Arthur Batelle Whiting

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Arthur Whiting
Arthur B. Whiting 1904.jpg
Born(1861-06-20)June 20, 1861
DiedJuly 20, 1936(1936-07-20) (aged 75)
Beverly, Massachusetts, United States
Alma materRoyal Music School, Munich
Known forLecture series on classical music, compositions
Spouse(s)Grace Kneeland Gorham Whiting
Awards1905 – membership in American Academy of Arts and Letters
Scientific career
FieldsClassical music
Academic advisorsJosef Gabriel Rheinberger, Hans Bussmeyer
Notable studentsD. G. Mason
InfluencesBach, Brahms

Arthur Batelle Whiting (June 20, 1861 – July 20, 1936) was an American teacher, pianist, composer, and writer on music, known for his conservative compositional style, espousal of early music, and his long-running university lecture-recital series.


Whiting was born on June 20, 1861, in Cambridge, Massachusetts,[1] son of Charles Edward and Emma Reeves Leland Whiting.[2] He began studying piano at the age of 8 with his mother.[3][4] A few years later, he left school and was placed under the instruction of his uncle, organist and composer George E. Whiting, who gave him lessons in the organ.[4][5] He continued studying the piano; in 1873 or 1874, at the age of 13, he began his career as a concert pianist, in a concert in Worcester, Massachusetts.[1] In 1877, he was appointed organist at a church in South Boston[4] and eventually became organist at All Saints Church, Worcester, MA, where he remained for three years.[4] Whiting studied at the New England Conservatory[1] for five years, approximately from 1880 to 1885, probably coinciding with his organist position. There he studied piano with William Hall Sherwood[1][4][5] and harmony, counterpoint, and composition with George Whitefield Chadwick.[1][3][5] During this time he continued to give piano recitals in Boston and Worcester.[4]

From 1883 to 1885 Whiting studied in Germany at the Royal Music School in Munich.[1][4] He studied with Josef Gabriel Rheinberger,[1][4][5] who inspired in Whiting an interest in vocal and choral music,[5] and also gave him "a strong connection to the music of Bach and Brahms".[5] Rheinberger was known for a caustic teaching style, very much like the one Whiting later developed.[6][7] Whiting also studied piano with Prof. Hans Bussmeyer, head of the piano department at the School[4] and continued concertizing while in Munich.[4] Along with fellow American students H. W. Parker and H. H. Huss,[3][4] he received their highest honors in composition and many performances of his student works.[3][4]

In 1885, Whiting returned to America, and settled back in Boston.[1][5] He married into a prominent New England family;[5] his wife's name was Grace Kneeland.[2][7] During this time, he devoted himself mostly to composing, in small forms predominantly.[5]

In 1895, he and his wife moved to New York City.[1][7] There he performed frequently as a concert pianist,[1] as soloist with several American orchestras,[1] gave solo recitals, and played with chamber ensembles. At this time, Whiting began to composer in larger forms.[5] An early success was his "Floriana: Overheard In the Garden," a setting of Oliver Herford's cycle of poems by that title, which was first performed in New York in 1902.[5] In New York, he also taught piano (and possibly composition).[7] He was a "tough-love" kind of teacher. He was harsh, often mockingly humorous, in his criticisms of his students, but at least some of them felt that it was well-meant.[7] He frequently offered the same blunt criticisms of his adult friends' music, as well as of his own.[7] In 1905 he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.[1] Sometime during his career, he was head of the Organ Department at the Cincinnati College of Music, under Theodore Thomas.[3]

His main claim to fame during his lifetime was a yearly lecture/recital series on chamber music that continued from 1907 until 1930.[1][7] He gave these lectures at Harvard,[1] Princeton,[1] Yale,[1] and Columbia[3] universities.[5] Their purpose was to generate interest in music among the undergraduate students there.[7] After these began, Whiting mostly gave up composing.[2]

Through the years, Whiting also occasionally wrote on the subject of music.[7] His essays were published in the Yale Review, The Outlook, New Music Review, and in newspapers like the New York Times.[7] In his later years he regretted not composing more.[5]

Whiting died on July 20, 1936, in Beverly, Massachusetts.[1]

Musical style[edit]

Whiting was not a prolific composer.[1] When he did write, he composed mostly in small forms.[1] Stylistically, he was considered to be a Classicist, influenced by Bach and Brahms.[1][5][7] (He admitted to friend and former student D. G. Mason that he also enjoyed music by impressionists Debussy, Ravel, and Loeffler, which was popular at the time.[7])

Whiting also admired early music.[1] He was an early advocate for historically informed performance practices.[5] In his archival collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts are transcriptions for piano of toccatas and suites by Bach and Handel.[2] Whiting perhaps performed them at the harpsichord in a series of concerts he gave in 1911.[1] He also wrote an article in New Music Review in 1908 called "The Lesson of the Clavichord",[1] which was re-printed as a pamphlet in 1909.[2][7] It was, according to D. G. Mason, "an impassioned plea for the subtle and suggestive as opposed to the brutal sensationalism prevalent in contemporary music",[7] which was exemplified in his opinion by the compositions of Richard Strauss.[7]

He was critical of the contemporary efforts of his fellow composers to create an American style of art music.[7] This was especially evident in 1915–1917, when he became engaged in a literary battle about the position of the American composer, expressing in various newspapers his opinion that American works and their creators weren't in the least denigrated.[3]

Selected works[edit]

  • Concerto in D Minor, Op.6
  • Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra, Op.11
  • Floriana: Overheard In the Garden (1902)
  • The Golden Cage; a Dance Pageant (his most popular work; published in several different arrangements – see the Library for Performing Arts' Whiting collection,[2] and other items in their main catalog)
  • Our Country (a choral march; performed at the inauguration of President Taft in 1909)[3]
  • Organ music
  • Chamber music for various combinations of instruments
  • Arrangements of French and English folk songs
  • Transcriptions for piano of toccatas and suites of Bach and Handel


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Charles H. Kaufman. "Whiting, Arthur Battelle." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed March 21, 2016,
  2. ^ a b c d e f Arthur Battelle Whiting Scores, JPB 84-421, Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Whiting, Arthur". Clippings file. Music Division. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Arthur Whiting." Unknown newspaper. 1885?. In "Whiting, Arthur". Clipping file. Music Division. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Arthur B. Whiting (1861–1936)," Performing Arts Encyclopedia, Library of Congress. Accessed March 21, 2016.
  6. ^ "Hofcapellmeister Josef Rheinberger." Boston Home Journal, 1885? Accessed in New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Music Division, Clippings File.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Mason, D. G. "Arthur Whiting". The Musical Quarterly. 23 (January 1937), pp. 26-36.

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