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Paine, John Knowles

Paine, John Knowles

Born in 1839


Inducted in 1998

John Knowles Paine is revered as the first composer to elevate American musical creativity to a truly professional level. Paine was the man who created the pattern for music departments in our colleges and universities. His own first teacher was Hermann Kotzchmar, a German musician who had come to America with the Saxonia Band. Young Paine, who gave his first organ recital at 13, showed an uncommon aptitude for melodic invention and mastery of form, and in 1858 he went off to Berlin to complete his training in organ, composition and orchestration. While in Europe he gave organ and piano recitals in Germany and England, and when he came home in 1861 he took a position as church organist in Boston. In the following year, at age 23, he volunteered to give a lecture series on music at Harvard College without a fee and he was given a faculty appointment as assistant professor. Harvard become the first major college in the United States to offer a credit course in music, and Paine became America’s first professor of music. Paine’s beginnings as a composer were auspicious. When he conducted his Mass in D in Berlin in 1867, he became the first native born American to present one of his own large scale works on the European continent; he had begun the work when he was barely 20, and he was 28 when he conducted the premiere. His First Symphony, which Theodore Thomas introduced in Boston in 1876 (the same year he conducted Paine’s Centenniale, which he had commissioned, in Philadelphia), was the first such work by an American composer to achieve publication (Breitkopf und Hartel, Leipzig), and his Second, introduced four years later, was the first American Symphony published in our own country. By the time Paine completed his Second Symphony, in his 41st year, “Harvard’s Musical Professor” was so roundly admired and respected that the work was given a dual premiere, introduced in Cambridge on March 10, 1880, and performed by a different orchestra and conductor in Boston the following day. In addition to his symphonies, the Mass in D, and a number of cantatas and oratorios, Paine composed chamber music, songs, symphonic poems, incidental music for plays and an opera, Azara, that was given a concert performance in 1902 but has yet to be staged. His book “The History of Music to the Death of Schubert” was published posthumously.