Horatio Parker

Horatio Parker

Horatio William Parker (September 15, 1863 – December 18, 1919) was an American composer, organist and teacher. He was a central figure in musical life in New Haven, Connecticut in the late 19th century, and is best remembered as the undergraduate teacher of Charles Ives while the composer attended Yale University.


He was born in Auburndale, Massachusetts. His earliest lessons were with his mother. He then studied in Boston with George Whitefield Chadwick, Stephen A. Emery and John Orth.[1][2] He finished his formal education in Europe, a common destination for a young American composer in the 1880s, where he studied in Munich with Josef Rheinberger. His fellow students at the Royal Music School in Munich[3] included Arthur Whiting and H. H. Huss.[4][5] In Munich Parker composed his first significant works, including a symphony and a dramatic cantata.

After his return to the United States in 1885, he was for two years professor of music in the Cathedral School of St. Paul in Garden City, Long Island. From 1888 to 1893, he was organist of Trinity Church, New York City, and from 1893 to 1901 organist of Trinity Church, Boston.[6] In 1893, Parker became Battell Professor of the theory of music at Yale University. He was appointed Dean of Music at that school in 1904, a position which he held for the rest of his life.[7][8] The University of Cambridge bestowed on him the honorary degree Doctor of Music (Mus.Doc.) in May 1902.[9] On December 30, 1915, he was elected as a national honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the national fraternity for men in music. Parker died in Cedarhurst, New York.


Before leaving New York City in 1893, Parker had completed his oratorio, Hora Novissima, set to the opening words of De contemptu mundi by Bernard of Cluny. It was widely performed in America; and also in England, in 1899 at Chester, and at the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester, the latter an honour never before paid an American composer.[6] European critics called it one of the finest of American compositions.[1] While he is mostly remembered for this single work, he was a prolific and versatile composer in a mostly conservative Germanic tradition, writing two operas, songs, organ and incidental music, and a copious quantity of works for chorus and orchestra. Influences in his compositions include Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, as well as Debussy and Elgar in some works which he composed closer to 1900. During his lifetime he was considered to be the finest composer in the United States, a superior craftsman writing in the most advanced style.

In 1892, Parker composed the hymn tune "Auburndale" in celebration of the laying of the cornerstone of the new church building of the Episcopal parish he was baptised in, Parish of the Messiah. His father, Charles Parker, had been the architect for that congregation's chapel; famed Episcopal bishop Phillips Brooks laid the cornerstone. "Auburndale" was later published in the 1916 Hymnal ("The Messiah Miracle: A History The Church of the Messiah of West Newton and Auburndale 1871–1971," privately published, 1971).

Parker entered his opera, Mona, into a contest at the Metropolitan Opera winning the prize for best composition in 1911. He won 10,000 dollars and his opera was performed by the company. Mona premiered on March 14, 1912 and ran for four performances. The title role was taken by Louise Homer. He won the Los Angeles $10,000 prize for his opera Fairyland.[8]


Oratorios and Cantatas


Orchestral Works

Orchestral Songs


Chamber Music


Notable students


  1. 1 2  Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Parker, Horatio William". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  2.  Beach, Chandler B., ed. (1914). "Parker, Horatio". The New Student's Reference Work. Chicago: F. E. Compton and Co.
  3. Charles H. Kaufman. "Whiting, Arthur Battelle." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30228
  4. "Whiting, Arthur". Clippings file. Music Division. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  5. "Arthur Whiting." Unknown newspaper. 1885?. In "Whiting, Arthur". Clipping file. Music Division. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  6. 1 2  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Parker, Horatio William". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.
  7. Olmstead, Andrea (1999). Juilliard: a history. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02487-7.
  8. 1 2 3  Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Parker, Horatio William". Encyclopedia Americana.
  9. "University intelligence". The Times (36779). London. 28 May 1902. p. 12.
  10. Grove dates it 1918, but The New York Symphony of November 11, 1917 already speaks of it: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9C06E7D7123FE433A25752C1A9679D946696D6CF
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