Search - Neely Bruce :: Dawning of Music in Kentucky

Dawning of Music in Kentucky
Neely Bruce
Dawning of Music in Kentucky
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1


CD Details

All Artists: Neely Bruce
Title: Dawning of Music in Kentucky
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Vanguard Classics
Release Date: 6/23/1998
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
Styles: Marches, Vocal Pop, Chamber Music, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830)
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 723918009322

CD Reviews

Mainly for "American maverick" mavens.
Bob Zeidler | Charlton, MA United States | 07/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781 - 1861) came perilously close to being totally lost to the dustbin of American music history. As late as 1917, when more than 1200 pages of his writings and manuscripts (including some 350 compositions) were acquired by the Music Division of the Library of Congress, he had already been virtually totally forgotten. Yet, in the first half of the 19th century, he was clearly America's most prolific composer of "art" music, years - if not decades - ahead of Louis-Moreau Gottschalk and Stephen Foster. He was, in fact, America's first composer of art music based on the "European model," and as well, a composer during a time when this was hardly an encouraged endeavor. This latter fact clearly establishes him as a genuine "American maverick."

It is this latter point that led to my own discovery of Heinrich, while reading a new book by Michael Broyles, "Mavericks and Other Traditions in American Music." Broyles dedicates an entire chapter to Heinrich, describing him as the second of such mavericks after the Colonial hymnody composer William Billings. Doing a little back-checking, I then realized that Heinrich had already been discussed, all the way back in 1974 (the year this recording was originally released) by none other than Neely Bruce (the director/pianist on this recording), in an essay titled "Ives and Nineteenth-Century American Music" that appeared in "An Ives Celebration" by H. Wiley Hitchcock and Vivian Perlis, published to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Charles Ives's birth. Both Broyles and Bruce made some points to the effect that Heinrich "anticipated" Ives by a good 7 to 8 decades in some important respects, most particularly in this first work of his, "The Dawning of Music in Kentucky" (1820). For this Ivesian, that was motivation enough to track down this CD.

The work is a grab-bag of songs, instrumental solos and (in a piece unfortunately not included in this album, called "Yankee Doodleiad"), a chamber instrumental ensemble probably not unlike the "theatre orchestra" groups so favored by Ives for many of his works. The connections to Ives are there, if one listens carefully: The songs, unlike their European counterparts of the time, are frequently made of disjunct (melodically disconnected) rather than conjunct (melodically stepwise continous) intervals, as do many of Ives's songs (and, as well, the songs of Stephen Foster). And the longest instrumental (piano) solo, "Banjo Quickstep," incorporates vernacular music (quotations from "Yankee Doodle," "God Save the King" and "Turkey in the Straw") into "art" music just as Ives, and Foster for that matter, were to do many years later.

The songs seem to come across best, and the singers are uniformly excellent, most particularly William Stone (baritone). The keyboard works suffer somewhat from both Heinrich's self-taught compositional style (he seemed to have little regard for "degree of difficulty" in his composing, often writing "lotsa notes" for their effect) and Neely Bruce's pianism, which, while good, is hardly extraordinary. Overall, there is a charming naiveté to the works that serves to place them in a time largely if not totally unfamiliar to us; while they represented the art music of their time, they are quite unlike European art music of that era. "Early Foster" seems a much more apt appellation than "early Ives."

Heinrich was to go on to write more and more complex (and technically difficult) orchestral music that diverged even more from the European art music model. In part, his eventual eclipse into obscurity was due to his music's technical difficulty, thanks to his being self-taught (and not at all conversant in matters of harmony and counterpoint as a result). But also in part American art music approaching the close of the 19th century took on more of the European-model aspect as composers of the Second New England School (George Chadwick, Horatio Parker and others) sought their training in Europe, in large part to satisfy the concertgoers of that later era who took their musical doses as provided to them by European conductors of the many newly-established symphony orchestras that simply did not exist in Heinrich's time.

Despite these negatives about Heinrich's compositional skills, this album is heartily recommended to those who, like me, wish to get a sense of music history - and musical progenitors - in America. Heinrich was, in every sense set out by Broyles in his book, an American maverick, if one who was almost totally lost to the ravages of changing tastes.

The transfer to CD from the 30-year-old originals is fine, and even includes two bonus songs not on the original Vanguard CD. Still, at only a little over 54 minutes, it is a shame that "Yankee Doodleiad" for chamber ensemble wasn't included. It might well have made the "Ivesian difference," and I frankly don't know where to turn to find this missing piece of "The Dawning of Music in Kentucky." It certainly sounds intriguing!

Bob Zeidler"
Pioneering recording of a pioneering composer
Andrew Stiller | Philadelphia, PA | 04/17/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This disc, originally issued on LP in the '70s, was the first commercial recording of music by Heinrich. All the pieces on it are from the very beginning of his career, and have the uneven quality of apprentice works. The two selections from _The Sylviad_ however are first-rate, highly imaginative, and show "the Beethoven of America" at his best. The performances, by faculty and students at the University of Illinois, are enthusiastic, accurate and respectful. The recorded sound is tolerable."