Nevin, Ethelbert Woodbridge



One of the most popular American composers; born at Vineacre, near Pittsburg, Pa.; the son of Robert P. and Elizabeth Oliphant Nevin; from his father, who was editor and proprietor of a Pittsburg newspaper and a contributor to many magazines, he received most of his early education. Robert Nevin encouraged the musical tendencies early evinced by his son and gave him every advantage, taking him abroad for two years of travel and study in Dresden under Bohme, and then sending him to Boston for piano study under B. J. Lang and composition under Stephen A. Emery. Nevin then gave lessons in Pittsburg, earning money to take him abroad for further study. In 1884 he went to Berlin and for three years was the pupil of Karl Klindworth. He now began to give most of his time to composition. In 1887 he returned to America, taught and played at concerts in Boston for three years and then went to France and Germany. In Paris he won much praise as a teacher; from there he went to Berlin and devoted himself so assiduously to composition that his health was impaired and he was compelled to take a year's rest in Algiers. n 1895 he gave a series of concerts in America and then took up his residence in Florence, where he composed some of his best works; from Florence he went to Venice, where he composed his Venetian suite; after a year in Venice and another in Paris he returned to his own country. He was married in 1888 to Anne Paul of Pittsburg.


His last years were spent in New Haven, Conn., where he died in 1901. Nevin wrote many piano-pieces and did a little work for orchestra, but will always be remembered by his songs. In Florence he composed his suite, May in Tuscany, the best number of which is the Rusignuolo. His life and the scenes about him in Venice inspired his Venetian sketches, perhaps the best known being The Gondoliers. The Sketch Book, known to every musician and music lover of America, is a collection of thirteen songs and piano-pieces. Among its songs are the popular I' the Wondrous Month o* May; Love Song, a piano solo; and the serenade, O That We Two Were Maying, one of the rarest lyrics in the English language. His song, The Rosary, reached a phenomenal sale. His child songs have a peculiar captivating charm and include some of Stevenson's best child poems. In Winter I get up at Night and Little Boy Blue are two of the most popular. Water Scenes, including Narcissus, his most popular piano work, Dragon Fly, Ophelia and Barcarolle, perhaps made Nevin best known. His book, In Arcady. contains pastoral scenes, and the lullaby, Sleep Little Tulip, is a remarkably artistic work. He wrote a suite for piano, En Passant, of which In Dreamland, a delicious reverie, is a number; a pantomime for piano and orchestra; a libretto to Lady Floraine's Dream, by Vance Thompson; a cantata, and many other songs and piano-pieces. The works of no other American composer have ever met with greater success nor have been in so great a demand.