Stevenson, Robert (Murrell)

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Stevenson, Robert (Murrell)

Stevenson, Robert (Murrell), erudite American musicologist, educator, composer, and pianist; b. Melrose, N.Mex., July 3, 1916. He studied at the Univ. of Tex., El Paso (A.B., 1936); then went to N.Y. to study piano with Ernest Hutcheson at the Juilliard School of Music; subsequently entered Yale Univ., studying composition with David Stanley Smith and musicology with Leo Schrade (M.Mus., 1939). In 1939 he had 23 private lessons in composition with Stravinsky in Cambridge, Mass., and in 1940 he took private piano lessons with Artur Schnabel in N.Y., then attended classes in composition with Hanson at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. (Ph.D., 1942); he later had regular music courses at Harvard Univ. (S.T.B., 1943). He also took graduate degrees in theology from the Harvard Divinity School and the Theological Seminary at Princeton Univ. (Th.M., 1949). He served as chaplain with the U.S. Army (1942–46); received the Army Commendation Ribbon; remained in service as a reserve officer until 1953. He then went to the Univ. of Oxford in England, where he took courses in musicology with Jack Allan Westrup (B.Litt., 1954). While thus occupied, he pursued an active career as a concert pianist; gave his first N.Y. recital on Jan. 5, 1942; gave another recital there on March 20, 1947; in both he included his own compositions; he played in London on Oct. 7, 1953. He taught music at the Univ. of Tex., El Paso from 1941 to 1943 and in 1949; lectured on church music at Westminster Choir Coll. in Princeton, N.J., from 1946 to 1949. In 1949 he was appointed to the music faculty at the Univ. of Calif., Los Angeles; was made a prof. of music in 1961; was named faculty research lecturer in 1981. In 1955–56 he was a visiting asst. prof. at Columbia Univ.; also was a visiting prof. at Ind. Univ. in Bloomington (1959–60) and at the Univ. of Chile in Santiago (1965–66). A widely informed musical scientist, he gave courses at the Univ. of Calif, on music appreciation, special seminars on individual composers, and a highly popular course in 1983 on rock-‘n’-roll music. He also presented piano recitals as part of the curriculum. A master of European languages, he concentrated his scholarly energy mainly on Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese music, both sacred and secular, and his publications on these subjects are of inestimable value; he is also an investigative explorer of Italian Renaissance music. He contributed more than 400 articles to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and numerous articles on the Baroque period and on American composers to Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart; was its American ed. from 1967 to the completion of the last fascicle of its supplement. He held numerous grants, fellowships, and awards from learned societies: was a recipient of a Gulbenkian Foundation fellowship (1953–54); a Carnegie Foundation Teaching Award (1955–56); Fulbright research awards (1958–59; 1964; 1970–71); Ford Foundation fellowships (1966, 1981); a National Endowment for Humanities fellowship (1974); and a fellowship from the American Philosophical Soc. He was a contributor, beginning in 1976, to the Handbook of Latin American Studies at the Library of Congress; from 1978 was ed. of and principal contributor to Inter-American Music Review. The versatility of his contributions on various subjects is indeed extraordinary. Thus, he publ, several articles containing materials theretofore unknown about Liszt’s piano concerts in Spain and Portugal. He ed., transcribed, and annotated Vilancicos Portugueses for Portugaliae Musica XXIX (Lisbon, 1976); contributed informative articles dealing with early American composers, South American operas, sources of Indian music, and studies on Latin American composers to the Musical Quarterly, Revista Musical Chilena, journal of the American Musicological Society, Ethnomusicology, and Inter-American Music Review. His avowed mission in his work is “to rescue the musical past of the Americas.” The honors bestowed upon him, especially in the Spanish-speaking world, are many. In 1988 the Organization of American States created the Robert Stevenson Prize in Latin American Musicology. In April 1990 he was awarded a gold medal in ceremonies at the Prado Museum in Madrid, presided over by the King of Spain, and in Dec. of that year was inducted as an honorary member into the Sociedad Espanda de Musicologica. Also er into the Sociedad Espanola de Musicologica. made him an honorary member, and he was honored by the Comisión Nacional de Cultura de Venezuela. In coordination with the quincentennial of the discovery of America in 1992, Stevenson’s book Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age (1961) was publ. in Madrid in a Spanish tr. as La mùsica en las catedrales de España durante el sigio do oro. Among other assorted distinctions, the mayor of El Paso, Tex. (where Stevenson had resided from age 2 to 18), presented him with a scroll making him an honorary citizen. Stevenson’s compositions are marked by kinetic energy and set in vigorous and often acrid dissonant counterpoint. His symphonic 2 Peruvian Preludes were performed by Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orch. on June 28, 1962; the score was later expanded into 3 preludias peruanos and first performed in Mexico City, on July 20, 1963, with Luis Herrera de la Fuente conducting. Other works include Nocturne in Ebony and A Texas Suite for Orch.; Clarinet Sonata; 3 piano sonatas: A Cambridge Sonata, A Manhattan Sonata, and A New Haven Sonata. He also wrote Coronation Concerto for Organ and A Sandburg Cantata for Chorus.


Music in Mexico. A Historical Survey (N.Y., 1952); Patterns of Protestant Church Music (Durham, N.C., 1953); Lfl musica en la catedral de Sevilla, 1478–1606; Documentos para su estudio (Los Angeles, 1954; Madrid, 1985); Music before the Classic Era (London, 1955; second ed., 1958); Cathedral Music in Colonial Peru (Lima, 1959); The Music of Peru: Aboriginal and Viceroyal Epochs (Washington, D.C., 1960); Juan Bermudo (The Hague, 1960); Spanish Music in the Age of Columbus (The Hague, 1960); Music Instruction in Inca Land (Baltimore, 1960); Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age (Berkeley, Calif., 1961; Spanish tr., Madrid, 1992); Mexico City Cathedral Music, 1600–1750 (Washington, D.C., 1964); Protestant Church Music in America (N.Y., 1966); Music in Aztec and Inca Territory (Berkeley, 1968); Renaissance and Baroque Musical Sources in the Americas (Washington, D.C., 1970); Foundations of New World Opera, with a Transcription of the Earliest Extant American Opera, 1701 (Lima, 1973); Christmas Music from Baroque Mexico (Berkeley, 1974); Latin American Colonial Music Anthology (Washington, D.C., 1975); A Guide to Caribbean Music History (Lima, 1975); Antologia de la musica postuguesa 1490–1680 (Lisbon, 1984).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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