Bristow, George Frederick

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Bristow, George Frederick

Bristow, George Frederick, American violinist, organist, conductor, teacher, and composer; b. Brooklyn, Dec. 19, 1825; d. N.Y., Dec. 13, 1898. His father was the clarinetist, conductor, and composer William Richard Bristow (1803–67). He studied piano and violin with his father and W. Musgriff. It is believed that he later received lessons in violin from Ole Bull and in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration from Henry Charles Timm. At age 13, he became a violinist in the Olympic Theatre Orch. in N.Y. In 1843 he joined the N.Y. Phil, playing in the first violin section until 1879. He also played in the orchs. that accompanied Jenny Lind (1850–51) and Marietta Alboni (1852), and in Jullien’s orch. (1853–54). He was conductor of the N.Y. Harmonic Soc. (1851–63) and the Mendelssohn Soc. (1867–71), and also was active as a church organist and choirmaster. From 1854 he taught in the N.Y. public schools, and also privately. Bristow was notably active in N.Y. in promoting the cause of American music. All the same, his extensive output reflects European models, being well-crafted although lacking in originality. As a pedagogue, he publ. Cantara, or Teacher of Singing (with F. Nash; 1866; 2nd ed., enl., 1868), George F Bristow’s New and Improved Method for the Reed or Cabinet Organ (1887), and Bristow’s Two-part Vocal Exercises (1890–95).


opera:Rip Van Winkle (1852-55; N.Y., Sept. 27, 1855; rev. 1878-82); King of the Mountains (1894; unfinished). orch.:5 syms.: No. 1 in E-flat major (1848), No. 2 in D minor, Jullien (c. 1853; NY., March 1, 1856), No. 3 in F-sharp minor (1858; N.Y., March 26, 1859), No. 4, Arcadian (Brooklyn, Feb. 8, 1872), and No. 5, Niagara, for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1893; N.Y., April 11, 1898); 4 overtures: E-flat major (1845; N.Y., Nov. 14, 1847), Winter’s Tale (1856), Columbus (1861; N.Y., Nov. 17, 1866), and Jibbenainosay (N.Y., March 6, 1889). chamber:Duetto concertante for Violin and Piano (1844; rev. as La cracovian for Violin and Orch., 1850); 2 string quartets (c. 1849, 1849); 3 duos for Violin and Viola; piano pieces; organ music. vocal: sacred:Gloria Patri, Praise to God for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1860; N.Y., March 2, 1861); Daniel, oratorio for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1866; N.Y., Dec. 30, 1867); Mass for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1885); various anthems, services, hymns, and chants. secular:The Pioneer, cantata for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (c. 1872); The Great Republic, Ode to the American Union for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (Brooklyn, May 10, 1879).


D. Rogers, Nineteenth-century Music in New York City as Reflected in the Career ofGF. B.(diss., Univ. of Mich., 1967); B. Kauffman, The Choral Works ofGF. B. (1825–1898) and William H. Fry (1815–1864) (diss., Univ. of 111., 1975); K. Gombert, “Leonora” by William Henry Fry and “Rip Van Winkle” by G.F. B.: Examples of Mid-nineteenth-century American Opera (diss., Ball State Univ., 1977).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire