This chapter is a collection of various entries concerning the critics; none have been edited for duplicate information.
Word Count-10,360. 01/01/2020.
Around 1890, Boston, then known as the “Hub of the Universe,” was blest with a number of fine critics. “It would be hard to beat such a collection of names as Louis C. Elson; Ben Woolf, a very good musician; Arthur Weld, a composer-critic of more than budding promise; Mr. Capen, formerly of the Home Journal; G. H. Wilson of the Traveller; Philip Hale, now of the Home Journal, formerly of Albany, one of the most trenchant critics in Boston. He has stirred matters up a bit there and always hits from the shoulder.” (Hale Crits., Vol. 1) Capen had ten years as critic for the Home Journal, but he resigned in September 1889 in order to study and teach.
APTHORP, WILIIAM FOSTER. In 1937 Oscar Thompson wrote an article reviewing the “American School of Criticism.” This was occasioned by the deaths of Richard Aldrich and W. J. Henderson within three days of each other. He ended that article by saying: “The writer of these lines believes that W. J. Henderson was the greatest music critic America has produced, though, Henderson, himself, waved that distinction on to Krehbiel. Others, of course, may award the palm to Philip Hale or Jim Huneker. One seasoned critic of today would give the preference over all to Apthorp. Happily there is no need for such a choice. It is enough to believe that Henderson and Aldrich, as fitting representatives for all, influenced the whole course of America’s music in ways that are incalculable. They have done this as Americans, writing for American readers in an essentially American way.” (Thompson, 439)
Baker, A Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 19
The entry for Apthorp in Theodore Baker’s A Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Second Edition of 1905 lists his birth date as Oct. 24, 1848.The entry for Apthorp in Howe’s A Hundred Years of Music In America of 1889 states that age 12 he was taken to Europe where he studied during the next four years at schools in Dresden, Berlin, and Rome. During these years he also studied art with the intention of becoming a painter. The entry in Dictionary of American Biography gives his age as 8 (the year 1856) when his parents took him to Europe “for the purpose of giving him the best opportunity for studying languages and art, feeling that his latent talents lay in the latter field.In France he attended a day school” with further time in Dresden, Berlin. And Rome.“He studied art also in Florence and was a fellow student of John Singer Sargent. He returned to Boston in 1860, and prepared for college at the school of E. S. Dixwell. He had given up art on his return to American, and he studied piano, harmony, and counterpoint with J. K. Paine from 1863 until 1867 when Paine went to Europe. He was fully aware that the dream of his devoted parents-that he would become a great painter or a great pianist-would never be realized and he was quite content to take up teaching as a profession.” (Dic. Am. Biog.., 335) Grant gives more about his family background.“Apthorp was the direct descendant of officers of the British Crown; one of his ancestors had been paymaster of the British Navy during the Revolutionary War. As a boy he was taken by his parents all over Europe to be educated-France, Dresden, Berlin, Rome-and as a result was fluent in many languages…His parents had first dreamed of his becoming a great painter; now they saw him as a budding concert pianist. Apthorp himself realized he wasn’t quite good enough and began a teaching career in the early 1870s; for some years he taught piano, harmony, counterpoint, fugue, and theory at New England Conservatory of Music and other Boston colleges, but retired from teaching altogether in 1886, by which time his labors as a writer on music had overtaken all else.” (Grant, 69)
After preparing for and entering Harvard, he graduated in 1869 having taken musical classes with J. K. Paine. In his senior year he was conductor of the Pierian Sodality. He then took piano from B. J. Lang for 7 or 8 years longer. “Coming from an old Boston family whose efforts in the cause of art have always been most intimately linked with its progress in the city, he has won a career not less worthy than any of his line.” (Elson, Supplement, 3) He taught theoretical subjects at the New England Conservatory beginning in 1874 and continuing until 1886.” His career as a music critic began in 1872 (aged 24) when he was hired to edit the newly established musical department of the Atlantic Monthly which he continued for five years until December of 1877 when the department was discontinued. In 1876 he became musical critic of the Boston Sunday Courier. In 1878 he became the musical and dramatic editor of the Boston Traveler. “His most remarkable work, however, was for the Boston Evening Transcript, from 1881-1903.” (Nelson, vi) He added the job of drama critic a year later.
The Boston Evening Trascript was first published on July 24, 1830, and by the 1880s it had assumed the place of “the tea-table paper of Boston, its principal function consisting in presenting the news of the day in a manner specially acceptable in the quiet and refined homes of Boston.” (Nelson, 99 quoting the Boston Daily Advertiser) In 1878 The Boston Evening Transcript was described as being “an independent Republican newspaper,” which had been begun in 1830, making it the oldest evening paper in New England. “The present quarters are in a large and handsome building, at the corner of Washington and Milk Streets, erected to replace the office burned by the Great Fire of 1872. It is one of the most commodious and elegant in the city. The Transcript occupies a field practically without a rival. It is the largest daily in New England, is of quarto form, handsomely printed on good paper…It is pre-eminently a family paper, and its circulation is chiefly among the wealthy and intelligent people of Boston and its suburbs. (King, pp. 147 and 148) The terms “quiet and dignified” were used to describes the paper’s content and presentation. In the history of the Boston Transcript, Apthorp is described as “an accomplished scholar and linguist, speaking all the leading languages of Europe, including Turkish, and being deeply versed in musical and dramatic literature. It was quite impressive, in the outer room, to hear his conversation in German, French, Italian, or Spanish, in meeting musical geniuses from abroad. Now and then, his criticisms may have appeared somewhat too redolent of erudition.” (Chamberlin, 206) “Apthorp was praised for his open-mindedness, perception, and common sense, and he successfully balanced progressive and conservative viewpoints in his criticisms. He championed new music and American music. Ever mindful that the public was his true audience, his lucid, instructive writing style appealed to everyone.” (Nelson, vi) Dwight recorded: “The readers of the Evening Transcript are to be congratulated on the fact them Mr. William F. Apthorp has undertaken the duties of musical critic in that bright and independent, no longer ‘little’ paper, succeeding Mr. Clement, who assumes the chair of editor-in-chief.Mr. F.H. Jenks looks after the theatres, etc.” (Dwight (June 18, 1881): 100) “Mr. William F. Apthorp is one of the few young men of active mind and liberal culture who, after graduating at Harvard University, has devoted himself to music as a profession.As a teacher, especially of harmony and composition, and as a critic, he has for some years ranked among the best we have. (Dwight, February 12, 1881, p. 27) Dwight felt that Apthorp’s lectures on the history of music given for the Lowell Institute (and illustrated by a small choir) where worthy of being published. The series of six, first published in The Boston Traveler were offered by Dwight “after a careful revision by the author,” and Dwight felt that it would take at least a dozen numbers of his Journal to present them in full.(Ibid)
In all he “served as music critic for twenty-two years, from 1881 to 1903.” (Nelson, 99) From 1892 he edited the program books for the BSO. He died in 1913.
Rogers, Story of Two Lives, facing 190
“For the last seven years or so (i.e. from 1881) he has been engaged upon Scribner’s Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, in the work of critical editor. During the last seven or eight years of the symphony concerts given in Boston by the Harvard Musical Association, he was a member of the concert and programme committees of that society.
“In his criticisms he preferred not to make pronouncements; rather, his aim was to set people thinking.” (Nelson, 10)
“Mr. Apthorp is one of the clearest and most satisfactory writers in music that this country has produced. The record above shows, by suggestion at least, how well his work in this capacity has been appreciated by the literary public, for each modification in his way of life has been of the essential nature of a promotion. As he is still comparatively a young man, much may be expected from him in the future.” (Howe, 371)
The entry for William Apthorp in the History of American Music edited by Hubbard states that he is the author of several books, among which may be remembered the Life of Hector Berlioz, Musicians and Music Lovers, and numerous translations.”(Hubbard, 306). “His recent [c.1882] lectures on the history of music, in the Lowell Institute, were scholarly efforts, and were repeated in Baltimore, Brooklyn and other cities.” (Elson, Supplement, 3) “From 1892 to 1901 he wrote the program notes for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and was a lexicographer for Scribner’s Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians.” (Grant, 69)
The National Cyclopedia article describes Apthorp in the following manner: “Mr. Apthorp’s intelligent appreciation of music and years of study under various masters and in different schools made him a singularly scholarly and vivacious oracle on musical matters. His articles were always interesting. He not only had the power to be serious, but could be witty and whimsical, and even fantastic, and he also had the faculty of fitting the mood to the occasion. He was a delightful master of the art of music criticism, refined but not fastidious, catholic and tolerant but discriminating…He died at la Tour-de-Peil, Vevey, near Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 19, 1913.”(Nat. Cyc., 130-131)
Apthorp married Octavie Loir Iasigi “of Boston, a hospitable, gracious woman and a leader of society. The family resided at 14 Otis Place in Boston and spent their summers at their cottage in Nahant. They had one son, Algernon.“ (Nelson, 280) The song composer Clayton Johns describes the musical household kept by the Apthorps. “Among other interesting houses in the Boston of those days let me not forget that of Mr. and Mrs. Apthorp.For many years their Sunday evenings were unique. Many times during the winter they gave little dinners of six or eight people, usually having some ‘high-light’ guest like Paderewski, Melba, Sarah Bernhardt, Coquelin, or Salvini. After dinner, special friends were invited to meet the honored guest.Mrs. Gardner and Gericke were always there. Besides, there were members of the younger set-youth and beauty for decoration.Mr. and Mrs. Apthorp were rare entertainers, given to hospitality in its best sense. Later in the evening, beer and cigars lent a Bohemian air to the occasions.Mrs. Apthorp appeared, carrying a large pitcher of beer in one hand, beer mugs hanging from each finger of her other hand.As Blue Laws still obtained, dancing was not allowed until, after midnight, but then it was ‘On with the dance.’” (Johns, 71 and 72) Arthur Foote’s daughter Katharine remembered the Sunday evenings at the Apthorps: “There my parents met many more of the great figures of the world of music, art, literature and the stage, among them Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, Sara Bernhardt, the Kendalls-a husband and wife team who were the Lunts of their day, Eleanora Duse, Melba, and many more that I have forgotten.” (Tara, Foote, 70) “A connoisseur of culinary delights, he was known to don apron and bonnet de chef and whip up some gourmet cuisine.” (Nelson, 282) The Apthorps’s place in the Boston social scene is reflected by the report in the Globe’s “Table Gossip” that “Mr. and Mrs. Wm. F. Apthorp, who will stay abroad some time are now in Dresden, where they will remain a month or two longer.” (Globe (February 3, 1907): 50) “A diligent a worker as he was, his social circle was wide. he was a member of the Harvard Musical Association, the St. Botolph Club, the Tavern Club, and the papyrus Club, where he served a term as president.” (Nelson, 282)
New York Public Library Digital Library.
The “Harvard Musical review” of March 1913 printed the following: “William Foster Apthorp, ’69.Born at Boston, MA, Oct. 24, 1848 and died at La Tour de Peilz, near Vevey, Switzerland, Feb. 19, 1913.The death of William Foster Apthorp cannot fail to call forth the regret and sympathy of all Harvard men who care for high standards in Music. From his college days he was keenly interested in everything that concerned the progress of music in America.Of an old Boston family, growing up in an atmosphere of cultivation, he eagerly supplemented his naturally keen tastes by long and serious study in Europe. The distinguishing traits of his personality were his remarkable receptivity to the new and the good of all schools, his truly Latin warmth of appreciation, and the breadth of his perceptions in every line of artistic endeavor. His musical criticism was enriched by his through knowledge of painting, literature and the drama at an epoch when most critics were content to write in the critical idiom of their own craft alone. Belonging to a profession in which the ability to enjoy is too often gradually submerged by a growing passion for destructive analysis, he retained his primitive enthusiasms to a remarkable degree, and was able to infuse them spontaneously into his articles. For this reason his criticisms were inspiring, a source of encouragement to performers because of their wholesome recognition of the good, a force making for optimism in the listener because of their faith in the upward tendencies in musical art.His generous appreciation of Berlioz and Wagner (to name two notable instances) at a time when their position was debatable, was characteristic of his interpretation of the critic’s function.His services as an editor were marked by receptivity and efficient breadth. His translations of Berlioz’s writings, his essays Musicians and Music Lovers, By the Way-About Music and Musicians, collected from the program books of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he edited for nine years, and more especially his brilliant sketch of dramatic developments, Opera, Past and Present, will remain as classics in the literature of American writings on music. In the annals of achievements by Harvard men in the field of music his name will stand out conspicuously for his breadth of cultivation, genial personality, and his indomitable enthusiasm for musical art.” (Harvard Musical review, 1)
“He was undoubtedly one of the greatest critics America has produced.His work was strikingly individual and independent, and always constructive. His intimate acquaintance with the languages and his deep knowledge of literature and philosophy contributed largely to his success as a writer.He was an incessant worker and ceased his labors only because of failing eyesight.He bore this affliction. However, with the greatest fortitude and never lost his contagious humor. Notwithstanding a certain pride of family and position, he was very democratic, though his exceeding diffidence was often misunderstood by those who did not know his natural shyness. He was married in 1876 to Octavie Loir Iasigi.He died in Vevey, Switzerland , whither he had gone in 1903 after giving up active work.” (Dic. Am. Biog., 336) Grant stated that the reason for Apthorp’s retirement was that he was “going blind from all these toils,”-the toils being his BSO program notes, the books that he had written. (Grant, 69) “Their spacious apartment, situated high in a hotel of that resort town, overlooked Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps. It was their intention to return to Boston some day, as they maintained their Boston ties and even left some furniture. When his Boston friends visited they were distressed at his worsening health. He suffered from cataracts, which were successfully corrected with surgery. He was long afflicted with a bronchial cough, which weakened his heart. Apthorp died in Vevey, 19 February 1913, and was buried there.” (Nelson, 281 and 282)
W. S. B. Mathews, A Hundred Years of Music In America, 369.
In addition to W. F. Apthorp, the listing for the last monthly social meeting of the Harvard Musical Association on June 7, 1878 also included R. E. Apthorp and H. O. Apthorp. For their “special meeting and supper” on May 20, 1886 which was held to celebrate the opening of their new rooms at 11 Park Square, he and Dr. Langmaid and Mr. P. H. Powers sang to the accompaniment of Arthur Foote. (HMA Bulletin No. 11)
George Whitefield did not have the highest regard for Apthorp. In his Diary he noted in connection with the BSO performance of his Thalia Overture on January 13, 1883 that “Billy Apthorp slopped all over himself in the Transcript, which only showed how an ass can write himself down. But I too was an ass ever to have been disturbed in the future by any of his [?] after he had shown himself to be so entirely lacking in sound judgment. Still, if he had possessed much of that, he never would have been employed on the Transcript! The critics of those days were mostly chaps who had dabbled a little in music in some form or other and turned an honest (?) penny by warming over their impressions for the benefit of the public. Not one of them was a throughly educated musician except B. J. Woolf.” (Chadwick, unpublished Diaries)
CLAPP, HENRY AUSTIN. (1841-1904) He was a Harvard graduate as was Apthorp. “Both are esteemed as able, fair and impartial critics. Both write with discrimination and a thorough mastery of their subject. Mr. Clapp makes it a point of professional honor to have no relations with persons liable to his criticism which will in any way influence him. Invitations to meet opera stars are not accepted, and his chair at snug little dinners prepared for members of the press is vacant. He is much of a psychologist in his analysis of presentations on the stage, and is disposed to subject an artist to criticism in other essentials than vocalization and gesture.” (Worcester Daily Spy (September 24, 1885): 2) Clapp, primarily a drama critic (and Shakespeare scolar) worked for the Advertiser in the 1880s, but was replaced by Louis C. Elson in 1886 who then remained in that position until his death in 1920. After 1886 Clapp then went to the Herald.
DAVENPORT, WARREN. from April 1871 until May 1874 Warren and Ambrose Davenport published the monthly magazine, The Metronome which was printed by White and Goullaud. Ambrose was a composer and arranger and also did musical engraving-in 1888 he became editor of the “widely circulated Boston musical journal The Folio (1869-1895).” Warren was a critic and also wrote for The Folio, Boston Herald, Daily Traveler and Musical America. (RIPM Journal Information) Lang is mentioned twice in the first issue of The Metronome: first as the organist for the Salem Oratorio Society performance of Mendelssohn’s St. Paul and second for organizing the series of Thursday afternoon chamber music concerts at the Globe Theatre where he was assisted by the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, and the reviewer wrote: “for his endeavors to please the lovers of classical music he deserves many thanks as well as the liberal patronage which has been awarded him.” (Metronome, April 1871, 5) In the next issue Lang’s part in a concert to benefit Mr. Herman Daum was noted at which he played the Moscheles Homage a Handel with Mr. Parker. (Met., May 1871, 5) The following month his role as Handel and Haydn accompanist was noted: “The organ was well handed by Mr. B. J. Lang, though at times it appeared to be a trifle too resorbent [?] in its proclivities.” (Met., June 1871, 24) The July issue announced: “Next season Boston will undoubted possess the finest club of male singers in the country,” (Met., July 1871, 28) while in the August issue: “The club of male singers spoken of in our last [issue], has been finally put on a firm basis. it is limited to sixty active or singing members, and five hundred associate members. The former are composed of our best singers, and the latter number among its members many of our first merchants and patrons of art.” (Met., August 1871, 36) Also in this issue is an article concerning the New England Conservatory July 1st. concert where seven of the eight graduates of the piano department played. An article in the Boston Traveler had mentioned Lang as the heard of the Piano Department, but this article pointed out that all of the seven pupils were students of Carlyle Petersilea. Petersilea had already contributed articles to The Metronome on piano playing, and he would be regularly mentioned throughout the short run of this periodical which also did a major article on the founding of Petersilea’s private music school which he began after leaving New England Conservatory in 1871. (Met., August 1871, 37) The September issue recorded the beginning of the Apollo Club. “From what we can judge by attending several of the rehearsals, the singing of the club will surpass, in a very short time, that of any similar organization of equal numbers in the country.” It was noted that Mr. Allen A. Brown was on the Music Committee, and that he “is a cultivated gentleman and musical connoisseur; his great experience in collecting musical works, and his intimate knowledge of them, will enable him to be of great service to the Club in making their selections for performance. Mr. Brown possesses one of the finest and most complete musical libraries in the country.” (Met., September 1871, 48) In the same issue was reported that the Parker Club will not resume rehearsals. “We are sorry to chronicle the breaking up of this society.” (Ibid) Also reported was that the Foster Club would resume their rehearsals about October 1st. and that White and Goullaud would publish examples from their repertoire, five pieces in each book, edited by Mr. Allen A. Brown. “Davenport Bros., have the contract for the engraving and printing.” (Ibid) In October a report was made on the first concert of the Apollo Club which had occurred “on Tuesday evening, September 5th., at the rooms of Russell Hallett & Co., Tremont St. It was given to the associate members who expressed the greatest surprise and satisfaction at the high standard already attained in four part singing by the Club.” (Met., October 1871, 56)
In the December issue it was noted that this periodical knew nothing about the Harvard Symphony Concerts as they had not received the free tickets usually given to the press. Another comment was made: “We have hopes that the Handel and Haydn Society of our city will one of these days shake off its decrepitude and become a live society. The symptoms are favorable.” (Met., December 1871, 67) The Apollo Club was the next group attacked: “The fact that the finest club of male singers in Boston cannot sing a part song of three verses without making as many departures from the pitch taken at the outset, demands investigation. Is it positive evidence of the existence of something that is radically wrong. Can it be remedied?” (Met., February 1872, 83) Could there be any connection with the fact that many earlier issues had extensive articles by Dr. H. R. Streeter on voice production and that his new book, “Voice Building” which was “quite at variance with all the vocal methods now in use” was about to be published by White and Goullaud? (Met., December 1871, 67) Later in the February issue was a full page, two-column review of the Apollo Club concerts of January 10th. and 16th. which faulted the club for not having a “unison in the voices…The question naturally arises, how can this unity of purpose be attained? It can be attained only by a close application to the mechanical laws that tend to the production of pure tone…It cannot be expected of Mr. Lang that he will open a school in voice-building any more than that an orchestral conductor should give lessons in the elementary principles of playing” various instruments. “Mr. Lang has found himself with an obstacle to the possibility of his shaping and moulding it to his desired ends. The Club, composed as it is of professional, semi-professional and amateur talent, we very much fear will never make much progress in the direction we have named; for such people are generally up to the hubs in the ruts of self-satisfaction, and take ”no stock” in anything that does not agree with their favorite, though often erroneous and antiquated, notions of tone production.” (February 1872, p. 85) In the same issue almost a full page is devoted to a review of the Foster Club. “The part singing by the Club was the best we have listened to since the dissolution of the famous Parker Club…The Club sang in a manner that left nothing to be desired by the audience.” Among the soloists were Mr. Allen A. Brown and the one of the editors, Warren Davenport. (Ibid) The May concerts (which closed their fifth season) by this choir included a part-song by Ambrose Davenport. (Met., June 1872, 19)
Almost a page was devoted to a review of the first three of Lang’s series of orchestral concerts at the Mechanics’ Hall in Bedford Street where four of his pupils were given solo concerto appearances. A detailed critique of the various orchestra players was given-the group numbered “some thirty or more instrumentalists.” Of the student soloists: “The playing of these pupil pianists gave great satisfaction to hosts of friends who were present, and who bestowed applause most liberally upon their efforts…Mr. Lang as a conductor shows himself to be a careful score reader and a faithful servant of the master whose work he has in hand. Energy, steadiness in strict tempo passages, and an apparent correct conception of the master works which he presents, are some of the prominent features of his conducting.” (May 1872, p. 13) The fourth concert review complimented the soloist, Mr. G. W. Sumner who “proved himself to be an able executant, and evinced enthusiasm, power and brilliancy in his playing.” This concert closed with Bach’s Concerto in C for Three Pianos, and the soloists were Sumner, Adams and Tucker. (Met., June 1872, 21) In the same issue a review of the Apollo Club noted “some improvement when compared with their singing of concerts given last January…It argues well for the ability of their conductor, Mr. B. J. Lang, and should prompt the Club to continue their efforts in this direction.” The reviewer suggested that for the choir to improve, “the pruning knife should not be spared in removing dead wood of objectional voices and blundering intellects.” However, the review ended by saying: “The Music Hall was filled with a brilliant and enthusiastic audience, who bestowed their applause most liberally on the various numbers of the programme.” (Ibid)
Mathews, A Hundred Years of Music In America, 397.
c. 1910. Johnston Collection.
Elson, Louis Charles. 1848-1920. “Was active from 1882, a Boston-born, Leipzig-educated pedant, head of theoretical instruction at the New England Conservatory. While ardent and analytical enough to please the most exacting listener, Elson was no great assist to the cause of ‘the newness’ as the era of the ‘eighties was called.” (Johnson, Hallelujah, 158) The New Grove Dictionary of American Music entry adds: born in Boston-April 17, 1848 and died there, February 14, 1920. He studied music in Boston and at the Leipzig Conservatory. “It was as a critic, lecturer, and writer on music that he was most important.” (Am. Grove, 1986, 43) He returned from Leipzig in 1877, and “became associated with several leading music journals, including Vox Humana and the Musical Herald, both of which he eventually edited. He was music editor of the Boston Courier and then of the Boston Daily Advertiser from 1886 until his death.” Henry Dunham, organ instructor of the New England Conservatory felt that Elson was “too affable, too anxious to say nothing unkind to become great as a critic; always interesting however, and very much read; his fund of general information was prodigious.” (Dunham, 220) See article on Daily Advertiser.
He taught theory at the New England Conservatory beginning in 1880, and became head of the department in 1882 upon the death of Stephen Emery. (Green, p. 212) “In 1945 his widow established a memorial fund at the Library of Congress for the presentation of lectures on music. His son was the writer Arthur Elson [1848-1920].” (Am Grove, 1986, 44) The 1986 Am Grove article lists 15 books that he wrote or edited. His last book was published in 1918-Women In Music. “He has acted as choral director on various occasions in Boston, notably a festival in 1886, the programs including music selected all the way from the medieval beginnings of the art up to the present time. As a composer, his work is mostly in the smaller forms, including several piano-pieces, three operettas, and other songs. He has also made translations and arrangements of a great number of French, English and Italian songs, and of operas…As a vocalist, he has been connected with several of the leading choirs of Boston…Mr. Elson’s diction is concise, often humorous, and reveals in every line broad and genuine culture fused with the specialized knowledge of the trained and experienced musician. His distinguished contemporary, W. S. B. Mathews speaks of it as a ‘ripe and finished literary style, rarely found outside the ranks of professional authors.’” (Green, 212) “In this field [musical criticism] he led the way to a more detailed and thorough estimate of musical works and performances than had been customary in the United States, and incidentally treated all artists under his review with courtesy, even when adverse comment proved necessary…In 1873 he married Bertha Lissnere, who survived him with their son, Arthur Elson. A memorial tablet was placed in the New England Conservatory of Music, where he served so long and faithfully, teaching up to the very day of his death” (Dic. Am. Bio., C. A. W., 199 and 120). Elson also “holds the dubious distinction of being the American critic with the most citations in Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective…A singer and composer of modest attainments, Elson was not university trained but studied privately in Leipzig before returning to his native Boston in 1877 to begin a career of musical journalism on various magazines and newspapers.” (Grant, 94) His reviews “reflect a man who, while obsessed with correcting what he saw as bad musical grammar, had the discernment to report clearly what he heard…Unlike some of his contemporaries, Elson found even Debussy cacophonous. Pedantic references to theory and harmony abound in his critiques. Ravel and the Sibelius Fourth Symphony were too much for him, let alone Schoenberg.” (Ibid, 95 and 96)
HALE, PHILIP. Born in Norwich, Vermont in Mar. 5, 1854 to a family that had first arrived in Massachusetts in 1638 (“eighth in line of descent from Thomas Hale,” Horowitz, 63), he was organist at the Unitarian church in Northampton, Mass. at fourteen, studied at Phillips Exeter Academy, “where he also had a private tutor,” (Ibid, 63) and then graduated from Yale in 1876. After graduation studied organ with Dudley Buck; then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1880; practiced for two years in Albany; then spent five years in Dresden and Berlin studying music followed by a time in Paris with Guilmant; returned to Albany in 1887 for two years where he began writing music criticism; fall of 1889 went as director of music to the First Unitarian Church of Roxbury, MA (where he stayed for 17 years) and while there did criticism to supplement his income. (Nat Bio., 462) Grant adds that his piano study was with Xavier Scharwenka, and that his study with Rheinberger and Guilmant was in the area of composition (Grant, 74). “Hale early acquired a formidable breadth of learning, lightly worn. The breezy aplomb of his worldly prose set him apart from other Boston writers.” (Horowitz, 63)
“In the summer of 1884, while studying in Berlin, he was married to Irene Baumgras of Washington, D. C.” (Dic. Am. Biog., 369)
His fellow critic Huneker “bestowed the ultimate accolade ‘an artist in prose.’” (Grant, p. 74) Lawrence Gilman, music critic of the New York Herald Tribune wrote of Hale: “He never hesitated to lighten musical instruction with diversion and with wit,” while Grant wrote that “A dry understated humor was a steady weapon in Hale’s armamentarium,” and that “his acidic tendencies were feared by musicians.” (Grant, 78) Carl Engel, editor of The Musical Quarterly wrote in 1936″ “Hale was unique. His mind was unique, and so was his manner. A voracious but fastidious reader, he had a memory that was like a huge scarp-book, full of the most varied and often most unusual gleanings, always on tap…His vocabulary was opulent, his choice of words always precise and unaffected. He could turn a phrase so neatly that it seemed poised on a conjuction, or suspended from a pronoun. His wit was pointed, and often it had barbs; but never were they envenomed…Hale was picturesque not only in his literary style, but also in his person. With his flowing Lavalliere tie, his bowler at a slightly rakish angle, tipped forward on his brow, and the inevitable green Boston bag under his arm, he looked like no one else in the world.” (MQ, January 1936, 114)
Courtesy of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College.
Courtesy of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College.
On the back of the first photo, Mrs. Hale had written: “This picture was taken by a friend in Boston, in the earlier years, and is one of the very best of Philip Hale.”
“Philip Hale is another eminent eastern critic. From 1889 to 1891 he was musical critic of the Boston Home Journal. In 1890 he accepted a position as critic for the Boston Post, and in 1891 went to the Boston Journal in the same capacity (he remained with the Journal for 12 years and resigned in May 1903 to take a position on the staff of the Boston Herald, to which he contributed, besides musical criticism and editorials, a special column on ‘Men and Things.’ Since 1908 he has had charge of both music and drama for the Herald.”(Nat. Bio., 462) Grant stated that, “Settling in Boston, Hale started writing music reviews for the Boston Post in 1890 and the next year moved to the Boston Journal, where he quickly became a colorful presence, writing not only music criticism but also a daily column called ‘Talk of the Town,’ that covered a broad human canvas. When in 1903 he moved over to the rival Herald, he wrote a similar column titled ‘As the World Wags,’ which retailed the exploits of such fictitious characters as Herkimer Johnson…and Halliday Witherspoon, a pseudonymous travel correspondent. He also for a few years in the 1890s wrote for the Musical Courier, edited the Boston Musical Record, and was music and drama critic for thirty years for the Herald (1903-1933).” (Grant, 74 and 75) “Since 1897 he has been editor of the Boston Musical Record and was for some years correspondent of the Musical Courier. He has lectured throughout the country on musical subjects. Mr. Hale is known as one of the most brilliant and forceful writers in the interest of music connected with the American press. His articles are fair and judicious and also tinged with unique humor.” (Hubbard, 305) Saerchinger (252) adds dates for the Boston Musical Record of 1897-1901 and editorship of The Musical World of 1901-1903, and mentions that Hale began writing the program notes for the Boston Symphony Program Books in 1901.
The Nat. Bio. entry states “Mr. Hale is one of a small group of brilliant writers identified with musical criticism in America who command respect quite as much for the literary quality of their work as for their special knowledge upon which their observation and verdicts are based. `He is conspicuous among critics by reason of his pronounced individuality and he extended range of his information. His influence on musical art bids fair to be as permanent as that of any of his contemporaries in criticism, because the force and pungent flavor of his utterance fix them in the memory, and because, beneath the wit that illuminates his dicta, and beneath the occasional outbursts of contempt for mediocrity and humbug, there is manifest devotion to the high ideals that should, and often does, stimulate those who write temporarily under his lashing to stern endeavor toward improvement.” (Nat. Bio., 463) Johnson wrote: “After 1889 Philip Hale was on hand to touch with surest wit and perceptiveness every musical and theatrical event.Trained in Germany, he also studied with Guilmant in Paris and lived there during an exciting period of artistic Impressionism. Hale’s writing was accurate, learned, brilliant in expression and lively in satire and humor.” (Johnson, Hallelujah, 160) Leichtentritt noted Hale among the early writers of the “Historical and Descriptive” notes in the BSO programs. “During the season of 1890-91 and a part of 1891-92 [these notes] were written by G. H. Wilson. On December 18, 1891, his name vanished and that of Philip Hale, destined to become the most famous of the Boston commentators appeared for the first time.From January 1892 to the end of the season, however, no author is given at all.Is Hale hidden behind the anonymity?In the two seasons of 1892-94 William F. Apthorp wrote the notes.”(Leichtentritt, 367) These seasons included Margaret’s April 1893 premier of Opus 12, Dramatic Overture. Apthorp was still doing the notes in 1896 as he wrote them for Margaret’s Opus 24 Armida premiered in January of that year.
New York Public Library Digital Library.
From 1892 until 1903 Hale was the music critic of the Boston Home Journal-he also wrote a daily column entitled “The Talk of the Town.”[or “Taverner” Swan, 87] In May of 1903 he joined the editorial staff of the The Boston Herald began a daily column “As the World Wags.”The Langs were mentioned in both of these columns. (Dic. Am. Biog., 269 and 270) “When he moved to The Boston Herald in 1903, he was a securely established critical power in the city; however, the thirty years at theHerald were truly the years of ‘Philip the Great’ (or ‘the Terrible,’ depending upon one’s point of view). In those decades Boston could boast of two critics, Hale and Parker, with international reputations at least equal to those of the powerful New York critics of the day (Krehbiel, Finck, Henderson, Aldrich).” (Swan, 87) In 1878 The Boston Herald was described as “the most successful of the local papers. its first number appeared in 1846 as an evening daily, neutral in politics. It was a small paper, issued at one cent a copy, containing four pages of five columns each. The edition was 2,000 copies.” (King, 145) The paper grew to morning and evening editions, and increased in copies produced so that a special edition giving the election returns in 1876 sold 223,256 copies. In 1878 the paper was located at 255 Washington Street. “It is said that The Herald presses can print more papers in any given time than the presses of all other Boston dailies combined.” (King, 146)
Hale was certainly a man of his own convictions.“He had no fear of the Olympian gods of music who had been placed by great critics upon heights of Parnassus.He could be derisive when he spoke of Wagner and Brahms, and in a lesser scale he could pour his scorn upon Sir Edward Elgar and others.Among his idols was Debussy.” (Dic Am. Biog., 370) In the June 1, 1899 issue of the Boston Musical Record he wrote: “We heard lately in Boston the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven.The performance was technically most admirable. But is not the worship paid this Symphony mere fetishism?. Is not the famous Scherzo insufferably long-winded? The Finale is to me for the most part dull and ugly. I admit the grandeur of the passage ‘und der Cherub steht vor Gott,’ and the effect of ”Seid unschlungen Millionen!” But oh,the pages of stupid and hopelessly vulgar music. The unspeakable cheapness of the chief tune, ‘Freude, Freude’! Do you believe way down in the bottom of your heart that if this music had been written by Mr. John L. Tarbox, now living in Sandown, N. H., any conductor here or in Europe could be persuaded to put it in rehearsal?” (Grant, 78) “A dry understated humor was a steady weapon in Hale’s armamentarium…His acidic tendencies were feared by musicians…Hale-who, persisted in wearing a loose black tie on all occasions into the Roaring Twenties, looked by that time like a creature from a yester era…Hale also was far less moralistic and puritanical than his predecessor Apthorp…He was modest enough to reverse earlier negative opinions upon later hearings, as with his opinion of much Strauss…He never learned to like Brahms and is apocryphally credited with punning, when Symphony Hall was opened in Boston, that the fire exits should be marked ”Exit in case of Brahms.” (Ibid., 78 and 79) He once summed up his total life’s work by saying: “Mere collections of passing opinions, criticisms that prove stale in a day-whether they be signed by Reichardt in 1792, Hanslick in the Eighties or Krehbiel in 1908-those are tolerable neither to gods nor men.” (Ibid, 80)
Lawrece Gilman of the New York Herald Tribune wrote that Hale “never hesitated to lighten musical instruction with diversion and with wit. He knew much besides music; and he was able to peptonize for the reader his vast and curious erudition. He could tell you about the maceration of oriental women, and what action is described by the word ”tutupomponeyer,” and who invented the first chess-playing automaton, and how locomotives engines are classified, and what Pliny said concerning the bird called penelope…[Hale’s] amazing annotations, traversing all history and the ceaseless tragi-comedy of life, assure us that a programme note may sometimes, if an artist has contrived it, be more rewarding than the music that occasioned it. Philip Hale transformed the writing of programme notes from an arid and depressing form of musical pedagogy into an exhilarating variety of literary art.” (Grant, 75)
However he had his very particlular views. He “denounced the influence of Dvorak the ‘negrophile.’In 1910-fully six years after Dvorak’s death-Hale was still contesting the New York view that the composer had struck an American chord. ‘The negro,’ he wrote, was ‘not inherently musical.’His ‘folk-songs’ were founded on ‘sentimental ballads sung by the white women of the plantation, or on camp-meeting tunes.’It would be ‘absurd,’ Hale concluded, ‘to characterize a school of music based on such a foundation as an ‘American school.’ (Horowitz)
The obit notice in Time Magazine of December 10, 1934 said: “For thirty years his shrewd scholarly criticisms made him Boston’s oracle on music and the theatre. He wore bright Windsor ties, carried a big umbrella and a green felt hat.Last week’s Symphony audience stood to show its respect for wise Philip Hale.”“He was a man of distinguished though unconventional appearance. He wore a loose black silk tie and, even in an era when the facial adornment was fast disappearing, he continued to wear a large mustache.” (Dic. Am. Biog., 370) Grant’s description was: “Hale-who, persisting in wearing a loose black silk tie on all occasions into the Roaring Twenties, looked by that time like a creature from a yester era.” (Grant, 78 and 79) “Hale was tall and elegantly trim; his sartorial signature was a loose black silk tie; for the opera, he always wore white tie and tails. His courtly manner was also caustic. Nothing more inflamed his pen than the influence of German music, language, and mores.” (Horowitz, 64)
The scholarly view of the 1980s is reflected in the following: “Hale is best known for his program notes for the Boston SO; written between 1901 and 1934, these are scholarly, witty, and ample, and became the model for American program annotators.His insistence on evaluating each work as it appeared to him, and the quotability of his negative opinions (he once said of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto that ‘the finale, with the endless repetitions of a Kangaroo theme, leads one to long for the end’) have caused him to be represented as a crabbed reactionary, cringing at Brahms.In reality he was a fair-minded and forward-looking critic, one of the first American champions of Debussy and an often shrewd evaluator of later music.” (Shirley, 307)
Around 1900 it was written that “Hale is known as one of the most forceful and brilliant writers for the American musical press; his articles in the Looker-on, Musical review, Music Herald, etc., are valuable contributions to musical literature, as well as being interesting for the humor they contain.” (Green, 343)
Comments from Eaton: “ ‘Philip the Great,’ occasionally ‘Philip the Terrible,’ and more intimately, ‘Phil.’” Hale and Parker were opposites in many ways.Hale with private prep school, Yale, music study in Germany and Paris, professional work as an organist and choir director verses Parker with early schooling in England, Harvard, but “he was virtually a musical illiterate, unable, for example, to tell the difference between a major and minor chord and certainly lacking the ability to read notes.” Both died in 1934. Hale had retired the year before and moved, with his wife, into the “staid Hotel Vendome…This hostelry had been dubbed by the more
Hotel Vendome-Commonwealth at Dartmouth Street. Emile F. Coulon & Sons. Johnston Collection.
irreverent set as ‘God’s Waiting Room,’ because so many of Boston’s more or less affluent elders choose it as an antechamber to Heaven.”Their writing styles were also different: “Hale used one word to his colleague’s five, yet matched him in consumed space for his more varied output.”Olin Downes, forever his disciple and later the main critic of the New York Times wrote: “If only one work could be saved from the English literature on music, we would vote for the preservation of the thirty-odd volumes of program notes which Mr. Hale has compiled.” In addition to his musical and dramatic writings, he also was “the anonymous author of a column called ‘As the World Wags,’ [in which] he let his fancy roam over the world…Bostonians waited eagerly for the adventures of Herkimer Johnson, an alter ego Hale created to comment on men and affairs…His humor, clean and bright, seldom curdled to satire, but he could demolish a fledgling pianist, who should never been allowed at the starting point, with four words: ‘She consumed valuable time.’”Hale was offered the higher paying position at the New York Times, but he refused “believing that Boston air nourished the individualist as New York’s tended to submerge him.” Hale had a particular style of dress: “Hale’s personal badge, a flowing bow tie of either red or black, in later years occasionally enlivened by polka dots (some said depending on his charitable or uncharitable mood).” For attending the opera he wore “white tie and tails, a slim, tall figure, reminding his young assistant of a grand duke.”While H. T. Parker sat in the first row of the first balcony at Symphony Hall, usually alone, “Hale, usually accompanied by his wife, occasionally by a crony, reigned serenely a few rows behind.” All critics have their prejudices, but “Hale’s Germanophobia extended beyond Wagner even to Bach, whose music he described as ‘counterpoint by the yard-you can begin anywhere and end anywhere; a sausage factory.’He was, of course, known for suggesting a sign in Symphony Hall to read: ‘Exit in Case of Brahms.’ Later in life he mellowed somewhat and must be credited with warm and perceptive reviews of Richard Strauss’ Salome and Electra at a time when other pens dripped horror and vitriol.” Hale’s writing style was described as being an “open progression of thought and brevity of sentence. Hale’s mind clearly worked through his lean, pointed prose.‘Terse, idiomatic sentences were characteristic of the clarity of his thinking and the quick and penetrating processes of his mind,’ Downes wrote after his death.” To sum it up: “Equally lofty on a pinnacle of scholarship, genuine humanity, and sheer musical competence, the proud Hale, twice honored by academia with honorary degrees, selected for a scholarship award of Sigma Delta Chi, professional journalistic fraternity, dubbed by Carl Engle, the musicologist and editor of Musical Quarterly, the ‘Eaglet of Seventy’ in 1924, flew banners brilliantly in to the third decade of the century.” (Musical Quarterly, 1924, 102-111)
Paderewski had met Hale many times, and he described Hale as “a highly educated man of great culture and he knew many things besides music. But his criticisms were sometimes-I would not say adverse, but so sardonic, in their suggestion as to be unmistakable. There was always some little personal remark. He was witty, and wit is a very dangerous weapon in a critic, and in any one practically, because witty people cannot refrain from making witty remarks, and witty remarks are not always amusing when they are a little bit ironical. There was something in me though, which always shocked him-I cannot find another word for it-and that was my hair! He apparently could never get used to it. I must confess it was always a question in my mind whether Hale was envious of my hair, or simply disturbed by the sight of it. At any rate he always had to overcome to a certain extent his feeling and his annoyance, though it often trickled through into some rather caustic remarks in his notices, which was natural enough, feeling as he did.” (Paderewski, 200 and 201)
Henry Dunham, organ instructor of the New England Conservatory wrote that “we looked upon Hale as a pupil of Wolf [sic]. They were seen almost always together at the concerts and his style and even opinion seemed more or less influenced by the older man. After a few years, Wolf disappeared from the scene and Philip Hale continued on to become th famous critic he is today, and I am sure none the less so from his intimacy with B. E. Wolf.” (Dunham, 229)
Walter R. Spaulding, the Emeritus Professor of Music at Harvard wrote of Hale: “So many critics fall betwen two stools; they know something about music but cannot write anything particularly readable, or they can write well but know little or nothing about music. Philip Hale, on the contrary, was by nature a gifted musician; he had had a comprehensive artistic training and whatever he wrote was so fairly and convincingly expressed that everyone found pleasure and edification in reading it. Emphasis should be laid furthermore, upon the fact that Philip Hale, in addition to being a gifted and highly trained musician, was a man of broad scholarship and cultivation from an academic point of view. He graduated from Yale University in 1876, afterwards studied law and was admitted to the Bar at Albany. His unusual qualifications were recognized just before his death when Harvard University in 1933 conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, the first case in which a critic of music had received such a high honor.” (American Scholar, Vol. 4. No. 2) Hotel Vendome-The Music Room. The Albertype Co, Brooklyn, N. Y. Johnston Collection.
Jenks, Francis Henry. (June 2, 1838-December 9, 1894)
Bradbury, History of the Handel and Haydn Society, Vol. 2, photos in the back, no numbered pages.
Jenks was an Assistant to Apthorp at the Transcript from 1881 whose function was to do “the regular and constructive work of the department, and indeed everything that Mr. Apthorp did not chose to take in hand.” (Chamberlin, 206) Another entry wrote: Music and drama editor Boston Transcript 1881-1894. His work also appeared in the Globe, Daily Advertiser, Courier, New England Magazine, Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, [he wrote the Handel and Haydn, Apollo Club and Cecilia entries under the Boston article] and other publications. (Wikipedia, accessed January 8, 2019) He was joined by William Foster Apthorp as a music critic in 1881. However, most of his criticism was of dramatic work. After education in the Boston schools and graduation from the English High School, Jenks spent the next 25 years working for various paper manufacturing firms. However, during that time he “contributed largely to the various newspapers, among others the Saturday Evening Gazette, the Courier, Advertiser, and Globe, besides to many periodicals in and out of the city. To Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, he contributed the greater part of the biographical [material on American musicians].” (Advertiser (December 10, 1894): 5, GB) Early in life he was a church organist serving in two different positions. He held membership in many clubs; the ones that included Lang were the Apollo, (Boylston) and Cecilia, and was he was Secretary of the Clefs and Euterpe, and finally Director and Librarian of the Handel and Haydn Society. The Advertiser wrote that when he joined the Transcript, he was “placed in charge of the music and drama columns and in special charge of the Weekly Transcript; this is somewhat different from being “an Assistant to Apthorp, as described by Chamberlin, see above. He was also a general editorial writer. He was a fine musician and had collected one of the finest musical libraries in the city. He married in 1865, aged 27, and the couple had one child, Edwin M. Jenks who was “a clerk in the Hamilton National Bank” in Boston. (Ibid)
Weld, Arthur Cyril Gordon. Born March 4, 1862, Jamaica Plain, MA, and died in an automobile accident on October 11, 1914, near West Point, N. Y. (Grove, American Supplement, 1957, 401). After graduation from Harvard, he studied in Europe 1879-87: composition and orchestration in Dresden, then Berlin, and then in Munich studying with Rheinberger, Abel and Levi, graduating from the Munich Conservatory with honors. Margaret may have met him as she was in Munich at the same time and also studied with Abel. The beginning of 1890 was a particularly busy time for Weld. In late February he gave two lectures at Steinnert Hall on Beethoven’s Sketchbooks, “illustrating the great master’s method of composition.” (Herald (February 23, 1890): 13, GB) At the same time his Italia orchestral suite was played by the BSO on February 28, 1890. Philip Hale’s review was very complimentary: “The composition gives ample evidence of the talent of the composer, and is, altogether, a very clever work.” (Herald, (March 2, 1890): 9,GB) However, “Mr. Weld made a very common error in conducting his own compostion, for whatever his studies and experienece may have been in directing orchestras, his lack of recent practice in this duty led to results which were not favorable to the performance of his work…The audience enjoyed the fruits of his labors as a composer as well as his efforts as a conductor.” (Ibid) Then in March he accompanied two of his own songs in a program to aid the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe presiding. He later went to Milwaukee (c. 1892) where he was a drama critic and conducted an orchestra. In 1898 he was President of the Milwaukee Press Club. He then moved to New York City where he conducted the first performances of the comedy Florodora. He married three times-his first divorce was in Boston in 1892; in 1893 he married, “much against her parents” wishes” the daughter of a Milwaukee “brewer and capitalist.” This ended when he moved to NYC and in 1903 she filed for divorce “on the ground of desertion.” (NY Times May 22, 1903) His third wife was an actress whose stage name was Jane Peyton. She was in the car when he died of apoplexy. “He was a striking looking man and was a commanding figure in the orchestra pit. He always wore a monacle.” (NY Times, October 12, 1914) “He wrote several light operas, incidental music for various plays and many songs.” (Grove, Op. cit.)
Wilson, George H. He took over the Boston Musical Herald in 1891, and in the November issue introduced himself as the Editor and Publisher and set out his aims for the publication. Instead of starting a new publication from scratch which would be “unwise” and “few would dare to do it,” he bought the magazine and also “the [printing] plant from New England Conservatory.” The Associate Editors were: Louis C. Elson, Henry E. Krehbiel, Philip Hale, William J. Henderson and Benjamin Cutter. “It will be dignified and interesting; honest, authentic and tolerant.” It was to review music in both Boston and New York. “It will not beholden to any one and it will countenance neither diatribe nor puffery.” (All quotes from the Boston Musical Herald, November 1891.) In 1892 he moved the magazine to Chicago when he was appointed Secretary to the Bureau of Music for the World’s Columbian Exposition. The new name was Musical Herald of the United States. Wilson ran into various difficulties during his term at the Fair. An early one concerned his publishing photos of the music halls under construction, these photos not having been made available to any other publication. A headline in the Musical Courier was: “SCANDAL. GRAVE CHARGES AGAINST WILSON.” (Bomberger, A Tide Wave of Encouragement, 132)
Klauser, The Universal Library of Music Vol. III, 626.
Woolf, Benjamin Edward (London: February 16, 1836-Boston: February 7, 1901). “Born in London, multifaceted, was a composer, violinist, and libretto writer who married an actress, joined the Boston Globe in 1870 and the following year the Saturday Evening Gazette, [a weekly] for which he wrote music and drama reviews; in the 1890s he left the Gazette for the Herald. The American organist Henry M. Dunham wrote in his memoirs of Woolf’s criticism, ”We disliked him extremely because of his rough and uncompromising style. He had almost no concession to offer for anyone’s short-comings, and on that very account what he had to say carried additional weight with the artist he was criticizing.” [Dunham, Life, 220] on the other hand, Philip Hale, Woolf’s Herald successor, asserted that Woolf had been caustic only toward ”incompetence, shams, humbugs, snobs and snobbery in art,” and noted that when Woolf began to write in the Gazette, music criticism in Boston was mere ”honey daubing” of local favorites. Hale added that toward ”really promising beginners,” Woolf was never severe but gave personal advice and often financial aid.” (Grant, 68) His father, Edward Woolf, came to America in 1839, “settling in New York as a member of a theatre orchestra. The son inherited his father’s talent for music, and received from him most thorough instruction.” The son was the first violinist of the orchestra at the Boston Museum [conducted by Julius Eichberg] from 1859 until 1864 “at which time this orchestra provided the public with the best theatre music there was.” (Klauser, Vol. 3, 627) He then led orchestras “in Philadelphia and New Orleans. He married Josephine Orton, an actress, [of the Boston Museum Stock Company, Dic. Am. Bio, 514] on 15 April 1867, and then returned to Boston, where Woolf became editor of the Saturday Evening Gazette in 1871…He created or collaborated in six operettas, including The Doctor of Alcantara (1862), music by Julius Eichberg. As a critic he was a musical conservative with exacting standards and a caustic pen, but his breadth of knowledge and his musical skill did much to elevate the quality of American criticism. Throughout his career Woolf’s versatility was his greatest asset, but it was also a limitation: ”His labor.” the Herald observed in its obituary, ”might have been concentrated upon fewer objects with better effect.”” (Am. Grove, Vol. 4, 561) He composed “madrigals, overtures, string quartets and symphonies…In all he wrote sixty plays and six operas.” (Klauser, Op. cit.) Arthur Foote described Woolf, when he was writing for the Saturday Evening Gazette as “a musically well equipped critic, who was more feared than loved. How he did delight to pitch into John S. Dwight and B. J. Lang. He could never find any good in either.” (HMA Bulletin No. 4, 2) “He became music critic of the Boston Herald, and for it he wrote reviews notable for their clarity and severity.” (Dic. Am Bio., 514) George Whitefield Chadwick referred to him as the only “thoroughly educated musician” among the critics of his time, but he noted that Woolf “was a Jew who was so embittered by his personal experiences that he could see nothing good in people he disliked no matter how worthy. But he had keen wit and could write – some of his ”mots” have become classic. He was never mean to me although sometimes cool but his judgment was true as I look back on it now. The other fellows could not tell flutes and oboes or horns and bassoons apart by the sound as their public writings show.” (Unpublished Diaries) Woolf “came from a family of operatic conductors and [he] studied music practically with his father’s theatrical orchestra…From Mr. Woolf’s’ English and rather conservative training it was natural that he should be out of sympathy with the radical modern school. He was at one time one of the fiercest opponents of the Wagnerian music, and his bitter sarcasm and invective made him feared by many who held different opinions. He was often sublimely savage in his reviews. But, in spite of these limitations, his great musical ability made him an influence to be reckoned with. He died in Boston in 1901.” (Elson, Hist. Am. Mus., 323) His Obit. in the Journal outlined his style as a critic: “Mr. Woolf not only knew what he was talking about, but had the power of expressing himself with exceptional clearness, directness and frankness. His writings were always interesting, with their concise form, their keen wit, and, at times, their caustic satire. However, much his readers might differ from his conclusions-and of course, subjects for criticisms can seldom be measures by any absolute standard in art, and it is well that critics should vary widely in their sympathies and tastes-there was never any questions as to the honesty of their author and his competence to form judgments upon the subjects discussed.” (Journal (February 8, 1901): 5, GB) This article also notes that he “wrote about a hundred plays, 63 being his own, 39 translations, and the rest operas. His most famous by far was The Mighty Dollar [a comedy]...which has become a tradition of the theatre.” (Ibid) The Herald obit. noted that “in private life he was a charming companion. Possessed of notable intellectual and musical gifts and trained to a habit of picturesque expression, his conversation was a delight to those priviledged to meet him. He had a wealth of experience, with musical people generally, added to a knowledge of both general literature and the lore of his profession.” (Herald (February 8, 1901): 7, GB)
His career then was:
1871 Saturday Evening Gazette under Col. Henry G. Parker: music and drama critic.
Boston Globe: 18 months as muscial and drama critic.
Rejoins Gazette and succeeds Col. Parker as Editor in May 1892.
1894, August. Herald as musical and art critic until his death in 1901. (Ibid)
For his funeral, floral offerings were given by Mrs. “Jack ” Gardner,” Louis C. Elson. Mrs. amd Mrs. Franz Kneisel, Charles L. Loeffler, Mr. and Mrs. Gericke, while those in attendance included Prof. J. K. Paine, H. G. Tucker, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Baerman among others. B. J.’s name is not mentioned; perhaps Mr. Tucker was his representative. (Ibid)