Finck, Henry Theophilus


Musical writer and critic and the author of numerous books of value on musical subjects. He was born at Bethel, Shelby County, Missouri, and was the son of Henry C. Finck, a physician, also an enthusiast on all musical matters, a man who played all the orchestral instruments, the harp in a talented manner, and who composed numerous songs and frequently organized bands and mixed choruses. Henry T. Finck began to play on the cello when he was only seven years of age.

In 1862, when he was eight years of age, his family moved to Oregon, where he passed his early years. He was sent to Harvard, when he was eighteen, to study medicine, but became interested in philosophy instead. While at Harvard he studied harmony, counterpoint and musical history under Prof. J. K. Paine, and after his graduation in 1876, having obtained a traveling fellowship, he went to Bayreuth to attend the first Wagnerian Festival, accounts of which he contributed to the New York World and Atlantic Monthly. He passed a year in Munich in order to hear the remainder of Wagner's works, writing accounts of these productions for The National and other periodicals. He next visited Berlin and Vienna. His interests up to this time had been along entirely different lines, as he was a student of psychology and anthropology and had intended to apply for a professorship in one of the American colleges. His musical taste, fostered by his studies and observations abroad, led him to study Wagner and his musical dramas, and he began his biography of the great composer after the first music festival in 1876. He met Wagner, and worked until 1893 on the work before it was produced. It is one of the best books on the subject. Mr. Finck did considerable editorial work on The Nation and The Evening Post with which it was consolidated. He has been on its staff since 1881; was a professor of musical history at the National Conservatory of Music of America, and under its auspices delivered a series of lectures at Chickering Hall during the season of 18871888 on Chopin and other musicians. These lectures were published in 1889 by the Scribners under the title, Chopin, and Other Musical Essays. Finck's first work was the Wagner Hand Book, written for the Wagner concerts given by Theodore Thomas in 1884, in which he discussed the composer's work and especially his music-dramas. Wagner and His Work appeared in 1893 in two volumes and was translated into German at Breslau. He wrote Songs and Song Writers, a most valuable and helpful work, which traces the development of song from the earliest folk-music down to the present time, giving the history of the German lied, an account of the work of the German song-writers before Schubert, the writers who came after his time, and a history of the songs and song-writers of Italy, England, America, Scandinavia, France, and the Hungarian and Slavic song-writers. He has also written biographies of Anton Seidl, Edvard Grieg, the Norwegian composer; Chopin, a book on Paderewski and his art, and has written numerous articles in appreciation of the work of Robert Franz, and other musicians. His most recent work is a complete American edition of the four operas of the Nibelungen Ring, published at Cincinnati in 1903, which is considered a remarkable and valuable contribution to Wagnerian literature. Mr. Finck has published numerous musical essays, has edited fifty master-songs, thirty songs for high schools, and in the field of musical biography and criticism is a power.

He is a staunch admirer and advocate of the new schools including Liszt, Grieg, Wagner, Chopin and Franz, and the older schools of Bach, Gluck, Weber, Schubert and Schumann. Mr. Fink has written beside his musical works a number of books of travel and other works of more than ordinary merit.