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Thayer, Alexander Wheelock

Thayer, Alexander Wheelock

Thayer, Alexander Wheelock, eminent American music scholar; b. South Natick, Mass., Oct. 22, 1817; d. Trieste, July 15, 1897. He was educated at Harvard Univ. (B.A., 1843; M.A., 1846; LL.B., 1848), and an assistant at the Harvard Coll. library (1845-7), where he pursued valuable research in American psalmody that resulted in his World of Music (1846-47); also contributed to the Philharmonic Journal, Boston Musical Gazette, and Musical Times (1848-52). He went to Germany in 1849 to study German; wrote a detailed and trustworthy biography of Beethoven. In 1852 he returned to the U.S. and became a leading contributor to Dwight’s Journal, also was on the staff of the N.Y. Tribune (1852-54). He was again in Europe to pursue Beethoven research (1854-56), and after cataloguing the Lowell Mason private library in Boston (1856-57), he settled there. In 1862 he was attached to the American embassy in Vienna, then was the American consul in Trieste (1866-82). He publ. a Chronologisches Verzeichniss der Werke Ludwig van Beethoven (Berlin, 1865); in 1866, Vol. I of his lifework, Ludwig van Beethovens Leben, appeared in German, tr. from the Eng. MS by Deiters; Vol. II was publ. in 1872, and Vol. Ill in 1879. Deiters completed vols. IV and V from Thayer’s material, but died before their publication. Riemann then took charge of the project, bringing out revised versions of Deiters’s vols. IV (1907) and V (1908); he then revised and enlarged vols. II (1910) and III (1911), completing his task by reediting vol. I (1917). Krehbiel ed. the Eng. version (3 vols., 1921). A redaction, titled Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, prepared by Elliot Forbes, was publ. in 1964 (2nd ed., rev., 1967). Thayer also publ. Ein kritischer Beitrag zur Beethoven-Literatur (Berlin, 1877; Eng. version in Dwight’s Journal of Music, XXXVII, 1877-78).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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