Gilbert, Henry


Gilbert, Henry

Humoresque on Negro-Minstrel Tunes for orchestra

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Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert – Humoresque on Negro-Minstrel Tunes, Op. 5 (1912)

(b. Somerville, Massachusetts, USA, 26. September 1868 – d. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 19. May 1928)

American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert completed the Humoresque on Negro-Minstrel Tunes either in 1903 or in 1912; various sources cite one or the other date, but it is widely accepted that Gilbert finished the work in 1912. Likewise, exact premiere information about the work is unknown. However, we do know that the work was first published in 1913 by The H. W. Gray Company in New York, sole agents for the Novello and Company music publishers. Gilbert was known as a collector of folksongs, in the tradition of other contemporary composers like Béla Bartók (1881–1945). Gilbert strove to create a uniquely American style of music that was not grounded in European rules and culture and to do this, he studied African American and American Indian music, which he incorporated into his own music. In his obituary, The New York Times labeled him as “one of the first musicians to seek material in Negro folk melody,” a distinction for which he is still known today. His concert overture, Comedy Overture on Negro Themes (1910), was one of his first works to include African American music, using folk songs from The Bahamas and two African American songs, “I’se Gwine to Alabamy” and “Old Ship of Zion.”

Humoresque on Negro-Minstrel Tunes was the first orchestral piece to bring fame to the composer. He originally titled the work Americanesque. In the work’s original publication, Gilbert wrote a preface introducing the work and stating where the songs in the piece were from, noting that their origins derived from the American minstrel shows, a popular (and racist) genre that was the first American genre to become internationally recognized. This is problematic since Gilbert erroneously labels the songs as being from the African American tradition; they were written by white composers to be sung by white performers in blackface to exaggerate traits of African Americans. Gilbert states that minstrelsy was a public entertainment that poked fun at African Americans. But he also notes that the genre had been defunct over the past 40 years and ended with slavery; however, it was known to have continued in some circuits at least through the mid-twentieth-century. …


Read full preface / Komplettes Vorwort lesen > HERE

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