JOHN KNOWLES PAINE (1839 - 1906)
Paine was born into a musical family on 9 January 1839, in the coastal city of Portland, Maine. His father, Jacob, an instrument-maker and music-store owner, played a significant rôle in Portland’s musical life. The young Paine studied organ, piano, harmony and counterpoint with Hermann Kotzschmar, a German immigrant and itinerant musician who had settled in Portland. In 1858 Paine went to Germany for formal music study. There he began to build a reputation as an outstanding organist (attracting the attention of Clara Schumann, who asked the young American to play some of his compositions for her). Within a year of returning home in 1861, he began teaching organ at Harvard University—and it was there that he made his most significant contribution to the development of American music.
During the early 1870s, Paine started to develop what would become the first university music curriculum in the United States. He felt passionately that all musicians—performers as well as composers—should be knowledgeable in music history and theory, but his position was not universally held in America at the time. In advocating his ideas Paine wrote: “When American musicians are conscious of having studied liberally with the high aim of becoming masters in every sense, they will have more self-respect; then all narrow and ignorant prejudices against their profession—sometimes held by quasi-cultivated men of other walks of life—will vanish, and all true lovers of art and science will recognise this worth.” Today Harvard honours his legacy with the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall, a 437-seat recital venue built in 1914 and renovated in 2011.
Paine’s catalogue of works includes keyboard music, chamber pieces, songs, choruses, and an un-staged opera. His solely orchestral efforts are relatively few in number; in addition to the three pieces on this recording, they include only a second symphony, a duo-concertante for violin and cello, and two more symphonic poems: Prelude to “Oedipus Tyrannus” and An Island Fantasy.