Elson, Louis C.


Lecturer and writer on musical subjects, and a successful teacher. He is an American of German descent, and was born in Boston. At six years of age he began the study of music, and was a piano pupil of August Hamann, while his teacher in voice, at a later period, was August Kreissmann, the friend of Franz, and a superior interpreter of his songs. Elson's especial interest in songs, many of which he has translated, is due, no doubt, to his association with Kreissmann. He later went to the Leipsic Conservatory for theoretical study.

On his return to this country he began journalistic work on the Vox Humana, a paper published chiefly in the interests of organ music. When this was merged in the Musical Herald, in 1880, he became the editor, and was about the same time chosen musical editor of the Boston Courier. When in Europe he contributed occasional articles to several prominent periodicals in New York and Boston, and in 1888 became musical editor of the Boston Advertiser. His connection with the New England Conservatory of Music dates from 1880, as vocal teacher, and lecturer on orchestra and orchestral instruments and on musical history. From 1881 he also taught musical theory, succeeding to the headship of this department on the death of Stephen Emery. He has acted as choral director on various occasions in Boston, notably a festival in 1886, the programs including music selected all the way from the mediaeval beginnings of the art up to the present time. As a composer, his work is mostly in the smaller forms, including several piano-pieces; three operettas; a volume of songs for children; and other songs. He has also made translations and arrangements of a great number of French, English and Italian songs, and of operas. He is much in demand as a lecturer on musical subjects, and has  lectured often at many colleges and institutes, including Vassar, Cornell, The University of Pennsylvania, and other prominent educational institutions. As a vocalist, he has been connected with several of the leading choirs of Boston. As an author, his reputation is fully as wide, and his works in this line comprise The Curiosities on Music; History of German Song; Syllabus of Musical History; The Realm of Music; The Theory of Music; Great Composers and their Works; Our National Music and its Sources; European Reminiscences; German Song and Song-Writers; Shakespeare in Music; A History of American Music, published in 1904; and a Music Dictionary, in 1905; besides contributed articles to the leading music journals of America. Mr. Elson's diction is concise, often humorous, and reveals in every line broad and genuine culture fused with the specialized knowledge of the trained and experienced musician. His distinguished contemporary, W. S. B. Mathews, speaks of it as a "ripe and finished literary style, rarely found outside the ranks of professional authors."

His son, Arthur, is a well-known musical critic and writer. His books, Woman's Work in Music, Orchestral Instruments and Their Use, A Critical History of Opera, Modern Composers of Europe, and frequent contributions to musical periodicals, have added to the lustre of the family name. The two, father and son, deserve especial mention as representative of the best modern thought concerning the future of the woman musician. They are truly American in their fair-minded recognition of her ability to do more than she has been permitted to do by the foreigner.