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Horatio William Parker

Horatio William Parker

Horatio William Parker (1863-1919) was one of the most respected American composers of the late 19th century and professor of music at Yale University.

Horatio Parker was born on Sept. 15, 1863, in Auburndale, Mass. At 14 he began taking piano lessons from his mother and soon wrote a collection of songs for children. At 16 he became organist of a church at Dedham and began to compose hymns and anthems.

In 1882 Parker went to Europe to study at the Royal School of Music in Munich. While abroad he married fellow music student Anna Plossl, a Munich banker's daughter. Upon returning to America, Parker settled in New York, teaching at the Cathedral School in Garden City. He taught at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City at the time Antonin Dvořák was its director and in 1893 became choirmaster and organist at Trinity Church in Boston. The following year Parker was appointed head of the Music Department of Yale University, a position he held until his death. While at Yale, he organized the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

Although Parker attempted a number of symphonic and instrumental pieces, his choral music was his finest work. His most lasting composition, the oratorio Hora Novissima (1891-1892), was written during a time when he was grieving over the loss of a sister. Here the composer reveals his ability at massed choral effects, as well as his skill for developing hymnlike themes. The music is masculine and vital, if at times overly calculated. He received the National Conservatory Award in 1892 for his cantata The Dream King and His Love.

Parker's first opera, Mona, won a $10, 000 prize offered by the directors of the Metropolitan Opera House for the best American opera. It was premiered on March 14, 1912, but was dropped from the Metropolitan repertoire after four performances. His second opera, Fairyland, was also awarded a $10, 000 prize, this time by the National Federation of Music Clubs; the work was performed six times in 1915 during the federation's biennial in Los Angeles.

Parker served as editor in chief for a series of graded songbooks for children and remained actively interested in music education in the public schools. He received a doctor of music degree from Cambridge University in 1902, by which time his choral works were enjoying considerable success in England. He commanded greater social standing than most American musicians of his day, although his strong-willed, individualistic personality made him a figure of controversy among students and colleagues. He died at Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Dec. 18, 1919.

Further Reading

An interesting, personalized account of Parker is George W. Chadwick's Horatio Parker (1921). Isabel Parker Semler, Horatio Parker (1942), is based primarily on the composer's papers and family letters. The best brief discussion of Parker's life and work is contained in Gilbert Chase, America's Music, from the Pilgrims to the Present (1955; 2d ed. 1966).

Additional Sources

Kearns, William, Horatio Parker, 1863-1919: his life, music, and ideas, Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1990.

Semler, Isabel Parker, Horatio Parker: a memoir for his grandchildren, New York: AMS Press, 1975. □

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Parker, Horatio (William)

Parker, Horatio (William) (b Auburndale, Mass., 1863; d Cedarhurst, NY, 1919). Amer. composer, organist, and teacher. Held org. posts in NY, and taught at Nat. Cons. when Dvořák was dir. Org. and mus. dir. Trinity Church, Boston, 1893–1902. Prof. of mus., Yale Univ., 1894–1919 (dean from 1904). Taught Ives. His oratorio Hora Novissima (1893) was the first work by an Amer. to be perf. at a 3 Choirs Fest. (Worcester 1899). His Wanderer's Psalm was perf. Hereford 1900, Part 3 of Legend of St Christopher at Worcester 1902, complete work Bristol 1902. Also wrote 2 operas (Mona, 1910, won NY Met prize and was prod. there 1912), sym., sym.-poem, org. conc., chamber mus., ch. works, org. pieces, and songs.

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Parker, Horatio William

Horatio William Parker, 1863–1919, American composer, b. Auburndale, Mass.; pupil of Rheinberger in Munich. He was an organist and choirmaster in Boston and New York City and taught at the National Conservatory, New York. In 1894, Parker became the first chairman of the music department at Yale, a position he held until his death. He composed for the stage, for orchestra, and for organ, but he is remembered as a writer of church music in the style of late German romanticism.

See biography by his daughter, Isabelle Semler (1942, repr. 1973).

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Parker, Horatio (William)

Parker, Horatio (William)

Parker, Horatio (William), eminent American composer and pedagogue; b. Auburndale, Mass., Sept. 15, 1863; d. Cedarhurst, N.Y., Dec. 18, 1919. He studied piano with John Orth, theory with Emery, and composition with Chadwick in Boston, and then went to Germany, where he took courses in organ and composition with Rheinberger in Munich (1882–85); under his tutelage he wrote a cantata, King Trojan (1885). Returning to the U.S., he settled in N.Y. and taught at the cathedral schools of St. Paul and St. Mary (1886–90), at the General Theological Seminary (1892), and at the National Cons, of Music (1892–93). He was organist and choirmaster at St. Luke’s (1885–87), St. Andrew’s (1887–88), and the Church of the Holy Trinity (1888–93); in 1893 he went to Boston as organist and choirmaster at Trinity Church, remaining there until 1902. He attracted attention with the first performance of his oratorio Hora novissima (N.Y., May 3, 1893), in which he demonstrated his mastery of choral writing, while his harmonic and contrapuntal style remained securely tied to German practices. In 1894 he was engaged as a prof. of theory at Yale Univ.; in 1904 he became dean of its School of Music, and remained there until his death. Many American composers received the benefit of his excellent instruction, among them Charles Ives, who kept his sincere appreciation of Parker’s teaching long after he renounced Parker’s conservative traditions. In 1895 he founded the New Haven Sym. Orch., which he conducted until 1918. Parker conducted performances of his works in England in 1900 and 1902, and received an honorary degree of Mus.Doc. at Cambridge Univ. in 1902. Returning to the U.S., he served as organist and choirmaster at the collegiate church of St. Nicholas in Boston from 1902 to 1910. He continued to compose industriously, without making any concessions to the emerging modern schools of composition; his choral works are particularly notable. In 1911 his opera Mona won the $10,000 prize offered by the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y., and was produced there on March 14, 1912; he also won a prize offered by the National Federation of Women’s Clubs for his 2nd opera, Fairyland,which was produced in Los Angeles on July 1, 1915. Neither of the operas possessed enough power to survive in the repertoire.

Works

dramatic: Opera: Mona (1910; NY, March 14, 1912); Fairyland (1914; Los Angeles, July 1, 1915). Incidental Music To: The Eternal Feminine for Chorus and Orch. (1903–04; New Haven, Nov. 7, 1904; not extant); The Prince of India for Voice, Chorus, and Orch. (1905; N.Y., Sept. 24, 1906). other:Cupid and Psyche, masque (New Haven, June 16, 1916); The Legend of St. Christopher, dramatic oratorio for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (1897; N.Y., April 15, 1898); Morven and the Grail, oratorio for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (Boston, April 13, 1915). orch.: Concert Overture (Munich, July 7, 1884); Regulus, overture héroique (1884); Venetian Overture (1884); Sym. in C major (Munich, May 11, 1885); Count Robert of Paris, overture (N.Y., Dec. 10, 1890); A Northern Ballad, symphonic poem (Boston, Dec. 29, 1899); Organ Concerto (Boston, Dec. 26, 1902); Vathek, symphonic poem (1903); Collegiate Overture, with Men’s Chorus (Norfolk Festival, June 7, 1911). CHAMBER: String Quartet (1885; Detroit, Nov. 29, 1887); Suite for Piano, Violin, and Cello (1893); String Quintet (1894; Boston, Jan. 21, 1895); Suite for Piano and Violin (1894; Boston, Jan. 15, 1895). vocal: choral:Psalm for Soprano, Women’s Chorus, Organ, and Harp (Munich, Dec. 23, 1884; pubi, as The Lord Is My Shepherd, 1904); Ballade for Chorus and Orch. (Munich, July 7, 1884; publ. as The Ballad of a Knight and His Daughter, 1891); König Trojan, ballad for Tenor, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Munich, July 15,1885; publ. as King Trojan, 1886); Idylle, cantata for Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (1886); Normannenzug, cantata for Men’s Chorus and Orch. (1888; publ. as The Norsemen’s Raid, 1911); Dream-King and His Love, cantata for Tenor, Chorus, and Orch. (1891; N.Y., March 30, 1893); The Holy Child, Christmas cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Piano or Organ (1893); The Legend of St. Christopher, dramatic oratorio for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (1897; N.Y., April 15, 1898); Adstant angelorum chori, motet for 8 Voices (N.Y., March 16, 1899); A Wanderer’s Psalm, cantata for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (Hereford, England, Sept. 13, 1900); Hymnos Andron for Solo Voices, Men’s Chorus, and Orch. (New Haven, Oct. 23, 1901; publ. as Greek Festival Hymn, 1901); A Star Song, lyric rhapsody for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (1901; Norwich, England, Oct. 23, 1902); King Gorm the Grim, ballad for Chorus and Orch. (1907; Norfolk Festival, June 4, 1908); A Song of Times, cantata for Soprano, Chorus, Bugle Corps, Band or Orch., and Organ (Philadelphia, Dec. 1, 1911); Morven and the Grail, oratorio for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (Boston, April 13, 1915); The Dream of Mary, morality for Solo Voices, Children’s Chorus, Chorus, Congregation, Organ, and Orch. (Norfolk Festival, June 4, 1918). other: Cantatas, choruses, partsongs, anthems, and services.

Bibliography

G. Chadwick, H. P. (New Haven, 1921); W. Kearns, H. P. 1863–1919: A Study of His Life and Music (diss., Univ. of 111., 1965).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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