Michael Anderson / courtesy microphilharmonic

A Walk Through Old New England

Works from three late 19th and early 20th century American composers are spotlighted at The Shedd 

It’s been a bastion of flowering culture throughout the nation’s history, with Western European threads tied to much of it, and a slice of that old New England artistry comes to The Shedd Institute for the Arts for a pair of performances.  

Three late 19th and early 20th century composers from that region — Horatio Parker, Amy Beach and Charles Ives — will have their works spotlighted in New England Voices by microphilharmonic, led by Michael Anderson, the clarinetist and artistic director of the ensemble. 

Parker’s Suite for Piano Trio, with violin and cello, leads off the program. The composer — who called New Haven, Connecticut, home — wrote many of his pieces for organ, but the “Suite for Piano Trio” is from his work on chamber music. He also composed cantatas, oratorios and orchestral works as well as two operas.

Along with Beach, Parker came from what musicologists call the Second New England School, six composers based in and around Boston during this time frame whose compositions played a strong role in the development of American classical music apart from its European roots.

And Beach may be the most interesting of the half-dozen Second New England School composers. The only woman in the group, she was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training.

Her “String Quartet in One Movement,” composed in 1929, will be performed by microphilharmonic, but Beach also composed the Gaelic Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896 and the first symphony composed by an American woman to be published. She also was an acclaimed pianist, performing her own works in concerts in the U.S. and Germany.

One of Parker’s most accomplished students was Ives, who, as an adult, composed on the side while working in the insurance business. A chamber version of Ives’ Symphony No. 3 (The Camp Meeting) and an arrangement for wind ensemble by Anderson of the composer’s organ piece Variations on “America” take up the second half of the program.

Variations on “America” was composed for organ in 1891 when Ives was just 17 years old. It’s an arrangement of the traditional tune “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” which was the de facto national anthem of the U.S. at the time.

New England Voices with microphilharmonic is 4 pm Sunday, Jan. 29, and 7:30 pm Monday, Jan. 30, at The Shedd Institute, 868 High St. Tickets are $24 to $38 for each performance and can be purchased at TheShedd.org.

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