“A Warm Welcome and a Pleasant Evening”: Clara Kathleen Rogers and Boston’s Private Musicales, 1880-1900
Dr. Julia Randel
At the turn of the twentieth century, Boston boasted an astonishing number of classical music performances: one critic complained of being overwhelmed by the “cyclone of concerts.” The public concerts of the Boston Symphony, Handel and Haydn Society, and numerous smaller organizations are well-documented, but an equally vibrant private music scene flourished alongside them, led by musicales in the homes of Boston’s wealthy citizens. One hostess of such gatherings was Clara Kathleen Rogers (1844-1931), a soprano and composer whose guests included some of the leading musical figures of her day. Considering the individuals and circumstances surrounding her musicales provides a window into Boston’s elegant music rooms: spaces where compositions – starting to sound more “American” than “European” – could be heard and discussed for the first time. In order to reconstruct the world of in-home concerts, this project draws from the unpublished correspondence and scrapbooks which comprise the Clara Kathleen Rogers Papers (Houghton Library). Music composed for these events reveals not only the soundscape of musicales, but also the aesthetic values of those in attendance. Rogers’s unpublished Fantasia for viola d’amore and harp, for example, was carefully composed so that an audience of both untrained and professional music-lovers could enjoy the piece.
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