Bristow, George Frederick


One of America's most representative composers. His father was an Englishman, who came to America and became a well-known conductor in New York. Bristow, the younger, was born in Brooklyn and began the study of music at the early age of five, becoming second leader of violins in an orchestra at thirteen and publishing his first composition at fourteen. When the New York Philharmonic Society was organized, in 1842, he entered the orchestra as violinist, and remained in that position until 1883. This society performed several of his compositions, his first overture being given when Bristow was only seventeen. During the brilliant concert tour of Jenny Lind in America, under the management of Sir Jules Benedict, Bristow was her conductor, and afterwards held the some position in Julien's orchestra. He was also leader of the New York Harmonic Society and was for three years director of the Mendelssohn Union. Besides being a talented composer, Mr. Bristow was a fine organist, a good violinist, an excellent orchestra conductor and choral leader and a teacher of broad experience. For a large part of his life he had charge of the music in the New York public schools. In private life he was simple and unassuming, caring nothing for society but devoting himself with much energy and industry to work. His works, between seventy and eighty in number, include orchestral, piano and organ music, operas, oratorios and cantatas. Many of these have never been published. Among his larger and more important compositions are the operas, Rip Van Winkle and Columbus; his oratorios, Praise To God, and Daniel; his cantatas, The Pioneer, and The Great Republic with orchestral accompaniment; The Arcadian Symphony; a Symphony in F sharp-minor; and Niagara, a descriptive piece for chorus and orchestra given in New York in 1898.