Converse, Frederick Shepherd

1871

Young American composer, at present assistant professor of music at Harvard, who has produced a number of highly interesting and original works, including an opera, and a festival work, entitled Job. Mr. Converse was born at Newton, Mass., and was intended by his father for a commercial career, but decided after a few months in an office that he was not meant for business, and from then on devoted himself to the study of i music. He entered Harvard College graduating from it   in 1893, taking the highest honors in music, under Prof. John K. Paine, and later continuing his musical studies with Carl Baermann and George W. Chadwick. After two years under Rheinberger at the Royal School of Music at Munich, from which he graduated, in 1898, with high honors, Converse returned to Boston and became a teacher. He taught harmony at the New England Conservatory of Music, until 1902, when he was appointed an instructor in the musical department of Harvard. In 1905 he was appointed assistant professor of music there, a position he still holds. Mr. Converse, soon after freeing himself from academic influences, began to show strong originality in composition and a feeling for highly modern effects. Of late he has devoted himself chiefly to program music. He has ample technique and his writing is fluent and easy. His first composition was a sonata for violin and piano, which was his thesis for honors at Harvard. He next wrote a string-quartet; a concert overture, entitled Youth, which was performed at Munich in 1897; a symphony in D minor, given in the same city the following year and by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and at the Worcester Festival in 1899.

Mr. Converse has done his best work as a composer of symbolic poems. These include The Festival of Pan, a romance for orchestra, first performed at Boston, in 1900, then given at Cambridge, London, Cincinnati and elsewhere; Endymion's Narrative, a romance for orchestra; and Night and Day, for piano and orchestra, first performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in 1905, all of which are settings of the poems of Walt Whitman. Converse s opera, The Pipe of Desire, was first produced in Boston, in January, 1905. He is at work upon another opera, according to report, the libretto of which treats of an incident in the Mexican War, with the action taking place in a seaport close to the California frontier. Mr. Converse's most recent work is a dramatic poem for solo voices, chorus and orchestra, entitled Job, which he composed for the Worcester Festival of 1907. It is declared to be a work in which the composer showed his purpose to free himself from the traditions which govern the oratorio and cantata. The music of Job is strongly descriptive, and follows the modern trend in orchestral writing. Beside the works already mentioned Mr. Converse has written a ballade for barytone and orchestra, entitled La Belle dame sans merci; a violin concerto; a string quartet, first played by the Kneisel Quartet, in 1904; and an orchestral fantasy performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1905. Converse is rapidly forging to the front, and is generally regarded by musicians as a composer who has done admirable work in the past and from whom much may be expected in the future.