The story of American classical music begins with composer, teacher and organist, John Knowles Paine (1839-1906). While there was certainly music in the young country prior to Paine, and composers like William Henry Fry and George Frederick Bristow wrote works for orchestra, Paine was the first to be nationally and internationally recognized. He wrote the first large work by an American to be performed in Europe (Mass in D) and he wrote the first symphony that was published domestically (Symphony No. 2, Arthur P. Schmidt of Boston).
Paine is also largely responsible for bringing the music of Bach to the United States, as he would feature Bach’s organ works on his recitals. And Paine began the first department of music in American higher education at Harvard with non-credit classes and lectures from the mid-1860s to formal classes and the titles of Assistant Professor of Music in 1873 and Professor in 1875. He retired in 1905 to devote his energies to composition. Paine died on April 25, 1906 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The music of John Knowles Paine is steeped in mid-19th century German Romanticism, especially Bach and Beethoven. Eventually he altered his musical style to include more chromaticism, acknowledging the increased fascination with Richard Wagner. However, Paine’s music throughout his career is characterized by a strong sense of tonality, formal clarity, thoughtful orchestration, and harmonic and contrapuntal command.
Notable works in the early, more classical style include:
|Mass in D, Op. 10 for Four Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra (1867)|
|St. Peter: An Oratorio (1873)|
|Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 23 (1876)|
|Overture to Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Op. 28 (1876)|
And in the later, more chromatic/Wagnerian style:
|Symphony No. 2 in A Major, Op. 34 “In the Spring” (1880)|
|Prelude to Oedipus Tyrannus, Op. 35 (1895)|