Paine, John Knowles



The first great American composer; born at Portland, Maine. With the intention of devoting himself to the organ he took lessons from .Kotzschmar, a teacher of repute in his native city, and in 1857 he made his debut as an organist. In order to perfect his training he went to Germany the next year, where he studied for three years under Haupt, Wieprecht and Teschner, and gave several concerts. In 1861 he returned to this country and, settling in Boston, became organist of West Church. The next year he resigned to take a position as musical instructor at Harvard, an appointment then amounting to nothing but organist and chapelmaster. Yet in his anxiety to make music a feature of importance, he gave lectures, for which he received no remuneration, and which were but slightly attended, since music counted nothing toward a degree.


In 1866 he made a second trip to Germany, where he toured for a year, directing his Mass in D, when it was given by the Singakademie at Berlin in 1867, and then returned to his post of organist at Harvard. Despite the discouraging appearance of musical affairs in the college in 1862, the good seed had sprouted, and in 1870 music was made an elective course, and Paine renewed his lectures. Three years later he was appointed assistant professor of music, and in 1875 they created for him the chair of music, the first department of the kind to be founded in an American college. Until 1905 Paine retained his position in the University, where he so nobly advanced the cause of music.


As an organist of the classical school Mr. Paine had a high reputation. He had the distinction of being one of those to open the great organ at the Music Hall, Boston, in 1863. During his later years, however, he performed very seldom, and so brightly did he shine as a composer that his work as an organist was almost eclipsed. On his return from Germany, instilled with the traditions of Bach and the classical school, he was very conservative in style, but gradually, with the advance of romanticism, he, too, felt the impulse of the movement, as is evinced by his superb music for Sophocles' CEdipus Tyrannus, and the works which followed it. Paine is remarkable for many works in the large form, in which he has shown himself a master. In 1873 his oratorio, St. Peter, was first performed at Portland, Maine, and the next year was sung by the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston. In 1876 he had the honorable task of composing the Centennial Hymn to Whittier's poem for the Exposition at Philadelphia; at the time of the Chicago World's Fair, in 1893, he wrote the Columbus March and Hymn; and for the opening of the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, he set Stedman's Hymn of the West. His first symphony, in C minor, was played by the Thomas Orchestra at the Boston Music Hall in 1876, and the second, Spring, at Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, in 1880. Meanwhile the Thomas Orchestra had performed his symphonic poem in D minor, on The Tempest, in 1877 at New York, and in 1878 his overture to As You Like It was played at the Sanders Theatre, as was also a duo concertante for violin and cello with orchestra. In 1888 the Boston Symphony Orchestra played his Island Fantasy. In 1901 the Harvard Classical Club gave Aristophanes' Birds, for the music of which it was indebted to Professor Paine, and that year his opera, Azara, of which he wrote both words and music, was published. He has also written a number of minor works for the voice, piano, organ and strings. At the time of his death, April 25, 1906, he was busy writing a symphonic poem illustrative of the character and death of Abraham Lincoln.