Chadwick, George Whitefield


Composer and conductor; was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. His ancestors for many generations were of New England stock, his great grandfather having fought in the battle of Bunker Hill. His father and mother were both musical, the father being an amateur performer on several orchestral instruments as well as the teacher of a country singing school, and the mother gifted with a fine voice. In 1860, the family removed to Lawrence, Mass., where the boy was instructed in music during his youth by an elder brother, eventually becoming, at the age of sixteen, the organist of a local church. Between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one his time was passed, much against his will, in an insurance office, but at the same time he was attending the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he received instruction in piano and organ playing and in harmony from such teachers as Dudley Buck and Steven Emery. Later he studied with Eugene Thayer, an excellent organist and an enthusiastic teacher, who recognized the young man's talent and did much to encourage and stimulate him. In 1876 he took charge of the musical department of Olivet College, Michigan, resigning after a year's service in order to devote himself to further study in Europe. The years 1877 and 1879 were spent in Leipsic, at the Conservatory, where his teachers were Richter, Reinicke, and Jadassohn. The latter showed from the first a particular interest in the young American and gave him much of his private time in addition to his Conservatory lessons. At this time Chadwick produced two string quartets; an overture, Rip Van Winkle; and many small pieces. The overture was performed at the Grosse Prufung of the year 1879, and was conceded by the critics to be the best student's work of the year.

After a short residence in Dresden, where he worked mostly by himself, he went to Munich, where he placed himself under the instruction of Rheinberger, both in composition and in organ playing. From this eminent pedagogue he received severe contrapuntal training, but not much stimulus for his imagination or encouragement toward poetic expression. In the meantime his Rip Van Winkle overture had been performed At a concert of the Harvard Musical Association in Boston and received with such approval that it was immediately repeated at a subsequent concert of the Association a very unusual proceeding for this conservative organization. In 1880, Chadwick return to Boston and his Rip Van Winkle was once more performed, under his own direction, at the Musical Festival of the Handel and Haydn Society in May of that year, when his ability as a conductor was at once recognized. He was appointed organist of St. John's Church and joined the staff of the New England Conservatory of which, seventeen years afterward, he became director. From this time his career has been one of ever increasing activity as composer, conductor, organist and teacher, and in the latter capacity he has numbered among his pupils such wellknown musicians as Horatio Parker, Arthur Whiting, Wallace Goodrich, Frederick S. Converse and Henry Hadley.

As a composer he shows much originality and distinction of style combined with great knowledge of the resources of the modern orchestra. He is regarded by foreign critics and by many of his countrymen as the leader of the American School, and his Third Symphony in F major; his Melpomene and Adonais overtures; and his string quartet in D minor, are probably the best works of their class yet produced in America. As a conductor he has many times led the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in his own works, beside serving as leader of the Arlington and Boston Orchestral Clubs, the Springfield Festivals (for ten years) and the Worcester Festivals. At the latter he gave the first performance of Cesar Franck's, Beatitudes, in the English language, and he has often been invited to conduct his own works in the prominent choral and orchestral concerts of the United States. As a conductor of chorus and orchestra he possesses both magnetism and authority and he probably has no superior in America in this difficult art.

In 1897 he was appointed director of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and this he has developed from a relatively unimportant school into an institution which ranks in equipment and discipline with the best Conservatories of Europe. In the same year he received the honorary degree of M.A. from Yale University and in 1905 that of LL.D. from Tufts College. He is also a corresponding member of the Royal Institute of Music in Florence. He spent the winter of 1905 in Europe, during   which time a concert of his compositions was given by the Concordia Verein in Leipsic, which caused much favorable comment. His symphonic poem, Cleopatra, was also performed at the Philharmonic concerts in London.