Bertram Shapleigh

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Bertram Shapleigh and his wife in their English home, "Weird Wood", from a 1907 publication. In the background, his library, which was lost in a fire some years later.

Bertram Shapleigh (15 January 1871 – 2 July 1940) was an American composer, heavily interested in the culture of Asia.


He studied composition with G.E. Whiting and George Whitefield Chadwick at the New England Conservatory; graduating in 1891. He continued his studies with Edward MacDowell in the United States and spent some time studying in France and Germany as well. A man of wide interests, he entered the Vermont Medical College graduating with an MD degree in 1893.


He became a lecturer on the arts, but a developing concern with South Asian music that led him to give his attention fully to music and to composition. He played the piano and cello, and gave lecture-recitals on music history, Eastern music and Wagner’s operas. In 1898 he left the United States for Europe, eventually settling in England in 1902.[1] However, after his house, with his library of 7000 volumes, had been destroyed by fire, he returned to the USA in 1917, to serve as an adviser to Breitkopf & Härtel and editor of the Concert Exchange. He lectured widely, wrote for magazines and newspapers, published three books of poetry and a novel, and composed numerous pieces in various forms. His works are in a Romantic style, sometimes using themes and timbres imitative of Indian music.


After his death in 1940, a Bertram Shapleigh Foundation was established in Washington, DC, and his manuscripts are deposited there. He wrote a number of orchestral works, some including choir; several operas; church music; many songs, and a string quartet, among other chamber works.


  • Howard, John Tasker (1939). Our American Music: Three Hundred Years of It. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.
  1. ^ "Bertram Shapleigh, Composer" Musical Courier (February 6, 1907): 32.

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