WorldView Episode 21: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

       Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, one of history’s best known composers of African descent, dedicated a large portion of his career to preserving traditional African melodies and themes in his music. In 1905, the composer wrote: “What Brahms has done for the Hungarian folk music, Dvorak for the Bohemian, and Grieg for the Norwegian, I have tried to do for these Negro melodies.”

       Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1975. His father, Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, was a West African administrator and doctor born and raised in Sierra Leone; his mother, Alice Hare Martin, was an English woman who named her son after prominent English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Taylor returned to Africa unaware that Martin was pregnant, leaving her and the child in Surrey. Coleridge-Taylor soon began practicing music with his grandfather, beginning school at the Royal College of Music at age 15. He studied composition under Charles Villiers Stanford, working with the Crystal Palace School of Music and Three Choirs Festival after graduating. 

       After the 1898 premiere of “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast”—the first of three cantatas written by Coleridge-Taylor depicting scenes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha”—the composer traveled internationally to great acclaim. In 1904 he was met in to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt, an invitation rarely extended to celebrities and artists of African descent. Coleridge-Taylor was also encouraged by various American artists to draw on his ancestry and family history in his work. Though the three cantatas of “Song of Hiawatha” remain his most well-known compositions, Coleridge-Taylor wrote more than 80 opus works in his three decade career. He passed away from pneumonia in 1912 at the age of 37. 

       In episode twenty-one of WorldView, pianist William Chapman Nyaho performs Coleridge-Taylor’s “Deep River: Deep River”. The work was part of “Twenty-Four Negro Melodies”, a collection of piano works released by the composer in 1905. “Deep River” itself is an African-American spiritual, first mentioned in print in 1867. 

 

WorldView Episode Twenty-One Playlist:

Josef MYSLIVEČEK, “Cello Concerto in C Major”, {Camerata Chicago, Droston Hall, Wendy Warner (clo)} – Cedille Records

Vivian FUNG, “Pizzicato for String Quartet”, {Ying Quartet} – Telarc

Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR, “Deep River: Deep River”, {William Chapman Nyaho (pf)} – MSR Classics

Missy MAZZOLI, “Tooth and Nail”, {Nadia Sirota (va, kybd), James McVinnie (kybd), Valgier Sigurdsson (synth), Frank Aarnink (perc), Daniel Bjarnason, (kbyd), Paul Evans, Missy Mizoli, Paul Corley (programming)} – Bedroom Community

Astor PIAZZOLLA, “Suite for Oboe and String Orchestra”, {Camerata Bariloche Chamber Orchestra of Argentina} – Dorian

 

WorldView is a classical music radio show featuring composers from everywhere in the world – except Western Europe. Tune in to hear works by lesser-known artists such as Gabriela Montero  and Bright Sheng, and widen your knowledge of classical music. Hinke Younger hosts each week’s episode of WorldView on Mondays at 9AM and again at 6PM on Charlottesvilleclassical.org.

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