Edwin Olin Downes, better known as Olin Downes (January 27, 1886 – August 22, 1955), was an American music critic, known as "Sibelius's Apostle" for his championship of the music of Jean Sibelius. As critic of The New York Times , he exercised considerable influence on musical opinion, although many of his judgments have not stood the test of time.
Downes was born in Evanston, Illinois, USA. – first with The Boston Post (1906–1924) and then with The New York Times (1924–1955).In New York he studied piano at the National Conservatory of Music of America, and in Boston he studied the piano with Carl Baermann and a range of music subjects with Louis Kelterborn (history and analysis), Homer Norris and Clifford Heilman (music theory) and John P. Marshall (music criticism). It was in those two cities that he made his career as a music critic
The most conspicuous of Downes's topics was the music of Sibelius, about which he wrote admiringly as early as 1907.He met the composer during the latter's visit to the U.S. in 1914. After becoming critic of The New York Times, Downes sought to counter the prevailing enthusiasm for the music of Stravinsky by inviting Sibelius to make another visit to the U.S., but he could not persuade him to accept the invitation. For his constant proselytizing on Sibelius's behalf, Downes was dubbed "Sibelius's Apostle". In 1937 he was appointed Commander of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, in recognition of his promotion of Sibelius's music. Downes was a guest speaker at Sibelius's 75th birthday celebration in 1940. In addition to scores of articles, Downes published two books on the subject of Sibelius. The first, Sibelius (1945), was published in Finnish only: a collection of Downes's articles on the subject translated by Paul Sjöblom. The other, Sibelius the Symphonist (1956), was Downes's last book, published posthumously. In addition to his campaigning for Sibelius, Downes, according to Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians , did much to advance the cause of other 20th-century composers, including Richard Strauss, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich in the U.S.
Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians says of Downes that his reviews "strongly influenced contemporary popular musical opinion in the USA" although "the taste defined in them has dated".He disparaged many composers later held in general esteem, ranging from the romantic to the atonal, including Elgar, Webern and Berg. Of Elgar's music he wrote, "it reflects the complacency and stodginess of the era of the antimacassar and pork-pie bonnets; it is affected by the poor taste and the swollen orchestral manner of the post-romantics". He dismissed Webern's Symphony for Chamber Orchestra as "one of those whispering, clucking, picking little pieces which Webern composes when he whittles away at small and futile ideas, until he has achieved the perfect fruition of futility and written precisely nothing." Downes opined that Webern's music did not matter, and that the music of Louis Gruenberg was more important. With performers, too, Downes was strongly partisan.
In the 1930s his constant praise of conductor Arturo Toscanini and denigration of John Barbirolli, Toscanini's successor as music director of the New York Philharmonic, prompted protest, with Downes's "constantly repeated line of hocus-pocus" condemned as "thoroughly nauseating".
From the 1930s to the 1950s, Downes was the chairman of the Metropolitan Opera Quiz, a radio broadcast during the intervals of the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday afternoon live relays. This position was later taken by his son, musicologist Edward O. D. Downes.
The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music awarded Downes an honorary doctorate in 1939.His papers, housed at the University of Georgia, include about 50,000 letters to and from composers, musicologists, performers and critics.
Downes died in New York City at the age of 69.
Jean Sibelius, was a Finnish composer and violinist of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely recognized as his country's greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was an English composer. His works include operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces and orchestral compositions including nine symphonies, written over sixty years. Strongly influenced by Tudor music and English folk-song, his output marked a decisive break in British music from its German-dominated style of the 19th century.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra is a British orchestra based in London. Founded in 1930, it was the first permanent salaried orchestra in London, and is the only one of the city's five major symphony orchestras not to be self-governing. The BBC SO is the principal broadcast orchestra of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or other (non-musical) source. The German term Tondichtung appears to have been first used by the composer Carl Loewe in 1828. The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt first applied the term Symphonische Dichtung to his 13 works in this vein.
Sir John Barbirolli, CH, néGiovanni Battista Barbirolli, was a British conductor and cellist. He is remembered above all as conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, which he helped save from dissolution in 1943 and conducted for the rest of his life. Earlier in his career he was Arturo Toscanini's successor as music director of the New York Philharmonic, serving from 1936 to 1943. He was also chief conductor of the Houston Symphony from 1961 to 1967, and was a guest conductor of many other orchestras, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic, with all of which he made recordings.
Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 8 was his final major compositional project, occupying him intermittently from the mid-1920s until around 1938, though he never published it. During this time Sibelius was at the peak of his fame, a national figure in his native Finland and a composer of international stature. A fair copy of at least the first movement was made, but how much of the Eighth Symphony was completed is unknown. Sibelius repeatedly refused to release it for performance, though he continued to assert that he was working on it even after he had, according to later reports from his family, burned the score and associated material, probably in 1945.
Adagio for Strings is a work by Samuel Barber, arguably his best known, arranged for string orchestra from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11.
Symphony No. 5 in D major by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was written between 1938 and 1943. In style it represents a shift away from the violent dissonance of his Fourth Symphony, and a return to the gentler style of the earlier Pastoral Symphony.
Leevi Antti Madetoja was a Finnish composer, music critic, conductor, and teacher of the late-Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely recognized as one of the most significant Finnish contemporaries of Jean Sibelius, under whom he studied privately from 1908–10.
The Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43, by Jean Sibelius was started in winter 1901 in Rapallo, Italy, shortly after the successful premiere of the popular Finlandia, and finished in 1902 in Finland. Sibelius said, "My second symphony is a confession of the soul."
Sir Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 1 in A♭ major, Op. 55 is one of his two completed symphonies. The first performance was given by the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Hans Richter in Manchester, England, on 3 December 1908. It was widely known that Elgar had been planning a symphony for more than ten years, and the announcement that he had finally completed it aroused enormous interest. The critical reception was enthusiastic, and the public response unprecedented. The symphony achieved what The Musical Times described as "immediate and phenomenal success", with a hundred performances in Britain, continental Europe and America within just over a year of its première.
The Oceanides, Op. 73, is a single-movement tone poem for orchestra written in 1913–14 by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The piece, which refers to the nymphs in Greek mythology who inhabited the Mediterranean Sea, premiered on 4 June 1914 at the Norfolk Music Festival in Connecticut with Sibelius conducting. Praised upon its premiere as "the finest evocation of the sea ... ever ... produced in music", the tone poem, in D major, consists of two subjects, said to represent the playful activity of the nymphs and the majesty of the ocean, respectively. Sibelius gradually develops this material over three informal stages: first, a placid ocean; second, a gathering storm; and third, a thunderous wave-crash climax. As the tempest subsides, a final chord sounds, symbolizing the mighty power and limitless expanse of the sea.
Falstaff – Symphonic Study in C minor, Op. 68, is an orchestral work by the English composer Edward Elgar. Though not so designated by the composer, it is a symphonic poem in the tradition of Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss. It portrays Sir John Falstaff, the "fat knight" of William Shakespeare's Henry IV Parts 1 and 2.
The Symphony No. 1 in B♭ minor is one of two symphonies by the English composer William Walton. The composer had difficulty in completing the work, and its first public performance was given without the finale, in 1934. The complete four-movement work was premiered the following year.
Glenda Goss is an American author and music historian whose special interests are music and culture, early modernism, critical editing, and European-American points of cultural contact. Her most notable work has revolved around the life and works of the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius.
Erik Werner Tawaststjerna was a Finnish musicologist who also worked as a pianist, pedagogue, and critic. He is remembered as a significant biographer of Jean Sibelius.
The Wood Nymph, Op. 15, is a programmatic tone poem for orchestra composed in 1894 and 1895 by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The ballade, which premiered on 17 April 1895 in Helsinki, Finland, with Sibelius conducting, follows the Swedish writer Viktor Rydberg's 1882 poem of the same title, in which a young man, Björn, wanders into the forest and is seduced and driven to despair by a skogsrå, or wood nymph. Organizationally, the tone poem consists of four informal sections, each of which corresponds to one of the poem's four stanzas and evokes the mood of a particular episode: first, heroic vigor; second, frenetic activity; third, sensual love; and fourth, inconsolable grief.
The Symphony No. 1 in F major, Op. 29, is a three-movement orchestral composition by the Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja, who wrote the piece from 1914–16 at the dawn of his professional career. Although late-Romantic in style, the symphony carefully eschews the extravagance and overindulgence typical of debut efforts, placing it among the most "mature" and restrained of first symphonies. Accordingly, the First is the shortest and most concentrated of Madetoja's three essays in the form and is the only one of his symphonies not to adhere to the traditional four-movement symphonic template.
Robert Layton was an English musicologist and music critic.