionfo, Haydn's symphony, Rubinstein's piano
concerto, and Weber's overture to Oberon. The review in Dwight's Journal, 10 Feb.
1872, 182f, was more substantial. Apthorp did not cover the event.
21 Thompson, Practical Musical Criticism, 28.
contralto Adelaide Phillips's voice was lauded as "rich, sweet and powerful."
Dramatic tenor Charles Adams, who "had scarcely recovered from the effects of
sea-sickness," nevertheless gave a fine performance. Mr. Whitney was praised for
his "dramatic intensity and freedom." William and John F. Winch were mentioned.
Carl Zerrahn conducted in a "masterly fashion, and B. J. Lang as organist and
pianist, won high encomiums."22 Further comment described the audience as large
and from far and near. That the management made mistakes was mentioned, but
no specifics were supplied.
These comments focused on the performance. As regards the music,
"Selections from French opera--although admirable in their place--are hardly in
keeping with the severely classical works called for by high art."2 That remark in
itself causes one to reflect on whether these are in fact the words of the editor,
Dexter Smith. Indeed, there are other examples of satisfactory reviews in Smith's
Paper, but they are credited to other sources, such as Watson's Art Journal (New
York) and the New York Herald. A letter from New York to the editor dated
16 October 1876 offered an opinion "Why Theodore Thomas Failed," stating that it
was the balance between "the classical symphony and the popular waltz" that was
responsible for his fame. He gradually dropped the popular music and became
"intensely classical. Only the cultured few could appreciate his music." Patrick
Gilmore appealed to the public; Thomas did so no longer. "Let Thomas return to
the good old style of program he commenced with, and the people will rally to his
22 Smith's Paper, June 1877, 166a.
support."24 It is likely that Smith would have emphasized the "selections from
French opera" and deprecated the "severely classical works."
For all the buffoonery that the Paper contains, an occasional gem can be
harvested. The portraits, as mentioned, are truly fine. The one piano solo that
comes the closest to what may be considered art music is J. W. Turner's Battle of
Bunker Hill, Op. 370. Despite the fact that Ludwig van Beethoven's Wellington's
Victory and Peter Tchaikovsky's (1840-93) 1812 Overture have been criticized for
wont of quality compositional practice, they are nevertheless significant works of
literature. So Turner's Battle is. It is a programmatic work, depicting the battle,
from the opening bugle call, preparation for battle, cannon fire, the advance and
attack of the British (to the tune "Rule Britannia"), the counterattack of the
Americans, the retreat of the British, and victory of the Americans (to the tune
"Yankee Doodle"). The work closes with final Hurrah!s and "Hail! Columbia." To
be sure, Turner's Battle is a fun piece, but it is technically demanding, not for the
household parlor pianist.
Dwight's Journal and the Atlantic Monthly
As mentioned in the introduction, the only journal during 1872 and 1877 that
was published in Boston that could compare with Apthorp's writings for the Atlantic
Monthly was John S. Dwight's Journal of Music. Each issue was divided into two
parts, the first being articles from outside sources (including foreign correspondence,
mostly from Europe), and the second being articles from Dwight's own hand.
24 Ibid., Nov. 1876, 136.
Although there is merit to the outside articles that Dwight chose to print, this
discussion will focus on his own words, since all of Apthorp's writings were his own.
Dwight was part of the inner circle of Boston figures, and even Apthorp
recognized that his Journal was respected as the "official" word on what was proper
in the realm of music. During Apthorp's tenure with the Monthly, Dwight's Journal
included a wide assortment of articles. All were rather lengthy and were clearly
intended for those in the know. The writing style was masterly, and the articles
were detailed. Music of the masters--J. S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix
Mendelssohn--was treated at length. To his credit, Dwight did include a good deal
of discussion on the music of Wagner, although it was purely for the information of
his readers. He did not condone the new music. Apthorp wrote an entire article
on a new work by Franz Liszt, Die Glocken des Strassburger Minsters (The Bells of
the Strasbourg Cathedral, 1874), that was not mentioned in Dwight's Journal.25 There
was a great deal of attention to what was going on in Europe, as if that were the
model for American music. It should be no surprise, then, that the music of such
Americans as Louis M. Gottschalk was not discussed by Dwight.
Another curious omission on Dwight's part regarding music education in
America was the opening of the National College of Music in Boston, September
1872. The school was established by the Mendelssohn Quintette Club. B. J. Lang
headed the piano department, Vincenzo Cirillo of Naples headed the voice
department, and members of the Quinttete Club served as instructors of string
25 Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 1875, 377-82. The piece is a sacred choral piece for
mezzo, baritone, chorus, and orchestra. Apthorp's article includes several musical
instruments. Apthorp spoke highly of the establishment of the school and expected
a great deal of it.2 Dwight made no mention of the event.
Turning to matters that both Dwight and Apthorp addressed, let us begin
with Patrick S. Gilmore's World Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival of
1872 (the first was the National Peace Jubilee, 1869). Dwight's entries were
threefold, occupying fifteen columns (each at slightly over ten inches in length) of
print that became very fine at the very end--fourteen lines per inch!--that it is
advisable to use a magnifying glass to read. Apthorp, on the other hand, devoted
only a single issue, September 1872, to the event, totaling just over six columns (each
at slightly over seven inches). In Dwight's first entry he discussed the outer aspects
of the festival, emphasizing that it was primarily a business venture. He questioned
whether it was indeed an art jubilee, a music jubilee, or even a peace jubilee.
Besides, just what is a "peace" jubilee? He also was curious as to whose jubilee it
was--Gilmore's, Boston's, or the nation's. Dwight detailed the numbers of
instruments, voices, bands, and the coliseum audience. Apthorp, too, remarked on
the business end of the festival, noting that "Art in any shape can nowhere live
without money. ... We poor art-lovers and artists should be only too thankful when
men who have the means think it worth their while to invest in art-stock instead of
in railway bonds."27 While Dwight decried the festival as a business venture,
Apthorp, recognizing that artists, too, need money for sustenance, was encouraged
26 Ibid., Mar. 1873, 376.
27 Ibid., 376a-b.
that people with money chose to invest it in art. As to Dwight's other remarks
regarding the dimensions of the jubilee, Apthorp made no comment.
Dwight's second entry focused on the music itself. Gilmore fell into the way
of thinking that if ten--or ten thousand--voices are good, then twenty--or twenty
thousand--are twice as good. Dwight noted that such a large chorus (which boasted
some twenty thousand voices, although he was certain that there were only eighteen
thousand at the beginning, the number tapering off as the festival ensued) could not
possibly have projected a precise sound. The problems of seating far apart and
filling the hall space were simply overwhelming. Apthorp avoided Dwight's wont to
excess verbiage and simply remarked that "there was not and could not be any
clearly defined outline to the singing, but everything was blurred and indistinct."28
Apthorp did add, however, that the large audience contributed enough of its own
clatter as to further interfere with the strains of the voices.
As regards the program, both Dwight and Apthorp commented on the
performances of works as G. F. Handel's Israel in Egypt and the "Anvil Chorus" from
Guiseppi Verdi's II Trovatore as music merely to give the jubilee credibility. Holding
to his traditional view, that of holding up music of the masters, Dwight pled, "But
in all this was Music paramount, or something else? ... Was Art revered? Did
Bach and Beethoven still keep their places on the equal platform?"2 Apthorp was
more perceptive, noting that these two works were "opposite magnetic poles of the
28 Ibid., 378b.
2 Dwight's Journal, 27 July 1872, 278c.
Jubilee. What one attracted the other repelled."3 This is another way of phrasing
what Apthorp saw as a major problem of the jubilee: a want of unity of purpose.
Dwight saw this, too, but not in terms of the program. Dwight's remarks concerned
the festival as a whole, but only after reading Apthorp's column can one clearly
summarize Dwight's words.
The third part of Dwight's trilogy discussed the instrumental music and
soloists, vocal and instrumental. Apthorp did so, also, but, again, he was much more
compact in his remarks. In particular, the European bands received attention.
Gilmore did promise an international festival, and European nations were indeed
represented--by bands. Apthorp and Dwight both commented on the French,
German, and English bands. Dwight was distressed that European culture would be
represented by a band and not a symphony orchestra. Further, he did not consider
the German emperor's cornet quartet "a very significant contribution to the greatest
of all Music Festivals."31 Apthorp made no comment here. As might be expected,
Dwight had high praise for the Prussian (not German) band. Noting the strong
brass, the band nevertheless was "thoroughly musician-like" and "entirely musical."32
Apthorp did note the fine, precise, stirring performance of the German band, but
the strong brass to him were not so musical. "The opening chords of the Egmont
30 Atlantic Monthly, Mar. 1873, 377a.
31 Dwight's Journal, 27 July 1872, 278c.
32 Ibid., 10 Aug. 1872, 287c.
Overture, for instance, sounded as if they were trying to blow down the walls of
Jericho." To him, the overblown low brass sounded "coarse and blaring."33
Dwight commented that he thought the French band was the best, but he had
no specific remarks on the music, namely, works of Wagner. Apthorp's opinion was
the same regarding the French band, but he provided specific comment on the
selections from Richard Wagner's Lohengrin. "This was almost the perfection of
playing, never lacking life or emphasis; yet throughout, even in the ball-music
(which, by the way, was taken in a most furiously rapid tempo), full of delicate lights
and shades, and in fine, full, unforced tones."34 Dwight's remarks included such
generic yet effective words as "fire," "intense," and "passion." Apthorp went a step
further by making specific reference to the music and noting tempo marks,
expressive elements such as crescendo, and the like. Dwight provided an aura of
how the music sounded; reading Apthorp, one can actually hear the music.
Another major event inn the musical life of Boston was the tenth
anniversary--and one hundredth concert--of the Harvard Musical Association [HMA].
Both Apthorp and Dwight provided retrospective on the work of this orchestra.
Dwight's two articles (again, Apthorp was more succinct, with only one) were purely
historical. He highlighted the progress of the Association, including program, the
audience, management, and finances. The bulk of the space was devoted to listing
by composer the works performed by the orchestra. Apthorp, too, provided a
historical sketch, but he went back another two years, to 1863 and the Orchestral
33 Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 1872, 377a, c.
34 Ibid., 377b.
Union. Dwight said nothing of how the HMA sounded, which Apthorp did.
Apthorp found the performances of the Orchestral Union "very rough, but not
without a certain enthusiasm and unity of purpose."3 On the actual founding of
the HMA, Apthorp let Dwight speak for him, quoting from Dwight's Journal of
9 December 1865 (one of the few times that Apthorp did not speak for himself,
although the style is entirely like his own).
Ever the critic, Apthorp commented that "Some of the airs of J. S. Bach's
Passion-Music were given, and very unsatisfactorily given, leaving the most dreary
impression on the public."3 The HMA was too precious to Dwight for him to speak
anything other than praise.
Apthorp took a step that Dwight perhaps found irrelevant: he compared the
HMA concerts with those of the Theodore Thomas Orchestra. Again, Apthorp
included a quote from Dwight's Journal (9 Nov. 1869) that called attention to the
superiority of New York orchestras, including Mr. Thomas's. Apthorp continued the
narrative on the quality of the Thomas Orchestra and how the HMA orchestra
measured up. Boston soon came to expect the precision and attention to detail of
the Thomas Orchestra, and the HMA group soon fell into disfavor because it did
not keep stride. As usual, Apthorp made reference to specific compositions to
illustrate his point. In this case he singled out Robert Schumann's Traumerei as
performed by the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, which made a deep impression for
their pianissimo effect. Apthorp closed his article with some comments from the
3 Ibid., June 1875, 754a.
6 Ibid., 755a.
Boston Daily Advertiser on a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in c minor.
An example of earnest criticism is as follows:
One particular effect was given just as Beethoven had indicated, and
most superbly given too, and that was the perfectly even pianissimo for
forty-two bars at the close of the scherzo before the entrance of the
finale. The crescendo began exactly eight bars before the end of the
scherzo, as it is written. Our orchestra invariably begins the crescendo
The HMA attempted to live up to Thomas's new, higher standard, but could not
maintain that level of performance. The quote is a fine example of Apthorp's high
standard of criticism.
Rather than listing ten years' worth of HMA programs, Apthorp simply listed
the most recent (Winter 1875), as well as Thomas's of the same time period. He
then offered one possible cause of the eventual demise of the HMA: programming.
New music was seldom heard at the HMA concerts. Apthorp noted that Dwight was
persistently antagonistic toward "Music of the Future," which some perhaps had
taken as an assault on Thomas himself. (Ironically, Thomas eventually lost a degree
of popularity because audiences felt he programmed too much new music and not
enough of the favorites.) That Dwight championed the HMA was no secret, since
he played a large role in its establishment and continuation. Indeed, he served as
its librarian for a number of years. After making his point, however, Apthorp
quickly set the record straight: "The all-sufficient cause is, as we have said already,
the great inferiority of the playing of the Harvard orchestra."3
37 Ibid., 757b.
38 Ibid., 757a. Like Dwight, Apthorp also had close ties to the Harvard Musical
Association. He served on its concert and program committee.
Of special interest is an article that appeared in Dwight's Journal (4 October
1873) entitled "What are Symphony Concerts for?" Apthorp made a direct response
two months later. The impetus was the beginning of the ninth season of the
Harvard Musical Association concerts. Dwight opened with a review of the original
purpose of the HMA Orchestra, "namely, to insure [sic], at stated times, year after
year, a hearing to those acknowledged masterworks of Symphony and other forms
of instrumental music, which, otherwise, amid so many money-seeking musical
competitors and caterers, are in much danger of neglect." He then decried concerts
that featured virtuosos, for the public was invariably interested only in their
execution and not in the music itself. While he noted that soloists were needed to
perform concertos of the masters and that singers added variety to programs,
"Beethoven and Mozart lose their place of honor."39
His second point was that it is not the duty of concerts to introduce music of
new composers--"These things they can safely leave to others." Rather, "Their chief
aim is to keep the standard master works from falling into disregard, to make Bach
and Handel, Haydn and Mozart and Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and
Schumann, and others worthy of such high championship, continually felt as a living
presence and blessed influences among us."40 Musicians may find the new music
interesting, "but it is not the way to educate the public, or establish any standard of
39 Dwight's Journal, 4 Oct. 1873, 102b-c.
4' Ibid., 103a.
Dwight's final point was that orchestral virtuosity should not be the principal
focus, but that "Music is the first point; execution, or interpretation ... is the
second." Perfection of execution is to be esteemed, to be sure, but to Dwight the
music is paramount. Noting that Boston did not have an orchestra as good as
Thomas's, he felt it was worthwhile to "keep Beethoven with us."42 Noble and rich
programs would overshadow any shortcomings of performance.
In his reply, Apthorp remarked that Dwight's conservative point of view did
have an element of truth to it that is worthy of careful attention. He selected a few
choice quotes to recap Dwight's position. The first point that Apthorp took
exception to is whether new compositions could be safely left to others. "We do not
think that the introducing of new composers can as yet be safely left to others, and
it can hardly be doubted that the hearing of their works is now almost an artistic
necessity with many of us, especially the younger ones." Dwight was not raised in
a generation in which the music of Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, or Richard Wagner
was readily accepted, but Apthorp was. He specifically named Johannes Brahms,
Max Bruch, Charles Gounod, and Jules Massenet as composers whose works were
unheard in Boston. Without discarding the music of Dwight's masters, Apthorp and
his generation actively sought the new music, "not from mere curiosity, but from a
need to imbue ourselves thoroughly with the musical spirit of our own time."43 He
did not buy the philosophy of "none but the ancients can be classical." Even if a
contemporary composer may not achieve immortality (who of that generation could
43 Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1873, 757a.
know?), at least the music would be fresh in its day, and it should be embraced for
the good in it while it is still fresh. That was Apthorp's philosophy.
Apthorp's reason why new music should not be left to others was if not us,
then who? But his main point was that new music was often treated more as
novelties than as serious compositions. Even the great Theodore Thomas, he
thought, puffed his concert programs with new music--"His chief object seems to be
to present as many novelties as possible." On the other hand, what would the
audience think if a piece by Bach or Handel or Mozart or Beethoven were
performed for the first time? New music should not be scheduled as a novelty but
as music, and "in a programme constructed upon some really artistic principle."44
Then, having heard a new piece, it should be performed once or twice during the
winter to become further acquainted with it. He noted that the concerts of the
Harvard Musical Association were "fitting and congenial" but that they needed to
expand their repertory to include contemporary music.
Concerning Dwight's concern that soloists stole the thunder from the masters,
Apthorp had a contrary viewpoint. He reminded his readers that "one of the prime
objects of a concerto is and ever has been to show off individual virtuosity and
highly developed technique," adding, "We are most of us inclined to take concertos,
especially the older ones, much too religiously."45 He further remarked that
composers of concertos imbued their music with all the "brilliance and astonishing
things" of the day. He explained that Handel wrote out all his vocal roulades to
44 Ibid., 757b.
45 Ibid., 758b.
outwrite [Giovanni] Buonnocini [sic, 1670-1747], and because he wanted to impress
his audience. "The only difference between him [Handel] and the mere
effect-composers is that he wrote good ones. Just so with Mozart!"4 W. A. Mozart,
he recalled, was trying to outdo Muzio Clementi and the Abbe Vogler as a pianist.
He cited Mozart's G major Concerto as an example, noting the "runs and flourishes."
(Dwight seldom referred to specific works in this manner to illustrate a point.) To
summarize how Apthorp differed from Dwight on the subject of concertos, Apthorp
asserted, "That there is in them something much higher and nobler than mere
virtuosity and bravura is most true, or else any Herz or Litolff concerto would be as
fine as they; but the virtuosity and bravura are distinctly there for all that."47
How do Dwight and Apthorp compare in the category of "old" music? The
Handel and Haydn Society performed J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion, conducted
by Carl Zerrahn, during Holy Week, 1876, and Dwight reported on the event in the
29 April 1876 issue of his Journal. Apthorp's remarks on the same performance
appeared in the Monthly for September 1876.
Dwight devoted the first half of his article primarily to individual movements
that had not been performed in two previous hearings of the work. To make room
for the additions, some movements were omitted, which he listed. "On the
performance on the whole, considering all the circumstances, we can hardly say too
much in praise."4 He referred to specific arias and choruses and commented on
4 Ibid., 758b-59a.
47 Ibid., 759a.
48 Dwight's Journal, 29 Apr. 1876, 222c.
clarity, tempo, and balance with instrumental soloists. For remarks on a
performance, there was still a good deal of comment on the music itself--he found
it difficult to treat the music and the performance separately. He proceeded to
mention several of the instrumental soloists by name and said that the solos "were
very nicely played." The vocal soloists were "creditable" considering that "hardly any
have been nurtured upon Bach." He did acknowledge that they were indeed "artists
in more modern styles of music."4
As might be expected, Dwight waxed eloquent on Bach's melodies: they are
"too serious, too quiet, too sincere, too devoid of modern effects, and it demands too
entire a self-surrendering of a singer, to make it readily appreciable to all, to any
who have not something in their nature that draws to it any innate affinity."
Henrietta Beebe sang the soprano role well, but neither her voice nor her culture
were "much in sympathy with Bach." Alto Hermine Rudersdorff had been steeped
in the Bach tradition, and she provided a "fine lesson for our singers," despite some
"unpleasant tones." Another alto, Laura Hastings, projected rich and large low
tones, but her delivery was "somewhat constrained and cold." Although bass John
F. Rudolphsen was praised for stepping in on short notice, there were no comments
specifically on his performance. Bass John Winch was in his best voice--"Bach
evidently has begun to gain possession of him." The most difficult part fell to the
tenor, William J. Winch, who sang "admirably with sweet, clear voice," although
49 Ibid., 223a.
he did simplify some of the recitatives. Finally, "Mr. [B. J.] Lang presided ably at
Apthorp apologized for postponing his remarks and noted that he had written
an article a few months earlier on how difficult it is to sing Bach.52 Although he did
not completely alter his position, he did remark, "It would seem that a good
performance of a Bach choral work is not so impossible as we had supposed." He
did not feel that the overall performance was resplendent, "but there were some few
isolated points in it that were superb."5 Foregoing the preliminaries that Dwight
highlighted concerning what arias and choruses were and were not sung, Apthorp
moved directly into the performance. (It should be noted that Dwight's article was
two large pages, Apthorp's only one medium page.)
First to be addressed was the singing of Mme. Rudersdorff. "It is safe to say
that nothing finer of the sort has ever been heard here." His praise was higher than
Dwight's here. Apthorp demonstrated his knowledge of music literature when he
said that to sing "Erbarme dich" is to a singer what playing the Adagio of
Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 106, is to a pianist: "As the one touches the highest
point yet attained of tragic instrumental music, so is the other the highest expression
of the tragic element in song."54
51 Ibid., 223b.
52 See Atlantic Monthly, May 1876, 633ff. The comments grew out of a review
of an unsatisfactory performance of Bach's Magnificat by Sharland's Choral Society
and the Theodore Thomas Orchestra.
53 Ibid., Sept. 1876, 379b.
Second to Mme. Rudersdorff, to Apthorp, was the singing of William Winch
as the Evangelist. (Dwight did not identify the role, only the voice range. It is
possible that most of his readers knew that the Evangelist is a role for tenor.)
Apthorp noted that the recitatives are aided by thin accompaniments, thus allowing
the vocalist to sing naturally rather than with great effort. Hence, Winch was more
successful in the recitatives, stated Apthorp, than in the more orchestral airs. Noting
the difference demonstrates Apthorp's musical perception. Dwight made no such
distinction. Apthorp's remarks on John Winch, John F. Rudolphsen, and Miss
Beebe were brief and similar to Dwight's. In conclusion, then, whereas Dwight's
article spanned well over a long page, Apthorp's remarks, which were more
penetrating as regards the performance, occupied less than a single page.
If Apthorp demonstrated a keener sense of detail in "old" music, Dwight's
forte, it would be expected, then, that the difference between the two would be even
more pronounced when commenting on "new" music. To be sure, Dwight made no
remarks on several pieces of new music, notably, Franz Liszt's The Bells of the
Strasbourg Cathedral, to which Apthorp devoted nearly an entire article, including
substantial musical examples.5 In Dwight's defense, however, Apthorp's
commentary was not on a performance but was rather a literature review.56 Another
piece of new music, Wagner's Lohengrin, was performed by the Strakosch opera
5 Ibid., Sept. 1875, 377-82. See Note 25 above.
6 Apthorp's articles often contained reviews of songs, piano works, and other
musical pieces that had been sent from several publishers for that purpose. Dwight
did not make it a practice to review music, even though his Journal was published
by Oliver Ditson.
troupe, and Apthorp reviewed the performance in the March 1875 issue of the
Monthly. Dwight, sad to say, made no comment on this performance.
While the music of Wagner was generally highly regarded in Apthorp's
columns (a performance of his Kaiser Marsch did disappoint Apthorp), Dwight was
not very open to the "new" music. Dwight summarized his thoughts on the music of
Wagner in "Richard Wagner and his Theory of Music." Drawing on an article by
Richard Grant White that had appeared in Galaxy on a Wagner festival that had
taken place in England, including a "brilliant" performance of Lohengrin, Dwight
made reference to the "Wagner fever" that had gripped the people, a fever that
"must have its run, both there and elsewhere, for heaven knows how long, like all
fashions and the fevers which by turns possess and tyrannize the souls and tastes of
fickle, novelty-seeking men and women."5
Dwight then defended his efforts to "form a fair and candid estimate of what
he aimed at," translating from Wagner's writings, etc. After careful study of
Wagner's writings and hearings of his music, "We have arrived at some convictions
on the subject, which, though we cannot speak as a musician [emphasis added], do
spring from a sincere, earnest, lifelong love and loyalty to music."5 Briefly, Dwight
scoffed the idea that music is not valued for itself by Wagner and his followers, a
reference to Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk. Dwight wondered if a painting would have
to be wed to sculpture to have meaning. He then questioned whether Wagner
treated opera as an "arbitrary product" instead of "a necessary outgrowth from the
7 Dwight's Journal, 27 June 1874, 254b.
very nature both of music and the human soul."5 Dwight's argument is questionable
here. Rather than view Wagner's dramas as reform operas, as Wagner did, Dwight
could see only that they were not in sympathy with opera's "best and purest models."
Dwight's next question concerned Wagner's subject matter. It seems that if
historical and human subjects, if the heroes of the Greek dramas were good enough
for Christoph W. Gluck (1714-87), they should be good enough for Wagner. None
of these Odins, Thors, Walkurie maidens, or Nibelungen trilogy. Dwight seemed to
have forgotten that Wagner's Flying Dutchman was indeed based on an age-old
legend and that Die Meistersinger von Nirnberg highlighted an actual figure in
Germany's musical heritage, Hans Sachs. And what of the love of Tristan and
Isolde? What could possibly be more human? "Isolde!--Tristan! geliebter" is one
of the most famous love duets in opera literature. Dwight completed his raking of
Wagner's operas with a broadside against Wagner's concept of endless melody and
his huge orchestration.
Apthorp did not defend Wagner's theories in the Monthly per se. His article
on Wagner's Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen summarized Wagner's views in
a manner that did not heap coals upon him but rather presented them in a
forthright, even-tempered style. It is clear that Apthorp was not chastising Wagner
but was agreeing with him. He carefully explained Wagner's concept of music and
poetry, using choice quotations. "He says: 'The mistake in the art-form of the opera
has been, that the means of expression (the music) has been made the end of
expression, and the end of expression (the drama) the means.' According to
59 Ibid., 255a.
Wagner, music in its highest form is the outgrowth and necessary complement of
poetry." Nevertheless, "in spite of his theories, much of his music has a purely
musical, not a dramatic or poetical basis." Apthorp pointed out that no truly
innovative artist of any genre will take off in a new direction unless he has "tried the
old beaten path and found it too narrow."6
As regards subject matter, in The Opera Past and Present Apthorp referred to
Die Meistersinger as "an inspiration, it came right out of the blue; no rummaging
about among musty old myths was needed to make that!6' In that same work he
reminded his readers that in melding text and music Wagner went back to the very
roots of opera, to the Florentine Camerata. Apthorp clearly saw the past and the
future, those two diverging roads, and he chose the one less traveled. Dwight's lot
was to take the path more traveled, and that has made all the difference.
Having addressed both "old" and "new" music, there remains American music.
American composers struggled to gain acceptance within the music world. The high
spirit that impelled society was also evident in many of their works, for which they
were criticized as being too spontaneous and undeveloped. Apthorp included in
many of his articles reviews of new music, including songs by Francis Boott and
Julius Eichberg (as well as numerous Europeans) and piano works by Stephen
Emory, William Mason, and Louis M. Gottschalk.2
60 Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1874, 253a-b, 254a.
61 William Foster Apthorp, The Opera Past and Present: An Historical Sketch
(New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1901), 163.
62 Apthorp's reviews are included in Appendix C, "Index of Topics, Musicians,
and Music Reviewed in the Atlantic Monthly, 1872-1877."
One of the most prominent American composers of the nineteenth century
was composer/pianist Louis M. Gottschalk (1829-69). Apthorp included several
entries on Gottschalk, but during the same period (1872-77) Dwight paid him no
mind. To Dwight, Gottschalk was perhaps the best example of the American
"spontaneous and underdeveloped" composer, which interested him not in the least.
Apthorp, on the other hand, recognized the talent and energy of Gottschalk. His
Cdlbre Tarantelle de Bravura received a substantial review by Apthorp.63
Two other noteworthy Americans that received significant attention by both
Apthorp and Dwight were Dudley Buck (1839-1909) and John Knowles Paine
(1839-1906). Several works by Buck were reviewed by Apthorp, including his short
Te Deum in Eb; Te Deum in b with Benedictus in E, Op. 58; Te Deum in C, Op. 60;
Forty-sixth Psalm; The Legend of Don Munio, Op. 62; and the Centennial Meditation
of Columbia cantata. There were only two works by Paine that Apthorp discussed:
St. Peter oratorio and Symphony No. 1. Buck's Centennial Meditation and Paine's St.
Peter will be considered here.
In Philadelphia there was a celebration in honor of the first centennial of the
American nation. Richard Wagner composed Centennial March for the event, and
Dudley Buck composed his Centennial Meditation of Columbia, for chorus and
orchestra, for the inaugural ceremonies in Philadelphia, 10 May 1876. Apthorp's
comments on the music appeared in the July 1876 issue of the Monthly." His
opening statement was: "Mr. Dudley Buck's Centennial Cantata is a very favorable
63 Atlantic Monthly, Mar. 1875, 380f.
4 A review of the performance appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 1877.
example of the composer's style. Anything other than a masterly treatment of easily
melodious and dramatically pertinent themes, coming from his facile pen, would
have surprised us."65 He then launched into a discussion of the text by Sidney
Lanier, which was criticized to such an extent by numerous writers that Lanier wrote
a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Tribune to defend his work.6
Apthorp began by highlighting the points that Lanier made in his defense and
basically had no argument with him, except on one point. Acknowledging Lanier's
sincerity, Apthorp was opposed to his idea that poetry written for music need no
longer be perfectly clear, smooth, and natural. Lanier felt that music was an
indistinct medium, but Apthorp argued that "the syllables 'zig, zig, zig' cannot
possibly be made impressive in non-musical utterance."67 And even if music did
make the text vague, then all the more reason to make the text as clear as possible.
Apthorp recalled to mind the vocal works of Beethoven (Shiller's "Ode to Joy" in his
Ninth Symphony), Wagner (operas), William Sterndale Bennett (1816-75, Coleridge's
Ancient Mariner), and Hans von Billow (Uhland's "Sangers Fluch" in his ballad for
orchestra Des Sangers Fluch, Op. 16). Again, his knowledge of musical literature
was vast, and he used that knowledge to make clear his point.
Apthorp concluded his remarks with a few observations on the character of
Buck's music, praising it for keeping with the spirit of the text. Because the poem
65 Atlantic Monthly, July 1876, 122f.
6 The letter was addressed New York, 10 May 1876, and was printed in Dwight's
Journal, 10 June 1876, 242f.
67 Atlantic Monthly, July 1876, 123b.
was more dramatic, in the "Liszt-Wagner style," than fitting for the more melodious
style of Buck, there were some instances where the total effect was unconvincing.
For example, Apthorp noted one quatrain, the first three lines of which concluded
with the exclamation "away!" Apthorp noted that the whole chorus shrieked on the
first "away!" but that on the next two lines that effect was lost. Nevertheless,
"musically considered, the cantata is a capital piece of writing."6 Buck's tendency
toward the "trivial and commonplace" were mentioned, but he was not chastised.
Apthorp then selected two examples, a bass solo and a fugal chorus, to highlight
Buck's successful cantata.
Considering that Buck's Centennial Meditation was an important work for its
time and place, Dwight did not use his own words to describe it. In the 8 July 1876
issue of his Journal he printed Apthorp's article from the July Atlantic Monthly.6
Earlier, in the May 27 issue, Dwight printed an article from the Philadelphia Tribune
that highlighted the centennial music, including Buck's cantata. The following
month, June 10, Dwight published Lanier's reply to his critics.70 But he did not
make known his own opinion of the work.
The final work to be discussed is the St. Peter oratorio, for SATB soloists,
chorus, and orchestra, by John Knowles Paine, composed in Boston in 1872. The
premiere performance took place not in any of the musical meccas of the young
68 Ibid., 124b.
69 Apthorp's comments on Buck's Centennial Meditation were copied in toto,
including the footnote reference to the cantata. Dwight made only four innocuous
70 See Note 66.
nation but in Portland, Maine, 3 June 1873. (Portland was Paine's birthplace.) The
choir was composed of local residents, but the soloists were well known in Boston:
Mrs. Wetherbee (of Portland), Matilda Phillips, George Osgood, and John
Rudolphsen. Apthorp made no specific mention of the orchestra or the director,
although sufficient clues revealed that the orchestra was comprised of Boston
musicians and that the entire ensemble was conducted by Paine.
It seems that there was a flurry of commentaries on the work before it was
even performed. Having only a piano/vocal score to study (as did all the other
critics), Apthorp was reluctant to state an opinion until he heard the work. But an
article in the February 13 issue of The Nation that cast St. Peter in an unfavorable
light finally spurred him to speak out. He chastised critics for commenting on a
work based only on a piano/vocal score, noting that only "exceptional men, gifted
with exceptional musical insight, may find hints of something beyond this [technical
musicianship] in a piano-forte score, and may arrive inductively at very shrewd
conclusions as to the aesthetic value of the work."71 Robert Schumann, he noted,
was such an exception, recalling Schumann's remarks on Franz Liszt's piano
arrangement of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.72 All the average critic
could do, he chided, was to discern technical details and compare them with "some
71 Atlantic Monthly, Apr. 1873, 507a. On Apthorp's view on inductive reasoning,
see "Music and Science" (Ch. 6, "Musicians and Music-Lovers"), 234ff.
72 Apthorp did stretch the point here, since a piano/vocal score and a
transcription for piano of a work are quite different. The former is for rehearsal,
the latter for performance. For more of Apthorp's opinion on working from a
piano/vocal score, see the discussion on the court litigation related to the
performance of Charles Gounod's The Redemption in Chapter 4, "Boston Evening
ideal standard in his own mind of what an oratorio ought to be."73 The Nation
writer would also have melodies fall into symmetrical phrases, which affords the
singer the greatest passion while offering the average listener complete repose.
Such "sentimentality" in religious music was rebuked by Apthorp.74 Again, Apthorp
defended Paine, because "earnest musicians do not write music for the 'average
The article in The Nation went on to find fault in the text, declaring it want
in emotion. Apthorp cited several lines from the work to illustrate how emotional,
in fact, it was. Criticism of one particular phrase, "Awake, thou that sleepest; arise
from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. The darkness is past, and the true
light now shineth," received this reply from Apthorp: "Unemotional! Has The
Nation's appetite for emotion become so jaded that these things leave it calm and
unmoved?"76 Denial, repentance, and Pentecost--the rushing, mighty wind, the flame
that danced on the disciples' tongues, the speaking in tongues--were specifically
noted: "What better chance for dramatic musical writing could the veriest sensational
Apthorp's final thrust came in response to The Nation's remark that St. Peter
"was too devotional, too monotonous in its emotional range, to serve as an
73 Atlantic Monthly, Apr. 1873, 507a.
74 See his article in the Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 1873, 118f.
75 Ibid., Apr. 1873, 508b.
76 Ibid., 507b.
7 Ibid., 508a.
amusement [emphasis added]." "But whoever thought of an oratorio in the light of
an amusement?" He assured his readers that Paine did not intend St. Peter to be
amusing. Comments in The Nation on oratorios by Mendelssohn, how they are both
melodious and religious, were summarily put to rest, as well. Apthorp saw nothing
distinctly religious in "He watching over Israel" and "Blessed are the men that fear
Him" from Elijah; they were "nothing but the purely sensuous development of a
sensuously beautiful melody."78
Apthorp had high praise for the work and for the premiere performance,
calling it the "great event of the season. .. [It] is the first direct proof we have had
of the existence of creative musical genius in this country."79 The chorus was from
Portland, as was the soprano soloist; the other three soloists and the orchestra were
from Boston. The entire ensemble was conducted by Paine. Calling it "unwise" to
compare St. Peter with established treasures as Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's
Elijah and St Paul, he nevertheless placed St. Peter on the pinnacle of American
choral music. He also noted that America had yet to hear Paine's Mass in D, which
was premiered in Berlin, a comment, perhaps on "our best-known choral
Apthorp's analysis of the work was rather technical but was closely tied to the
text. This served two purposes: (1) to be as precise as possible, and (2) to make it
easier to follow. If the reader did not know what a second subject is, for example,
the references to the music would be of great assistance, and the reader may be able
78 Ibid., 508a-b.
79 Ibid., Aug. 1873, 248a.
to discern the meaning of "second subject" from hearing the work and following the
analysis. To illustrate,
After a short melody by the wind instruments, accompanied by a rapid
upward movement of strings, the dominant chord of C major asserts
itself, being repeated, with sundry inversions, through a dozen bars,
and leading directly into the triumphant and majestic chorus, "The
time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand."8
Apthorp was being informative to both the musically literate and the novice.
His analysis (just over two pages) followed the work step by step. Aware that
some moments were especially moving, Apthorp restrained himself from waxing
poetic, "lest it should be supposed that our enthusiasm has got the better of our
sober judgment."81 He also knew that his readers were knowledgeable of other
great choral works, as by Bach, Handel, and Mendelssohn, and he made occasional
comparisons where they served the purpose. He also noted traditions in such
large-scale choral works and where Paine remained in accordance with these
traditions. Too, there were some usual practices that annoyed him, and he pointed
these out as well. For example, "The cadence prepared by the 6-4 chord, now
become so hackneyed from its perpetual and wearisome repetition in popular church
music, seems to be especially disliked by Mr. Paine, as it occurs but once or twice
in the course of the work."82 He then launched into a brief discussion of various
types of cadences, together with their strengths and weaknesses. Thus, he was
80 Ibid., 248b.
81 Ibid., 249a.
82 Ibid., 250b.
furthering the musical knowledge of musical novices and reviewing known material
for the enlightened. It also clearly demonstrates his attention to detail.
The final page (out of four) of Apthorp's entry was devoted to the
performance itself. He praised the choral society of Portland for its dynamics and
precision: "The Portland singers can easily teach the Handel and Haydn a quarter's
lessons."8 The only fault he found in the chorus was its diminutive size, of one
hundred twenty-five voices, where a chorus of six hundred would have achieved the
effect that Paine intended.
The soloists (named) were admirable, although he felt that Wetherbee, the
soprano, was too enthusiastic. She apparently sang along in the choruses, as well,
robbing her of endurance to finish the work in full voice. Apthorp had the harshest
words for the orchestra: the brass blared, the hautboy [oboe] whined, and the strings
scraped. In the defense of the performance, he noted inaccurately copied parts (his
eyes and ears for detail even went that far), as well as the difficulties of rehearsing
the chorus in Portland and the orchestra in Boston.
As significant an American work as Paine's St. Peter was, Dwight did not
make a first-hand report of the premiere. Rather, he printed entries in his Journal
from other sources. Comments in the 17 May 1873 issue of his Journal were taken
from the New York World of March 31, and remarks on the premiere performance
that appeared in his 14 June 1873 issue were taken from the Portland Press of
June 4. It was not until a year later, when the oratorio was performed for the first
83 Ibid., 251a.
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