in: News & Features

December 2, 2011

Music in Boston from Three Immigrants

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In an earlier article here Teresa F. Mazzulli related the story of the founding in late 1800 of a “Conservatorio” of music in Boston by François Delochaire Mallet of France, Gottlieb Graupner of Germany, and Filippo Trajetta of Italy. Within a year of the establishment of the Conservatorio, however, Trajetta left Boston. His fascinating life with musical “firsts” in Charleston, New York City, and Philadelphia (with a brief return visit to Boston), and a bit more on Mallet, will be the final installment, to be published this winter.

What follows is the story of the evolution of this and other musical pursuits involving these men. 

Gottlieb Graupner, François Mallet, and Filippo Trajetta were astute in establishing their Conservatorio in Rowe’s Lane, a street which converged with Summer Street at Church Green. Summer Street in the early 1800s was “beyond dispute the most beautiful avenue in Boston. Magnificent trees skirted its entire length… where stood the gardens or mansions of the old merchants and statesmen of Boston,” wrote Samuel Adams Drake, in his well-known book on Boston Landmarks. In the midst of today’s skyscrapers in fast-paced 21st-century Boston where Bedford Street (formerly Rowe’s Lane) and Summer Street converge at Church Green, it is still possible to envision the fashionable community of the early 1800s: Summer Street, beyond dispute the most beautiful avenue in Boston; nearby, Rowe’s Lane and the Conservatory Hall;  the wafting strains of the evening musical concerts; the music lessons for the young ladies and the young gentlemen; the planted gardens and the mansions owned by statesmen and town fathers. Here we see the birthplace of the American Conservatorio of Boston, 1800, the first conservatory of music in Boston and, in all likelihood, in the country

Church Green and The New South Church with Rowes Lane on the left

The term “Church Green” was first applied nearly four hundred years ago to an empty space that had not been trodden upon by the early English settlers and their cattle. In 1715, the vacant “Church Greenspace was finally to have its destiny fulfilled: The place for a house of worship. The spot was staked out and deeded to a new religious society. Samuel Adams, father of the patriot, was one of the petitioners granted the land: It was a beautiful site for a church in Boston, with an unobstructed outlook over the harbor. The New South Meeting House, a building of wood with a seemly Ionic-style steeple, was dedicated in 1719 and remained for almost 100 years a manifestation of Church Green’s destined use.

The Reverend Kirkland, who served as Pastor of the New South Meeting House congregation from 1794 to 1810, would be named President of Harvard University in 1810. Four years later in 1814, the ancient wooden New South Meeting House would be replaced with a granite edifice designed by the esteemed architect, Charles Bulfinch, and named the New South Church — generally considered Bulfinch’s most beautiful church. Unfortunately, the New South Church was demolished in 1868. The term Church Green remains to this day, but no church stands in the historic place.

Gottlieb Graupner was well known as an accomplished musician and teacher of several musical instruments, but perhaps not as well known as a singing teacher. Mallet was also a teacher of several musical instruments, and, although he was a vocalist, he may not have had the level of teaching skills for voice instruction that Trajetta possessed. The American Conservatorio of Boston experienced a setback, however, when Trajetta left for Charleston, South Carolina, in mid-1801, less than a year after it was established. Joseph Story, a British singer/actor who had performed as a vocalist in the spring concert season at the Conservatory Hall earlier that year, joined the Graupner-Mallet partnership in early November. On November 5, 1801, a press announcement advised of a concert to be presented by Story at the Conservatory Hall. One may assume that he left Boston and the Conservatorio shortly after his concert, also to resettle in Charleston, South Carolina, where, as early as January 5, 1802, Story was presenting concerts.

Initially, Graupner and Mallet appeared to have taken Story’s departure in stride, as noted in the first article; unfortunately, however, in November 1802, the American Conservatorio of Boston and the Mallet & Graupner music publishing firm were dissolved. No explanations for their decision appeared in the partners’ individually written newspaper announcements, other than Graupner’s brief comment that the lease of the Hall in Rowe’s Lane expired.

Individually, each man established enterprises that offered services well suited to their interests and concerns: F. Mallet’s Musical Academy, instruction in vocal and instrumental music, in Congress Street; G. Graupner’s Musical Academy, (also known as Musical Repository, and Music Store) music publisher, dealer of musical instruments and sheet music, instruction in vocal and instrumental music, No. 6 Franklin Street. Graupner’s music publishing business prospered and he became known as Boston’s leading music publisher. Both musicians continued to perform in concerts, at various times in the same programs. Of note, both Mallet and Graupner presented concerts that featured their talented children. On September 26, 1805, at Concert Hall (formerly Conservatory Hall in Rowe’s Lane) “Miss Mallet, aged 7 years” on the Piano Forte, accompanied by Mr. Mallet on the violin, played a Sonata by Nicolai. On June 16, 1809 in Burlington, Vermont, “Mr. Mallet, Music Master of Boston,” presented a “Medley of Vocal and Instrumental Music, Recitations and Dancing” featuring Miss Mallet, ten years of age, Master F. Mallet, 12 years of age, and Master W. Mallet, eight years of age. The Battle of Prague, a piece for four hands on the pianoforte, was performed by father and daughter. A year later, both talented families, the Mallets and the Graupners, came together on June 26, 1810, for a concert presented by Mallet at the Exchange Coffee House that featured Miss C. Graupner, Mr. and Mrs. Graupner, Miss Mallet, Mr. Mallet, and “all the Musicians of the town.” When this event took place, Mallet had reached his 60th year, and Graupner, his 43rd.

Unlike a number of music publishers of the time, Graupner was not a composer of instrumental music — neither for the oboe  nor other instruments he played — and he composed only two sheet music pieces as Graupner Publications: Attic Bower in 1802 and Governor Brooks Favourite March in 1820. Francis Mallet was a composer of sheet music — six titles are listed as Graupner Publications, including The Negro’s Humanity, Pride of our Plain, and Rule New England. Among the larger public works of Graupner Publications, one listed as Rudiments of the Art of Playing on the Piano Forte was arranged by Gottlieb Graupner and copyrighted August 29, 1806. Later editions of this work were published, the last edition on January 1, 1827.

Graupner’s interest in playing orchestral pieces by Pleyel and Haydn probably led to establishing, around 1810, the Philo-Harmonic Society, also known as Philharmonic Society, a group of amateur and professional musicians who came together for enjoyment of playing orchestral music. The Society, with Graupner as president and conductor, held concerts at Concert Hall in Rowe’s Lane, a venue that may have evoked nostalgia and remembrances, not only of the “old” Conservatorio, but also of the “young” Trajetta.

Reprinted courtesy of Harvard Musical Association

During the second decade of the 19th century, Boston’s musical scene continued to present opportunities for local musicians and for visiting professional musicians who relied on the support of Boston’s “Old Guard” professionals such as Mallet and Graupner. As a dedicated music teacher, Mallet launched a new enterprise in July, 1812; he and a “Mr. Yarnold” were to open their School “on Monday next” at Concert Hall. Unfortunately, this partnership was short-lived, due to the arrival of Dr. George K. Jackson, an Englishman who set in motion events in Boston that would affect the musical pursuits of both Mallet and Graupner. Jackson, then about sixty-seven years of age and the father of eleven children, was a larger-than-life figure who had earned his Doctor of Music degree from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 1791. To add historical significance to this plot, in 1784, both Mallet and Jackson had performed in the grand Commemoration of Handel in London: Mallet, bassoonist in the orchestra, Jackson (not yet “Dr.”), a tenor. (The four-day festival commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Handel’s birth and the 25th Anniversary of his death took place in Westminster Abbey, where Handel is buried.)

In Boston, Jackson gained a prominent role in the musical community as organist of the Brattle Street Church and as a private instructor of the organ. His imposing presence in Boston’s musical life led to a professional relationship with the Graupners. For his “Impresario” debut in Boston, Dr. Jackson organized “A Grand Sacred Oratorio,” performed at Stone Chapel (King’s Chapel) on October 29, 1812: music by the “beatified” composer Handel with “Dr. Jackson, organist; Mr. Graupner Leader of the Band; Mrs. Graupner, and Mr. Mallet Vocalists,… and many respectable Vocal and Instrumental Amateurs of this town.” Less than a month later, on November 12, 1812, all three men associated for “Instruction in Vocal and Instrumental Music” at Pythian Hall in Pond Street.  (The old adage, “If walls could talk,” comes to mind with the mention of this hall, known by several names, street name changes, and countless occupants.) The new musical enterprise was doomed when it was revealed that Dr. Jackson had not registered as an enemy alien, a requirement of the Federal government, due to the outbreak of the War of 1812. Dr. Jackson was banished to Northampton, Massachusetts and, soon after his departure, an oratorio concert that had been delayed due to the “banishment furor” was given at Stone Chapel on March 29, 1813. One may presume that Graupner, as Leader of the Band, had acknowledged the audience’s “vociferous applause” knowing that his future musical endeavors would not be shared with Dr. Jackson, nor with Mallet, who decided to leave Boston with his family to seek brighter horizons — a hiatus that would last for about eleven years.

Jackson returned to Boston after the war years as organist at Stone Chapel, after which he played at Trinity Church, then in Summer Street, and at the parish of St. Paul (now the Cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts) in Common Street (now Tremont Street), where he remained as organist until his death in 1822. However, in 1817, when the position of organist with the Handel and Haydn Society opened, Dr. Jackson was not hired; instead, Dr. Rayner Taylor was invited to come from Philadelphia. A year after Jackson’s death, a critique of his accomplishments as composer for the organ was published in the Columbian Sentinel, October 22, 1823: “….[Jackson] as a composer was… in my opinion…below mediocrity….A certain quality called genius is required which I see very little proof that Dr. Jackson possessed.”

Graupner’s importance as a founder and conductor of the Philharmonic Society orchestra led, in 1815, to his becoming one of the original members of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston. The institution, the wonder of the nation, influenced the formation of similar institutions in the country and continues to be an important musical presence to this day in Boston. History was made when President James Monroe visited Boston to celebrate the Fourth of July, 1817, an occasion for a procession and an elegant “collation” in his honor with about 600 in attendance in Doric Hall at the Massachusetts State House. The following day, Monroe was present at a grand concert in his honor presented by the Handel and Haydn Society, assisted by the Philharmonic Society, This “most notable event” took place at the First Church in Chauncy Place. The nearby Pythian Hall in Pond Street, the usual venue at that time for the Handel and Haydn Society concerts, would not have accommodated the “brilliant audience” that thronged the church.

Late in the year 1817, Graupner was also involved in a new business venture of music publishing and sales of musical instruments; he formed a partnership with George Cushing, G. Graupner & Co. Both played in the orchestras of the Handel and Haydn Society and the Philharmonic Society. Graupner was also conductor and President of the Philharmonic Society. About a year after Cushing joined in partnership with Graupner, he married Graupner’s stepdaughter, Catherine Graupner, against the wishes of her parents. The business partnership, which was not successful, was dissolved on February 17, 1820, followed by bankruptcy, reorganization, and personal sadness for Mr. and Mrs. Graupner.

For more than 20 years, the couple had enjoyed public accolades and a prominent presence in Boston’s musical scene. Their generosity in supporting charitable causes was unfailing. As an example of the esteem in which Mr. and Mrs. Graupner were held in the musical community, the Handel and Haydn Society officers “sent a cab” for Mr. and Mrs. Graupner to attend the Society’s First Concert on Christmas night, 1815, at Stone Chapel. In 1821, in her 52nd year, Catherine Graupner passed away. Graupner’s mourning and partial retirement from public life was eased by a benefit concert in recognition of his contributions to the cultural life of Boston. The event on November 20, 1821 at Boylston Hall was assisted by the Philharmonic Society and many visiting talents, including Dr. Jackson “himself not long destined for this world.” (He died in Boston the following year.)  About sixteen months after Mrs. Graupner died her husband married Mary Hills, only daughter of the late Capt. John H., of Boston, on October 4, 1822, in Providence. The couple had three children.

By 1822, Boston had advanced from a township to the formation of a municipality, the City of Boston, and Bostonians had also advanced in their musical taste. As early as 1817, the trend no longer favored the Old Guard, and the earlier, more gracious days, now faded into memory. Instead, new talents, such as Louis Ostinelli, the brilliant violinist from Italy, had not only received generous applause, but also a place in musical history: his performance of Beethoven’s Minuetto, with full orchestra of the Philharmonic, was the first known instance of a Beethoven work performed in Boston. On that occasion Graupner was featured on the double-bass.

Both Gottlieb Graupner and Louis Ostinelli were elected to the rank of Honorary Member of the Handel and Hayden Society of Boston, Massachusetts, on November 20, 1829 and November 23, 1843, respectively. George Cushing was also elected to the rank of Honorary Member of the Society, on January 28, 1840. (Both Graupner and Cushing were Original Members of the Society.)

Sadly, Gottlieb Graupner, who had been known as a musician of high standing, a talented teacher of several musical instruments, and a leading music publisher in Boston, would be seen in his later years as “an avowed object of charity.” He presented several concerts for his own benefit that featured his young daughter, Harriet Hills Graupner, a child prodigy pianist, the first-born (in 1823) of his three children with Mary Hills. His music publishing firm, which was salvaged in the G. Graupner & Co. bankruptcy settlement, was in decline, as witnessed in the company’s “clearance sale” in September 1820.

Although Francis Mallet returned in 1824 to a far different musical scene in Boston than what he had known eleven years earlier — a change that brought about the demise of almost every cherished thing of the olden days, and the emergence of many new talents — Mallet was undeterred. He steadfastly advertised in the Boston newspapers that he offered his services as an instructor in music. Two years later, on March 30, 1826, when he was 76 years of age, he advertised an Oratorio to take place at the First Church on Chauncey Street.

During the late 1820s to early 1830s, both Mallet and Graupner were probably hired to play in Boston theatre orchestras for special performances of Italian opera music, where Bostonian audiences enthusiastically applauded the “tuneful overtures and arias.” Rossini was in the prime of his life, and such old favorites as the Battle of Prague had seen their better days. In 1833, Mallet petitioned for a federal “Old War Invalid” pension, which was “Rejected” by the Court for the reason that Francis Mallet had belonged to the French Army — though he had served with it on American soil, in defense of the American cause. The Daily Evening Transcript of August 9, 1834,  noted that the “Aged Oak,” a person of dignity and charm,” had died. He was 84.

Less than two years later, on April 16, 1836, Johann Christian Gottlieb Graupner, “Father of American Orchestral Music,” died in Boston at age 68. News of his death and that of Mallet two years earlier probably reached Trajetta in Philadelphia, where he had resided since 1828. Such news may have prompted him to recall his youthful musical beginnings in Boston, the formation of his partnership with Messrs. Mallet and Graupner, and their establishing the American Conservatorio of Boston in 1800.

Teresa F. Mazzulli is a second-generation Bostonian who in retirement discovered a passion for researching “overlooked” pages in Boston’s rich history, an interest she developed as a Doric Docent guide at the Massachusetts State House.
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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this wonderful history of Boston’s first conservatory.
    You’ve inspired a newly formed Boston based string quartet to assume the name
    Rowe’s Lane Quartet, in honor of the site of the conservatorio, Graupner’s connection with the
    conservatorio and the H&H Society, and the exciting musical
    life of the late 18thc and early 19c in Boston.
    We are made up of players of H&H and perform on period instruments.
    Thoroughly enjoying your writing and 
    am very much looking forward to your next installment!
    -jmck 

    Comment by Julia McKenzie — February 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm

  2. Congratulations, Rowe’s Lane Quartet! Your “assuming” such a meaningfull name is wonderful, bringing to the 21st Century a worthy legacy to be carried on in your talented hands. It is gratifying that my “bringing to light” a long-overlooked page in Boston musical history — the founding, in 1800, of the American Conservatorio of Boston — made such an impact on your musical pursuits. Bravissimo, and very best wishes for a happy and successful future, Rowe’s Lane Quartet.

    Comment by Teresa F. Mazzulli — March 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm

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