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George F. Bristow (Composer, Arranger)

Born: December 19, 1825 - Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died: December 13, 1898

The American composer, George F(rederick) Bristow, was born into a musical family. His father, William, a well-respected conductor, pianist, and clarinetist, gave his son lessons in piano, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and violin. George joined the first violin section of the New York Philharmonic Society Orchestra in 1843 at the age of 17, and remained there until 1879. The New York Philharmonic's records indicate that he was concertmaster between 1850 and 1853. He was famously involved in a related controversy involving William Henry Fry and the New York Philharmonic Society.

In the 1850's, George F. Bristow became conductor of two choral organizations, the New York Harmonic Society and the Mendelssohn Union (and later several church choirs). In 1854, he began his long career as a music educator in the public schools of New York.

Throughout his life, George F. Bristow was a champion of American music and a nationalist in his choice of texts. He advocated American classical music, rather than favoring European pieces. The amount and quality of his choral music, although mostly ignored by Grove's, makes Bristow a historically important choral composer. His compositional output is divided in three periods: his early years, during which most of the compositions are instrumental; the middle period beginning in 1852, during which he wrote more than forty works, several of them lengthy and imposing; and the late period, beginning in 1879 with Bristow's resignation from the New York Philharmonic. Of the 135 compositions listed in Rogers’ dissertation on Bristow's music, one-third are choral or vocal. Seven of his choral works are choral/orchestral pieces, and 27 compositions are smaller pieces, most of which were composed for church choirs that he led. Both the short sacred works and the large choral/orchestral compositions are evenly divided between the middle and late periods.

Choral/Orchestral Works

Middle period:
Symphony in F-sharp minor, Op. 26
Ode, Op. 29, first performed 1856 (soprano solo, women's voices, and orchestra)
Praise to God, Op. 31/33, 1860
The Oratorio of Daniel, Op. 42, 1866
The Pioneer, A Grand Cantata, Op. 49, 1872

Late period:
The Great Republic, Op. 47, 1880
Mass in C Major, Op. 57, 1885
Niagara Symphony. Op. 62, 1893
The Oratorio of Daniel


Source: Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2009)

George F. Bristow: Short Biography | Orchestral Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

George Frederick Bristow (Wikipedia)



John Warthen Struble: The History of American Classical Music. Facts on File, Inc. (1996)
Delmer Dalzell Rogers: Nineteenth Century Music in New York City as Reflected in the Career of George Frederick Bristow, (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1967)
Thurston Dox: George Frederick Bristow and the New York Public Schools" American Music, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter, 1991), pp. 339-352 doi:10.2307/3051685
David Griggs-Janower: "From the Fiery Furnace: Bristow's The Oratorio of Daniel." The Choral Journal, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 9, April 1998.
Carol Elaine (Smith) Gohari: "George Frederick Bristow: Incidental Gleanings" Society for American Music Bulletin, Volume XXV, no. 2 (Summer 1999)
George F. Bristow: The Oratorio of Daniel : opus 42 Edited by David Griggs-Janower, Recent Researches in American Music, A-R Editions (1999) xviii+444 pp.

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