When I Have Sung My Song: The American Art Song (1900-1940)
When I Have Sung My Songs: The American Art Song, 1900-1940
New World 80247

The art song in America got off to a promising start in 1759. Francis Hopkinson, composer of “My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free,” would sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, though there was no such declaration in his music. In 1759 we were still British colonies, and Hopkinson’s style derived from the music he knew best. Yet we may be sure that Dr.Arne himself would not have been ashamed to have written the first American song.

A century was to pass after Hopkinson before our song history began to move forward. The young country did not lack musical life, but there were problems of communication. As John Tasker Howard — in Our American Music — puts it:
Owing to the difficulty of travel, there was not the opportunity for keeping in close touch with musical events in other cities; each musical center was a unit which had to rely principally on its own resources. The stagecoach, springless and uncomfortable, was about the only mode of travel by land for those who could not go on horseback. So it was something of an event when our colonial cities had a chance to become acquainted with each other’s musicians. Only ten percent of the population of the colonies lived in the cities when Washington was inaugurated; the rest were farmers. Land was abundant, while money and labor for manufacturing were scarce.
Ballad operas provided entertainment, and it is surprising how promptly the latest London successes were imported. Our own popular songs were largely adaptations or imitations of the hit numbers. European musicians came to try their fortunes here, and especially the Germans took an active part in the musical life of the cities where they settled. Such men as the British-born Austrian Alexander Reinagle and the Dutch-born German Peter Van Hagen were active at one time or another in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston.After the Revolution,Van Hagen, with the Frenchman Henri Capron and the Britishers John Bentley and William Brown, inaugurated concert series in Philadelphia and New York. As early as 1771, Boston heard music of Handel and the sons of Bach at a public concert given by the native-born Josiah Flagg. But professional musicmaking was mostly in the hands of the newcomers from abroad. Howard suggests that this may not have been an unmixed blessing, for though they brought with them the best music they knew, they did little to foster original thought among the colonists. — Introductory paragraphs from the album liner notes

Various Artists

When I Have Sung My Song: The American Art Song (1900-1940)

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