Episode: William Henry Fry


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William Henry Fry
On today’s date in 1813, William Henry Fry was born in Philadelphia. As a journalist, he was one of the most vociferous champions of American concert music, and put his money where his mouth was by becoming a composer himself, creating a number of programmatic works, including a “Niagara” symphony and another titled “Santa Claus.” Above all else, Fry was passionate about opera, and wrote several of his own. Fry was a colorful—if understandably biased—music critic. Here’s an excerpt from his 1862 review of a New York performance of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”—an opera only 9 years old at that time: “Trovatore … has a wonderful plot, beyond human comprehension; though finally we learn in the last scene that [the tenor] is made into soup by the order of his brother [the baritone], who then expresses his emotion and surprise on learning of the transaction as the curtain falls. As to the music—there are some charming, popular, ingenious, artistic … points; [but] there are others egregiously vulgar and rowdy. The Anvil Chorus, for example, is about the equal to a scene of mending a sewer set to music; or repairing a pair of cast-off leather breeches.”

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