American Composers’ Concerts
- E. Douglas Bomberger
Concerts consisting exclusively of works by American composers. The practice of promoting American composers by segregating their music has recurred often since the middle of the 19th century and was especially in vogue in the late 1880s, during World War II, and in the years around the Bicentennial of American independence in 1976.
The American Music Association was founded in 1855 by C.J. Hopkins to counter the assertion that American composers had not written enough compositions to present an entire concert. It presented ten concerts of works by native composers and resident foreigners in three seasons before succumbing to the financial panic of 1857. In May 1877, Russian pianist Annette Essipoff performed American Composers’ Concerts in Boston and New York on stages decked with red, white and blue.
The fad for American Composers’ Concerts in the 1880s was a reaction to inequities in the copyright laws of the era. Because the United States did not have an international copyright agreement, publishers could reprint foreign works without paying royalties. Even the best American composers—who were entitled to royalties—found it difficult to compete against cheaply produced foreign compositions flooding the American market. In addition to lobbying for copyright protection, composers and performers were determined to introduce their works to the public through performances....