Archive for the ‘Composers’ Category


Boisdeffre's cello sonata


René de Boisdeffre (1838-1906) was a French musician and composer of chamber music. Born in Vesoul, Boisdeffre studied with Auguste Barbereau and Charles Wagner, developing an elegant compositional style that won him the Prix Chartier in 1883. Focusing primarily on chamber music for strings, he also composed piano pieces, songs, a mass, and a symphony. Though his works quickly fell out of favor (from what the Macmillan Encyclopedia cites as a lack of inventiveness), Boisdeffre is another composer whose works are enjoying a digital resurgence thanks to the NEH project at Sibley Library. So far, 17 of his compositions have been scanned and posted online, including his sonata for cello and piano.


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Selim Palmgren (1878-1951) was a Finnish composer and pianist. After completing his studies in Finland and Germany, Palmgren embarked on a set of successful European concert tours, as both a performer and conductor. After a 1920 American tour, Palmgren was invited to the newly opened Eastman School of Music to replace Christian Sinding as professor of theory and composition (Sinding having departed after only 1 year of teaching). Palmgren taught at Eastman until 1927, after which he returned to subsequent teaching positions in Helsinki. Though a composer of opera, songs, and orchestral works, Palmgren was best recognized as a composer of piano music, contributing 5 concertos, a sonata, preludes, and numerous other pieces to the repertoire.

Not surprisingly, Sibley holds many works by Palmgren, a number of which are up for digitization. Check out Palmgren’s op. 79 compositions for an example of his writing for the piano.

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Raoul Laparra (1876-1943)

Raoul Laparra (1876-1943), was a composer, and the brother of French painter William Laparra. As a student at the Conservatoire, he studied under Fauré, Gedalge and Massenet, and by age 27, had been awarded the Prix de Rome for his cantata, Alyssa (though not without protestation from Fauré, who did not appreciate the work). As a composer, Laparra was strongly influenced by Spanish and Basque music and culture, and was even fluent in the rarely spoken Basque language. He contributed significantly to the study of Spanish music, and published a book in 1934 analyzing the Spanish influences in Bizet’s Carmen. Laparra’s life and work were cut short on April 4, 1943, when he perished in Allied air raid of Boulogne-Billancourt.

Laparra was most known for his vocal and dramatic works, including the operas La Jota and Le Jouer de Viole, but composed music for the piano as well as chamber music, such as his Sonata for Piano and Violin.

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Though initially discouraged from childhood music studies by her family, Melanie Bonis (1858-1937) persisted, and her study of the piano soon took her to the prestigious Paris Conservatory. Under the tutelage of professors such as César Franck and Ernest Guiraud, she excelled in harmony and composition. After her marriage in 1883, Bonis devoted her time to her family, but had returned to composing by 1894. Her music became popular in the salons of Paris, and was published by Leduc and Demets, often under the name “Mel-Bonis” to avoid the discrimination faced by female composers at the time. Though her music began to lose popularity after the first World War, Bonis continued composing through the 1920’s; her catalog includes about 300 works. After her death, her children published a memoir assembled from their mother’s notes. Today, Bonis’s family continues to support the study and performance of her work, and maintains an official website for her, where you can learn much more about Bonis, her works, and her legacy.

The digitization project at Sibley includes several of Bonis’s works. More of her scores are freely available through IMSLP.

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Another of the Wa-Wan press composers, Frederic Ayres (1876-1926) was born in Binghamton, NY, and studied engineering at Cornell University before turning to composition under the tutelage of Arthur Foote. Afterward, Ayres spent most of his career in the Colorado Springs area, composing and teaching music theory. As with many of his Wa-Wan counterparts, Ayres drew inspiration from the music and culture of Native Americans, but also looked to Shakespeare and folk tales as sources for his songs.

A number of Ayres’s compositions have been digitized under Sibley’s current project, including his sonata for violin and piano, op. 15.

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David Hochstein (1892-1918) is a musician that has posthumously touched the lives of many Rochester, NY musicians.  David was born into a family of Russian immigrants, and was given his first violin on his fifth birthday.  He progressed very quickly and was provided funding for his musical studies by Emily Sibley Watson.  At age 17, Hochstein graduated from high school and continued his violin studies in Vienna and St. Petersburg.  At the age of 22, David was loaned two violins, a Landolphi and a Stradivarius by the philanthropist George Eastman.   In 1917, David Hochstein joined the army.  At the age of 26, this brilliant musician’s life was cut short at the 1918 Battle of Argonne.  The David Hochstein Music School was opened in 1920 in his memory, providing lessons for all music students, no matter their financial means.

Hochstein composed a number of works and arrangements through the publisher Carl Fisher.  You can find his Ballad for Violin and Piano in our digitized collection.  For more biographical information on David Hochstein, you can read An Unfinished Symphony: The Story of David Hochstein by Grace N. Kraut.

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Arthur Eaglefield Hull (1876-1928) was a British author, editor, and composer. A student of Tobias Augustus Matthay and graduate of Oxford, he went on to become editor of the Monthly Musical Record, Dent’s International Library of Books on Music, and many other series. He also founded and participated in several British musical organizations, and was an active figure in the musical culture of Yorkshire and his home, Huddersfield.

According to Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Hull was accused of borrowing a number of passages from other authors for his 1927 work, Music: Classical, Romantic and Modern. Be it plagiarism or a failure to cite his references, the whole affair left Hull distraught, and he committed suicide the following year, throwing himself under a train at Huddersfield station.

Hull’s contributions to music and music literature should not be overlooked, however. He left behind numerous, respected writings, arrangements and editions, and even original compositions such as his Prelude, Berceuse and Rêverie for organ.

The dedication on Hull's offending volume. From Sibley Library's copy.

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