American Sheet Music: ca. 1820-1860
Table of Contents
Music Copyrighted in Federal District Courts, ca. 1820-1860:
Musical Performers from Abroad


Composers in Europe

Two European performer-composers of the period had a profound influence on American music. The English baritone Henry Russell (1812-1900), who toured America from 1837 to 1841, influenced American songwriters through both his sentimental songs and his melodramatic scenas. Among the former were songs such as "Woodman! Spare that Tree" and "The Old Arm Chair," which started a rage for furniture songs. Russell's melodramatic songs included "The Ship Afire" and "The Maniac." Many of his successful songs were first published in America; he also worked with American lyricists such as George P. Morris. The French conductor-composer Louis Jullien (1812-1860) gave a series of "monster concerts" in New York in 1853-54, starting an American tradition of gigantism in the concert-hall. Jullien's repertoire included major European masterworks such as Beethoven's symphonies, works by aspiring American composers (he gave the premiere of one of the symphonies of George Frederick Bristow), and flashy showpieces such as the "Firemen's Quadrille," which used real firemen to put out a pretend fire.

image: caption following
The maniac
by Henry Russell.

Among other European composers who spent time both in America and Europe was the Irishman William Vincent Wallace (1812-1865). Famous for his 1845 opera Maritana, Wallace first visited America in the years 1841-44. In 1850, he returned to America for several years--his next documented appearance in Europe was not until late 1858. While in America Wallace published numerous vocal and piano pieces suitable for the American market; he also composed the most successful patriotic song of the period, "The Flag of Our Union." Wallace's dedication to America may have been fortified by his marital troubles in Europe; whatever his motive, he showed a willingness to adapt his style to the musical tastes of the republic and thus may be seen as a temporarily American composer.

Bohemian-born Anthony [Anton] Philip Heinrich (1781-1861) was resident in America for much of the period covered by this collection. He lived in the United States intermittently from 1805, with major stays from 1816 to 1826 and again from 1837 to 1857; returned in 1858; and died in New York City in 1861. Heinrich aspired to be the first great American composer. His first musical collection is entitled "The Dawning of Music in Kentucky." Some of these pieces are of transcendent length and difficulty. Opinions differ on whether Heinrich is genuinely an American composer or whether he remained an exotic and a guest. But the composer of "Tyler's Grand Veto Quick Step" was certainly responsive to American events.

American Sheet Music: ca. 1820-1860