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Parker
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HORATIO PARKER
(1863-1919)


"When I went to New Haven and took the courses with Professor Horatio W. Parker...I felt more and more what a remarkable background and start Father had given me in music. Parker was a composer and widely known, and Father was not a composer and little known--but from every standpoint I should say that Father was the greater man."

Charles Ives

With these words America's most innovative composer, Charles Ives, recalled, late in his life, his Yale mentor, Horatio W. Parker. Given the pioneering music that Ives would write, it is not surprising that he chafed under the tutelage of a man who, again to quote Ives, was a good technician, but apparently willing to be limited by what Rheinberger and the German tradition had taught him.

At Yale University


With his feet planted solidly in that German tradition, as well as in the classicism of the Second New England School, Horatio Parker had become a major figure in American music at the turn-of-the century. The teacher of generations of American musicians, among them Ives and Sessions, Parker had a reputation for being brusque and sarcastic as a pedagogue, though he was also known to challenge his students to find their own identities and to "talk back to him." A man of ideals, a strong proponent of individualism, duty, sacrifice, and service, Parker saw music as a spiritual and moral force.

Horatio Parker took up his duties as chairman of the newly established music department at Yale University in 1894 after having studied with Josef Rheinberger in Munich from 1882-1885, having taught at The National Conservatory in New York, and, in 1893 shortly after Dvorak arrived at the Conservatory, having returned to Boston to serve a musical apprenticeship under Chadwick. Together with Paine at Harvard, Chadwick at the New England Conservatory, and MacDowell at Columbia, Parker helped to shape the course of higher music education in America and to develop a comprehensive and demanding curricula that permitted students to receive a grounded musical education at home.

The majority of his own best compositions were serious choral works on medieval or religious subjects. The 1892 cantata HORA NOVISSIMA is commonly considered his masterpiece. Set to a Latin text delineating the glories of Heaven, it echoes Italo-French influence in its solo passages, but its majestic choral and organ sections speak of the influence of German religious music and American hymnody.

Parker & Ives

For a composer so wedded to the European Romanticism, it was not surprising that Parker should have found Ives' experimentation perplexing. A delightful anecdote about teacher and pupil is told: In March 1898 Chadwick visited New Haven to attend a performance of his MELPOMENE OVERTURE with Parker conducting, and he decided to drop by Parker's Music 4 class. When Chadwick entered the room, Parker was in the process of critiquing Ives' song, SUMMERFIELDS, objecting to "too many keys in the middle." Chadwick strode over to Ives, picked up the manuscript, studied it for a moment, and then said: "In its way it's almost as good as Brahms," and turning with a wink to Parker, added, "That's as good a song as you could write!" Ever the aristocratic gentleman, one can only imagine that Parker had the good grace to smile!


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