Daniel Gregory Mason

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Daniel Gregory Mason circa 1915

Daniel Gregory Mason (Brookline, Massachusetts, November 20, 1873 – Greenwich, Connecticut, December 4, 1953) was an American composer and music critic.

Biography[edit]

Mason came from a long line of notable American musicians, including his father Henry Mason, and his grandfather Lowell Mason. His cousin, John B. Mason, was a popular actor on the American and British stage. Daniel Mason studied under John Knowles Paine at Harvard University from 1891 to 1895, continuing his studies with George Chadwick and Percy Goetschius. In 1894 he published his Opus 1, a set of keyboard waltzes, but soon after began writing about music as his primary career. He became a lecturer at Columbia University in 1905, where he would remain until his retirement in 1942, successively being awarded the positions of assistant professor (1910), MacDowell professor (1929) and head of the music department (1929-1940). He was elected a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the national fraternity for men in music, in 1914 by the Fraternity's Alpha Chapter at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

After 1907, Mason began devoting significant time to composition, studying with Vincent D'Indy in Paris in 1913, garnering numerous honorary doctorates and winning prizes from the Society for the Publication of American Music and the Juilliard Foundation.

Style[edit]

Mason's compositional idiom was thoroughly romantic. He deeply admired and respected the Austro-Germanic canon of the nineteenth century, especially Brahms; despite studying under D'Indy, he disliked impressionism and utterly disregarded the modernist musical movements of the 20th century. Mason sought to increase respect for American music, sometimes incorporating indigenous and popular motifs (such as popular songs or Negro spirituals) into his scores or evoking them through suggestive titles, though he was not a thorough-going nationalist. He was a fastidious composer who repeatedly revised his scores (the manuscripts of which are now held at Columbia).

List of compositions[edit]

Note:This list is incomplete.

Orchestral[edit]

  • Symphony no.1, c, op.11, 1913–14
  • Prelude and Fugue, op.12, pf, orch, 1914
  • Chanticleer, festival ov., 1926
  • Symphony no.2, A, op.30, 1928–9
  • Suite after English Folksongs, op.32, 1933–4
  • Symphony no.3 ‘A Lincoln Symphony’, op.35, 1935–6
  • Prelude and Fugue, c, op.37, str, 1939
  • Also wrote some incidental music, transcriptions

Vocal[edit]

  • 4 Songs (M. Lord), op.4, 1v, pf, 1906
  • 6 Love Songs (M.L. Mason), op.15, 1v, pf, 1914–15, arr. S, orch, 1935
  • Russians (W. Bynner), song cycle, op.18, 1v, pf, 1915–17, arr. Bar, orch, 1915–17
  • Songs of the Countryside (A.E. Housman), op.23, chorus, orch, 1923
  • 5 Songs of Love and Life, op.36, 1v, pf, 1895–1922
  • 3 (Nautical) Songs (W. Irwin), op.38, 1v, pf, 1941
  • 2 Songs, op.41, Bar, pf, 1946–7
  • Soldiers, song cycle, op.42, Bar, pf, 1948–9
  • Also wrote ~50 songs without opus numbers.
  • Unaccompanied choral pieces, opp.25, 29

Chamber works[edit]

  • Sonata, op.5, vn, pf, 1907–8
  • Piano Quartet, op.7, 1909–11
  • Pastorale, op.8, vn, cl/va, pf, 1909–12
  • 3 Pieces, op.13, fl, hp, str qt, 1911–12
  • Sonata, op.14, cl/vn, pf, 1912–15
  • Intermezzo, op.17, str qt, 1916
  • String Quartet on Negro Themes, op.19, 1918–19
  • Variations on a Theme of John Powell, str qt, 1924–5
  • Divertimento, op.26b, wind qnt, 1926
  • Fanny Blair, folksong fantasy, op.28, str qt, 1927
  • Serenade, op.31, str qt, 1931
  • Sentimental Sketches, pf trio, op.34
  • Variations on a Quiet Theme, op.40, str qt, 1939

Keyboard works[edit]

  • Birthday Waltzes, op.1, pf, 1894
  • Yankee Doodle, op.6, pf, c1911
  • Passacaglia and Fugue, op.10, org, 1912
  • 2 Choral Preludes on Lowell Mason’s Tunes, op.39, organ, 1941
  • other piano pieces, opp.2, 3, 9, 16, 21, 33

Writings[edit]

Mason wrote or co-wrote eighteen books on music, including an autobiography and a number of music appreciation works written for a general audience. His analyses of the chamber music of Brahms and Beethoven have been recognized as insightful. In his more polemical works, he attacked modern music, urged American composers to stop imitating Continental models and find an individual style, and criticized European conductors in America (such as Toscanini) for rarely including American works in their programs.

List of books[edit]

  • From Grieg to Brahms (New York, 1902, 2/1927/R)
  • Beethoven and his Forerunners (New York, 1904, 2/1930)
  • The Romantic Composers (New York, 1906)
  • with T.W. Surette : The Appreciation of Music (New York, 1907)
  • The Orchestral Instruments (New York, 1908)
  • A Child's Guide to Music (New York, 1909)
  • A Neglected Sense in Piano Playing (New York, 1912)
  • with M.L. Mason : Great Modern Composers (New York, 1916, 2/1968)
  • Contemporary Composers (New York, 1918)
  • Short Studies of Great Masterpieces (New York, 1918)
  • Music as a Humanity (New York, 1920)
  • From Song to Symphony (New York, 1924)
  • Artistic Ideals (New York, 1925)
  • The Chamber Music of Brahms (New York, 1928/R)
  • The Dilemma of American Music and Other Essays (New York, 1928)
  • Tune in, America (New York, 1928/R)
  • Music in my Time, and Other Reminiscences (New York, 1938)
  • The Quartets of Beethoven (New York, 1947)

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]