Shining a Gentle on an American Classical Pioneer (Visitor Submit)

Welcome Matt Spangler and Lucy Mauro to the Sound Backyard weblog!

On this submit, uncover the fascinating story of American nineteenth/twentieth century composer Margaret Ruthven Lang. You should definitely take a look at the podcast “The Women Communicate” to be taught extra about Lang and different American girls composers from this time interval!


Matt Spangler is a author and podcaster. His newest collection, “The Women Communicate“, explores the lives and achievements of the good American girls classical composers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Lucy Mauro is a Grammy-nominated pianist and Affiliate Professor of Piano at West Virginia College. She has written on Margaret Lang for Choral Journal and The Bulletin of the Society for American Music.

A Dramatic Entrance: Shining a Gentle on an American Classical Pioneer

“Tea room” – Charles Dana Gibson

The excessive society ladies and men, of their tailor-mades, nipped shirtwaists, tailcoats and bowlers, paid scant consideration to the slender and petite younger girl, her hair tied again in a chignon, as she made her method nervously down the gaslit corridors of the Boston Music Corridor to her balcony seat. Little did the patrons know that the girl who slunk low in her blue and white moreen chair, her head swimming with ideas of the million little issues that might go incorrect with the night’s efficiency, was about to make music historical past.

The younger girl was Margaret Ruthven Lang, and it was the night of April 8, 1893. Beneath the baton of Arthur Nikisch, her Dramatic Overture turned the primary piece composed by a girl carried out by a significant American symphony orchestra. The rating doesn’t survive – probably tossed onto the fireside throughout considered one of Lang’s periodic purges of her work – however the programme, which has been preserved, frames the piece when it comes to influences by the good male composers of the time.

Margaret Ruthven Lang, 1900

“The dramatic overture,” the programme word begins, “reveals the identical common tendency to stick to the spirit of the sonata kind, with a really free interpretation of the letter of the regulation, that we discover in a lot of Schumann’s symphonic actions”. The word goes on to say the “overture is scored for the classical ‘grand orchestra’, with trombones, large drum, and cymbals, however with out bass-tuba, bass-clarinet, English horn, or any of the bizarre devices that go to make up the fashionable ‘Wagnerian’ orchestra. It’s particularly noticeable, too, that the stronger brass devices (trumpets and trombones) have been reserved for particular results, and infrequently don’t determine in any respect in fortissimo passages. On this the composer has adopted each Beethoven and Wagner in considered one of their most attribute veins in instrumentation”.

The efficiency was met with nice enthusiasm from the group, who, earlier than the gamers might resume with the Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Dvořák works that stuffed out the remainder of the invoice, referred to as again Nikisch 3 times. It might be one other three years, nevertheless, earlier than the Boston Symphony’s celebrated programming of Amy Seashore’s Gaelic Symphony (Symphony in E minor, Op. 32).

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Amy Seashore

Like Seashore, her Second New England Faculty buddy and colleague, Lang’s star progressively rose over the American Romantic period. Fuelled by her connections to Wagner and Liszt (Lang’s father was famend Boston conductor B.J. Lang), and personal instruction from George Chadwick (later named director of the New England Conservatory), Lang revealed roughly 150 orchestral and chamber music works, piano solos, arias, and songs between 1887 and 1917 (and is believed to have written some 30 different works that, just like the Dramatic Overture, have been destroyed).

Her compositions have been carried out on each aspect of the Atlantic, together with the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, which featured a number of of her songs; the 1893 Chicago World’s Truthful, which featured the Witichis Overture; and an 1896 efficiency of the Armida aria for soprano by the Boston Symphony. She offered practically 121,000 copies of the sheet music for Irish Love Tune, penned in 1895, and by 1897, based on one account, she had “attained a place which places her among the many 4 main girls composers of the time,” the others being Seashore, Cécile Chaminade and Augusta Holmès.

Lang abruptly give up composing in 1917, on the age of fifty, stating modestly she “had nothing to say” at that time. An Episcopalian, she devoted a lot of her remaining 55 years writing non secular pamphlets she referred to as “Messages from God,” which she distributed world wide utilizing royalties from her music gross sales. 4 years earlier than her retirement, Stravinsky ignited a seismic change in music in Paris, and the work of Romantics like Lang shortly fell out of vogue and pale into obscurity.

Lang’s extant compositions may be heard on Delos’ All of the Coronary heart of Me: The Choral Music of Margaret Ruthven Lang; Love is All over the place – Songs of Margaret Ruthven Lang, Vol. 1; New Love Should Rise: Chosen Songs of Margaret Ruthven Lang, Vol. II; and From the Unforgetting Skies: The Piano Music of Margaret Ruthven Lang.

Hearken to Lang’s “Starlight” right here, carried out by Lucy Mauro:

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