Zerrahn, Carl



A German-American musician and conductor, who was born at Malchow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin. His initial musical instruction was gained in Rostock, under Friedrich Weber, and later he continued in Hanover and Berlin. During the German Revolution of 1848 a number of musicians including Zerrahn, were expatriated and they came to New York. They organized themselves into an orchestra, which they called the Germania Musical Society, of which Zerrahn was first flute-player and eventually director. For five seasons this society gave concerts in Boston and made tours to New York and other cities, giving Americans their first great orchestral works. The organization dissolved in 1854, when Zerrahn became conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society. He gave many orchestral concerts in Boston and through him the people of that city led all others in orchestral taste at that time. He was to New England what Thomas was to New York and the West. In 1865 the Harvard Symphony concerts were established with Zerrahn as leader, which position he held until their discontinuance in 1882. He was leader of the Worcester Festivals and conducted the Salem Oratorio Society, also the great triennial festivals of the Handel and Haydn and the still greater Peace Jubilee in Boston. At the second Jubilee he led the chorus of 20,000 voices and he conducted at similar festivals in other cities as far west as San Francisco. For a number of years he was a professor of singing, harmony and instrumentation at the New England Conservatory. Upon the completion of his fortieth year of work with the Handel and Haydn Society he was given a benefit. He edited The Index, The Apograph, The Atlas and Carl Zerrahn's Selections, books for musical organizations. He returned to his home at Malchow and has died since 1902.