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The Musical Herald

(Boston, MA, 1880-1893)

Prepared by Ruth Henderson
Online only (2016)

The Musical Herald began publication in January 1880—merging with Vox Humana, which had been edited by Louis C. Elson—and continued for fourteen volumes through November 1893, the final year having been published in Chicago. The Musical Herald Company published the first ten volumes, succeeded by the New England Conservatory for volumes 11-12, and by George H. Wilson for the remaining two. The title varied over the years, adding an initial definite article and a subtitle, “A monthly magazine” with volume 5 and lengthening it to “A monthly magazine devoted to the art universal” with volume 7. The title became Boston Musical Herald (retaining the longer subtitle) with volume 10, altering the subtitle to “a monthly music review for the home” with volume 13, and adopting a revised title reflecting the move to Chicago with volume 14: The Musical Herald of the United States; a monthly review. Periodicity was monthly, with the exception of the final issue, which combined three issues. The journal offers invaluable perspective on the musical life of its time, particularly from a Boston viewpoint and the early years of the New England Conservatory.

Louis C. Elson (1848-1920) was the only person to serve as an editor through all fourteen volumes. While his name never appears as sole editor, his influence, through editorials, concert reviews, provocative articles, and his column of pithy new music reviews that appears in nearly every issue, was profound. His name is listed as one of five editors for the first issue, and thereafter in various editorial capacities under slightly differing titles. A native Bostonian, he was a prominent author, music critic, lecturer, and educator who taught at the New England Conservatory from 1880 until his death. Eben Tourjée (1834-91) was Managing Editor for the first eleven volumes, until incapacitated by ill health. An educator who co-founded the New England Conservatory in 1867, he was an advocate for music education in the public schools and the improvement of church music, both causes reflected clearly in the pages of the Musical Herald.

Stephen A. Emery (1845-91) served as an editor for volumes 2-11. A composer and pedagogue, he taught at the New England Conservatory from 1867, where he was a professor of piano and harmony, until his death. One of his most notable contributions to the Musical Herald, a question and answer column, was related to a device he used in teaching, whereby students submitted questions to a box for that purpose and Emery presided at a weekly question and answer hour.1 His death followed that of Eben Tourjée by only three days. Benjamin Cutter (1857-1910) joined the editorial staff in April 1890 (volume 11, number 4), although he contributed articles throughout the journal’s run. He assumed responsibility for Emery’s question and answer column after the latter’s resignation and contributed translations of Eduard Hanslick’s column from the Neue Freie Presse beginning with volume 12. A former student of Emery’s, Cutter was a composer, violinist, and theorist, who from 1888 also taught at the New England Conservatory.

George Henry Wilson (1854-1908) moved the journal to Chicago in 1893 when he was appointed Secretary to the Bureau of Music for the World’s Columbian Exposition. A native of Lawrence, Massachusetts, Wilson was a boyhood friend of George Whitefield Chadwick, a connection he later utilized to commission Chadwick’s Columbian Ode for the dedication ceremony of the World’s Columbian Exposition.2 Wilson became interested in music while employed at Boston’s Custom House, embarking on a career as a music journalist soon after. Following his three years in Chicago in association with the World’s Fair, he accepted an offer to become manager of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Orchestra, and manager of the Art Society, where he served for twelve years before his sudden death from septicemia at age 54, contracted from a minor abrasion to his finger four days earlier. His wife succeeded him, remaining at the two posts for the next twenty-five years.3 Under Wison’s editorship, the character of the Musical Herald changed, including fewer of the variety of articles featured in earlier volumes and many more concert reviews, particularly from Boston, New York, and Chicago, as well as correspondents’ reports from London and Paris.

The content of the Musical Herald includes original articles on composers, musical instruments, music of other cultures; fiction, illustrations, columns devoted to church and Sunday school music, hymns, news of music and musicians, both national and international; correspondence, criticism, reviews of concerts (particularly Boston), music reviews, occasional reviews of books about music, humor, and a question and answer column. Growing coverage of the activities of the New England Conservatory becomes a regular feature by June 1886 (volume 7, number 6) and continues through the final issue. The first nine volumes includes eight pages of music with each issue (usually for voice and piano, piano, or choral). The number of pages devoted to music decreased with volumes 10-11, ranging from three to eight pages or none, and disappears altogether by the penultimate issue of volume 11.

Reprinted material was drawn primarily from other current periodicals, newspapers, or books. Primary collaborators were the editors, who included music critics from major newspapers beginning with volume 13: Henry E. Krehbiel, Philip Hale, William J. Henderson, and Henry T. Finck, contributing articles originally published in their respective newspapers; editors were frequently identified by their initials. This RIPM publication was produced from copies held by the New England Conservatory and the Library of Congress.

1. Dictionary of American Biography, 3: 145.
2. Bill F. Faucett, George Whitefield Chadwick: The Life and Music of the Pride of New England (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2012), 129-30.
3. “Mr. Wilson Is Called Suddenly,” undated clipping from the Pittsburgh Dispatch, digitized by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Since Wilson died the evening of 18 March 1908, the article, an obituary, probably appeared the following day.