January 19, 2018

Nature Sounds: Anthony Philip Heinrich and the Music of the American Environment by John Herron



This essay examines the life and legacy of Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781–1861), a European-born composer who migrated to America in 1811. Heinrich is a nearly forgotten musician who spent his professional career working in an equally forgotten repertoire of music—the American symphony. In the nineteenth century, European composers, especially the German masters, dominated musical tastes on both sides of the Atlantic. Throughout this period, however, many Americans longed for a distinct musical identity, but the effort to place music from American authors in the performing


canon was often rebuffed by critics and audiences alike. As a result, Heinrich would never become a mainstream voice, but in this battle for artistic supremacy, he deserves our attention because he wrote unique compositions influenced by the physical environment. Like the romantic poetry and landscape paintings drawn from the same era, Heinrich’s nature-inspired symphonies celebrated American political achievement by glorifying the nation’s environment.

by John Herron

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