TCS > Volume 2, Number 1


A. W. Thayer, Dwight's "Diarist," and Foreign
Correspondent: Beethoven's Biographer
as Choral Critic (pdf)

  by Grant W. Cook III


Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817–1897), the illustrious biographer of Beethoven, was a prolific contributor to Dwight's Journal of Music, the foremost American music journal of the second half of the nineteenth century. Specifically, a substantial portion of Thayer's writings reveal him to be a discriminating critic, armed with a keen intellect and an incomparable knowledge of music literature. The focus of this study is Thayer's concert reviews of some of the most celebrated European choral organizations of the nineteenth century. During lengthy residencies in Berlin and London, Thayer reviewed numerous concerts by the Singakademie, Domchor, Sternscher Gesangverein, Jähnscher Gesangverein, Sacred Harmonic Society and the Henry Leslie Choir, to name a few. Collectively, these critical writings provide a documentary picture of choral performance in the third quarter of the nineteenth century and bring the revered and well-known biographer of Beethoven into light with other eminent music critics of the period.