R. Christopher Teichler, Composer

Meet American Composer Edward Burlingame Hill

We've all heard it opined that artists are never appreciated in their own time, and there certainly is historical evidence to validate this idea. Johann Sebastien Bach, famously, was "rediscovered" over a century after his death by Felix Mendelssohn, and is now considered one of the greatest composers to have ever lived (if not the greatest). In painting, Van Gogh; in literature, Poe: every artistic field has their own neglected masters that time eventually recognized as special. This past year, I was fortunate to discover a neglected American composer that deserves his due.

Edward Burlingame Hill (1872 - 1960) was an American composer and educator, trained at Harvard and eventually returned to his alma mater to teach composition. Some of his pupils became important figures in American music: Roger Sessions, Walter Piston and Leonard Bernstein to name a few. Hill never achieved the notoriety that many of his students did, but the fact that he has an impressive student list is a testament to his artistic knowledge and abilities.

Hill had a solid compositional output, including symphonies, concertos and chamber music. However, much has been neglected and forgotten....until recently.

I learned of Edward Burlingame Hill as I was preparing to teach a graduate music class that explored American Neoclassicism. As a Stravinsky-phile, most of my exposure to the genre was through his so-called "middle period" of music (that, and the work of Hindemith). There really is not much in the way of scholarly work in Neoclassicism, except for a few journal articles here and there, and it is usually not much more than a footnote in musicology texts. However, I did find a new text that explored the genre of American Neoclassical music specifically, and the first composer surveyed was Edward Burlingame Hill. I wanted to hear some of his work, but was not able to find much. Thankfully, the Austin Symphony Orchestra (TX) was aware of Hill and his music, and the importance of getting his music heard:

I purchased this album, and it is excellent. The performances by the Austin Symphony are very strong, and Hill's music is simply pristine. There is a clarity to his music melodically, harmonically and in terms of timbre/color. His music has a kinship with Gershwin, although not as overtly jazz-influenced, but the ear certainly makes the connection.

I hope that Hill's music catches on more and more with audiences and the academy. I greatly admire and appreciate the efforts of the Austin Symphony Orchestra to intentionally focus on a composer who deserves to be heard, while adding to the repertoire (I mean, Beethoven and Brahms and Mahler are great, but don't we have enough recordings of them to last us awhile??). So, give Edward Burlingame Hill a listen, and enjoy the work of a rediscovered and worthy composer!


Hear, hear! The American Impressionist and Neoclassicist composers deserve to be heard. That includes Hill, John Alden Carpenter, Walter Piston, Irving Fine, etc., etc. I have ordered the Hill CD and look forward to hearing it. And kudos for teaching a class on American Neoclassicism.

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