Mason, Daniel Gregory
Mason, Daniel Gregory
Mason, Daniel Gregory, eminent American composer and educator, grandson of Lowell Mason and nephew of William Mason; b. Brookline, Mass., Nov. 20, 1873; d. Greenwich, Conn., Dec. 4, 1953. A scion of a famous family of American musicians, his father, Henry Mason, was a co-founder of the piano manufacturing firm Mason & Hamlin. He entered Harvard Univ., where he studied with J.K. Paine (B.A., 1895); after graduation, he continued his studies with Arthur Whiting (piano), Goetschius (theory), and Chadwick (orchestration). Still feeling the necessity for improvement of his technique as a composer, he went to Paris, where he took courses with d’Indy (1913). In 1905 he became a member of the faculty of Columbia Univ. in N.Y.; in 1929, was appointed MacDowell Professor of Music; he was chairman of the music dept. until 1940, and continued to teach there until 1942, when he retired. As a teacher, Mason developed a high degree of technical ability in his students; as a composer, he represented a conservative trend in American music; while an adherent to the idea of an American national style, his conception was racially and regionally narrow, accepting only the music of Anglo-Saxon New England and the “old South”; he was an outspoken opponent of the “corrupting” and “foreign” influences of 20th-century Afro-American and Jewish-American music. His ideals were the German masters of the Romantic school; but there is an admixture of impressionistic colors in his orchestration; his harmonies are full and opulent, his melodic writing expressive and songful. The lack of strong individuality, however, has resulted in the virtual disappearance of his music from the active repertoire.
orch. : 3 syms.: No. 1 (1913–14; Philadelphia, Feb. 18, 1916; radically rev. version, N.Y, Dec. 1, 1922), No. 2 (Cincinnati, Nov. 23, 1928), and No. 3, Lincoln (1935–36; N.Y, Nov. 17, 1937); Prelude and Fugue for Piano and Orch. (1914; Chicago, March 4, 1921); Scherzo-Caprice for Chamber Orch. (N.Y., Jan. 2, 1917); Chanticleer, festival overture (1926; Cincinnati, Nov. 23, 1928); Suite (1933–34); Prelude and Fugue for Strings (1939). chamber: Violin Sonata (1907–08); Quartet for Piano and Strings (1909–11); Pastorale for Violin, Clarinet or Viola, and Piano (1909–12); 3 pieces for Flute, Harp, and String Quartet (1911–12); Sonata for Clarinet or Violin and Piano (1912–15); Intermezzo for String Quartet (1916); String Quartet on Negro Themes (1918–19); Variations on a Theme of John Powell for String Quartet (1924–25); Divertimento for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon (1926); Fanny Blair, folk-song fantasy for String Quartet (1929); Serenade for String Quartet (1931); Sentimental Sketches, 4 short pieces for Violin, Cello, and Piano (1935); Variations on a Quiet Theme (1939). vocal:Russians for Voice and Piano (1915–17; also for Baritone and Orch.); Songs of the Countryside for Chorus and Orch. (1923); Soldiers for Baritone and Piano (1948–49).
(all publ. in N.Y.):From Grieg to Brahms (1902; rev. 1930); Beethoven and His Forerunners (1904; 2nd ed., 1930); The Romantic Composers (1906); with T. Surette, The Appreciation of Music (1907) The Orchestral Instruments and What They Do (1909); A Guide to Music (1909); A Neglected Sense in Piano Playing (1912); with M. Mason, Great Modern Composers (1916; 2nd ed., 1968); Short Studies of Great Masterpieces (1917); Contemporary Composers (1918); Music as a Humanity: And Other Essays (1921); From Song to Symphony (1924); Artistic Ideals (1925); The Dilemma of American Music (1928); Tune In, America! (1931); The Chamber Music of Brahms (1933); Music in My Time and Other Reminiscences (1938); The Quartets of Beethoven (1947).
M. Klein, The Contribution of D.G. M. to American Music (diss., Catholic Univ. of America, 1957); R. Lewis, The Life and Music of D.G. M. (diss., Univ. of Rochester, 1959); D. Kapec, The Three Symphonies of D.G. M.: Style-Critical and Theoretical Analyses (diss., Univ. of Fla., 1982).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire