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Leonard Burkat

revised by Pamela Fox

The earliest choral singing in Boston was the first settlers’ congregational psalm singing, which continued through later times of controversy over the relative virtues of the old style and the cultivated new style promoted in the singing schools. Church and community choirs were formed throughout New England from the 1750s. The work of George K. Jackson, who in 1812 organized a concert of Handel’s music, was instrumental in broadening the musical repertory of Boston’s churches.

The Handel and Haydn Society was formed for the purpose of ‘cultivating and improving a correct taste in the performance of sacred music, and also to introduce into more general practice the works of Handel, Haydn, and other eminent composers’. It gave its first concert on 25 December 1815 and served as the prototype for similar organizations in other cities. At Christmas 1818 the society gave its first performance of the complete Messiah; on 16 February 1819...


Muck’s successors, Henri Rabaud (1918–19) and Pierre Monteux (1920–24), presided over a transitional period. In 1920 more than 30 players who wished to affiliate with the Boston Musicians' Protective Association, the local union of the American Federation of Musicians, went on strike and were replaced by musicians of Monteux’s choice. (The Boston SO was the last important American orchestra to join the union, in 1942.) The glamorous Sergey Koussevitzky (1924–49) influentially championed the music of Copland and such other postwar Americans as Barber, Bernstein, Hanson, Harris, Piston and Schuman. It was under Koussevitzky that the orchestra took over the Berkshire Music Festival, acquired Tanglewood and in 1940 opened the Berkshire Music Center (renamed the Tanglewood Music Center in 1985; see Tanglewood). In the meantime, in 1929 Arthur Fiedler, a member of the orchestra since 1915, organized the Esplanade Concerts as free, outdoor programmes of symphonic and light music in the band shell on the banks of the Charles River. In ...


In 1844 the Harvard Musical Association began a series of six annual chamber music concerts that continued for five years. The public performance of chamber music acquired an important place in musical life with the founding of the Mendelssohn Quintette Club in 1849 under the leadership of Thomas Ryan. The German pianist and composer Otto Dresel (1826–90), a pupil of Hiller and Mendelssohn, settled in Boston in 1852 and was much admired for his tireless efforts on behalf of J.S. Bach, Schumann and Robert Franz. In 1858 B.J. Lang, who had been a member of the Liszt circle in Europe, returned to Boston to start an active career that included conducting the world première of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto (1875) at Music Hall, with Hans von Bülow as soloist. The Euterpe Society was founded in 1879 as a membership subscription scheme for the presentation of chamber concerts and recitals....


Boston’s need for a more professionalized, cosmopolitan and focussed musical community resulted in 1881 in the formation of the Boston SO. This was the brainchild of Henry Lee Higginson, a financier whose lifelong passion was music. Resolving to give Boston a ‘full-time and permanent’ orchestra that would ‘offer the best music at low prices’, Higginson created an ensemble soon regarded as peerless in the USA and comparable to the best abroad. He paid all salaries and deficits, but conferred artistic control on his conductors. Some recent accounts of his philanthropy stress the Gilded Age plutocrat rather than the cultural democrat. It is true that Higginson forbade his musicians to form a union or to play popular music on days they rehearsed or performed (a Wednesday-to-Saturday prohibition sometimes wrongly characterized as full-time); that his own musical tastes were relatively conservative; that his orchestra was a Brahmin cultural stronghold. At the same time, he reserved ‘rush seats’ for non-subscribers and began ‘popular concerts’ – the future Boston Pops....



Robert N. Freeman

Town in Lower Austria. The strategic location of the fortress Medelica (Melk) on a slope overlooking the Danube led the Babenbergs, Austria's medieval rulers, to establish their court there in 976. Monks from the Benedictine abbey of Lambach were invited to join the court in 1089; shortly after 1110, when the Babenbergs moved to Klosterneuburg, the Benedictines became the owners of Melk and a large area of land. This link with the Austrian monarchal line made the wealthy abbey one of the Empire's most powerful institutions.

Soon after their arrival the Benedictines founded a boys' choir; pueri are mentioned as early as 1140 and a cloister school, training boys for singing in processions and daily church services, is described in a manuscript dating from 1160. The scriptorium was most productive in the first half of the 13th century. A great fire (1297) destroyed most of the manuscripts recording this formative musical period. 133 codices survived intact, about half of which originated at Melk, including the ...