Elson, Louis (Charles)

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Elson, Louis (Charles)

Elson, Louis (Charles), American music historian, father of Arthur Elson; b. Boston, April 17, 1848; d. there, Feb. 14, 1920. He studied voice with Kreissmann at Boston and theory with Karl Gloggner Castelli in Leipzig. Returning to Boston, he was music ed. of the Boston Advertiser (1886–1920); was a teacher (from 1880) and head of the theory dept. (from 1881) at the New England Cons, of Music. He was ed.-in-chief of the University Encyclopedia of Music (10 vols., 1912). In his music criticism, he attacked the modernists with vicious eloquence, reserving the choicest invective for Debussy; he called La Mer “Le Mai de Mer,” and said that the faun of L’Apres-midi d’unfaune needed a veterinary surgeon. His widow endowed a memorial fund for the presentation of lectures on music at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in 1945.


Curiosities of Music (1880); The History of German Song (1888); The Theory of Music (1890; rev. by F. Converse, 1935); European Reminiscences, Musical and Otherwise (1891; new ed., 1914); The Realm of Music (1892); Great Composers and Their Work (1898); The National Music of America and Its Sources (1899; new ed., rev. by A. Elson, 1924); with P. Hale, Famous Composers and Their Works (1900); Shakespeare in Music (1901); The History of American Music (1904; 2nd ed., 1915; rev. by A. Elson, 1925); Elson’s Music Dictionary (1905); Elson’s Pocket Music Dictionary (1909); Mistakes and Disputed Points in Music (1910); Women in Music (1918); Children in Music (1918).


Lectures on the History and Art of Music: The L.C. E. Memorial Lectures at the Library of Congress, 1946–1963 (Washington, D.C., 1969).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire