Commemorating the Life and Music of Anthony Philip Heinrich on the 150th Anniversary of His Death

Tuesday, May 3, 2011, 6:45 P.M.
Church of the Intercession
Broadway and 155th Street

Risa Renae Harman, soprano
Tyler Wottrich, piano
Matthew Spady and The Rev. José R. Gándara Perea, readers

On May 3, 2011, the 150th anniversary of the death of the violinist, pianist, and composer Anthony Philip Heinrich – the “Beethoven of America” – soprano Risa Renae Harman and pianist Tyler Wottrich will commemorate the composer’s life and work with a sampling of his songs and piano solos. Matthew Spady and The Rev. José R. Gándara Perea will provide historical and biographical commentary. The tribute to Heinrich will take place in the Church of the Intercession, Broadway and 155th Street at 6.45 P.M and will culminate in a wreath-laying at the Audubon monument (in Trinity Cemetery adjacent to the church), where Heinrich is interred with John James Audubon and members of the Audubon family. The event is open to the public, free of charge.

Performing editions of Heinrich’s compositions graciously provided by Dr. Andrew P. Stiller and Benjamin R. Tubb.

Heinrich’s Music

Heinrich’s musical style is rooted in central European classicism, but with an individual approach that ranges from rudimentary text painting to disorienting chromatisicm. He found inspiration in American subjects, giving his pieces programmatic titles such as The Treaty of William Penn with the Indians, The Yankee Doodleiad, Pocahontas, and The Birthday of George Washington: A Patriotic Ode. Musicologist H. Whiley Hitchcock calls Heinrich America’s “first – and without a doubt its most wildly enthusiastic – Romantic in music.” Heinrich’s songs demand vocal flexibility and cover wide ranges, often more than two octaves in a short composition. His rhythmically complex piano solos include unusual chromatic moments, rhapsodic passages, and occasional dense chord sequences in the lower or upper reaches of the keyboard.

Heinrich’s music is rarely performed and only a handful his works are available on recording. The May 3 tribute at the Church of the Intercession is a rare opportunity to hear some of his compositions in live performance.

Why Is a Bohemian-American Composer Buried in the Audubon Vault?
Born March 11, 1781 in Schönbuchel, Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), Heinrich found early financial success in his uncle’s mercantile business; however, stranded in America during the economic collapse following the Napoleonic Wars, he turned to music for his livelihood (he had studied piano and violin as a boy). As an itinerant musician playing in theater orchestras and teaching occasional students, he walked more than seven hundred miles through what was then the American frontier looking for work, eventually arriving in Lexington, Kentucky where on November 12, 1817 he led one of the first known performances of a Beethoven symphony in the United States (probably the First Symphony), playing the violin part himself and conducting an assortment of instruments assembled for the occasion.

Anticipating Henry David Thoreau’s “experiment in simple living” by almost three decades, Heinrich moved to a cabin near Bardstown, Kentucky, where he lived a solitary existence and nearing the age of forty, taught himself composition. While he was living in Kentucky he met John James and Lucy Audubon, probably through mutual friends, the Speed family. Like Audubon, Heinrich found his true profession in mid-life, was largely self-taught, had enormous self-promotional skill, and, though foreign born, assumed the mantle of the quintessential American individualist. The Audubons and Heinrich remained friends for life.

In 1820, Heinrich published his Opus 1, The Dawning of Music in Kentucky and for the next thirty years, traveled America and Europe, promoting and performing his compositions, which include a hundred and fifty songs, forty works for vocal ensembles, six chamber works, thirty-six orchestral works, and nearly one hundred pieces for piano. Although he enjoyed occasional critical acclaim and published many of his works, Heinrich’s compositions won him no long-lasting financial success (another similarity with Audubon), his orchestral style being too advanced for many of the contemporary orchestras to master during routinely short rehearsal periods and his piano and vocal solos being too demanding for the amateur performer – the target audience for published sheet music.

Although he was an active participant in musical life in New York City in the 1830s and 1840s – in April 1842, he chaired the organizational meeting of the New York Philharmonic Society – by 1861, when he died in his rooms on Bayard Street (in present-day Chinatown), he was penniless. His long-time friend Lucy Audubon claimed his body and had it buried in the Audubon family vault in Trinity Cemetery.

Risa Renae Harman

684a5-risarenaeharmonAmerican soprano Risa Renae Harman has been widely acclaimed for her technical virtuosity and communication skills as an artist. As noted by The New York Times, “she is that rare creature among singers, a really good recitalist…she seemed to have something to say in all five languages she was singing in.” Recent New York performances have included the NY premiere of The Wooden Sword, a chamber opera by American composer Sheila Silver at Symphony Space and a solo recital at the Brooklyn Library. Favorite operatic performances have included Violetta in La Traviata, The Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Adele in Die Fledermaus, the title roles in Lucia di Lammermoor, Massenet’s Manon, and Micaela in Carmen as well as creating the role of Louise in the world premiere of William Schuman’s A Question of Taste for Glimmerglass Opera, a portrayal The Wall Street Journal called “exciting.”

Among the opera companies she has appeared with are New York City Opera, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Lake George Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, and Glimmerglass Opera. A frequent recitalist, oratorio and concert soloist, Miss Harman has appeared at the National Cathedral, Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Weill Hall and the Kennedy Center. Miss Harman’s international credits include recitals in Sweden as the winner of the American Jenny Lind Competition and the Italian Festivals Da Bach a Bartok and Musica nei Chiostri, and concerts with Orchestra ProArte Marche.

Miss Harman is the recipient of numerous grants and awards among them the Lee Schaenen Foundation, Lotte Lehmann Foundation, Sullivan Foundation, Shoshana Foundation, Washington International Competition, Jenny Lind Competition, Licia Albanese-Puccini Competition, and Palm Beach Opera. She currently is Artist-in-Residence with the Bay View Music Festival, Michigan.

Tyler Wottrich

Pianist Tyler Wottrich has developed a successful and multi-faceted career as both a soloist and chamber musician. As a soloist he has appeared with several orchestras, including the Chamber Orchestra of the Midwest; he has also been a prizewinner in several regional and national competitions, including Thursday Musical, Meckelke, PianoArts, and most recently, the Emerson Quartet’s Ackermann prize for chamber music.

Wottrich has performed with such artists as violinist Jorja Fleezanis, the Pacifica String Quartet, flutist Keith Underwood, violinist Yair Kless, and Nina Ananiashvili, Bolshoi Ballet prima ballerina. Wottrich graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2009 summa cum laude with degrees in both piano performance and mathematics. Wottrich began his musical studies with Gail Olszewski and continued on to study with Lydia Artymiw at the University of Minnesota. Wottrich currently studies at SUNY Stony Brook with Gilbert Kalish.