Simon Knaebel (1812-c. 1880) was an American composer, arranger, horn player, violinist, cellist, and pianist of German origin. Knaebel was born in 1812 at Baden, Germany. He immigrated to the United States in the mid-1830s and took up residence in Boston, MA, where he became well known as an arranger for Ned Kendall’s Boston Brass Band. The noted African-American composer Justin Holland studied with Knaebel in the late 1830s. After a brief trip to Germany in 1846, Knaebel returned to Boston and joined the Philharmonic. Knaebel, as one of the violinists of the orchestra, was an exceedingly versatile German performer, able to turn his attention at will to horn, violoncello, or violin. He was also a composer, and wrote
Around 1848, Knaebel composed General Taylor Storming Monterey for brass ensemble. This is a curious composition. While we do not know its date, it was probably written not later than 1848, the year Zachary Taylor was elected President on the strength of his brilliant military success in the Mexican War, and despite the efforts of his commander, fellow Whig, and political rival, General Winfield Scott. Many popular compositions celebrating Taylor’s victories appeared during his political campaign, though this particular work is not known to us in a published form. But it is almost certain that such a piece would not have been composed after Taylor became President, and especially not after his death in 1850.
On April 30, 1851, a Jenny Lind concert series was announced by P.T. Barnum, the concerts to begin May 7. Julius Benedict would conduct a Grand Orchestra of “nearly 100,” comprising the best New York musicians combined with the Germania Society. The orchestra included the foremost members of the New York Philharmonic and the entire Germania Society which had been touring with Parodi. Among the second violins was Knaebel. A complete listing of the orchestra personnel is found in the Boston Herald of May 11, 1851.
On April 14, 1852, a ”Grand National Concert” at Castle Garden celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill with the first performance of a “descriptive symphony” or cantata entitled “The Battle of Bunker Hill” by Knaebel. The work consisted of a setting for male voices of the poem “The Battle on Bunker’s Hill” by the American poetess Lydia Sigourney, sung by the German Liederkranz under their leader Herr Agricol Paur, followed by a musical description in twenty sections of the battle, performed, not by a military band but by two separate “Powerful Orchestras” representing the American and British armies. Each of the twenty subdivisions bore a programatic title, sometimes musically explained, as in section 2, “Digging Fortifications”; or section 16, “’The Fall of General Warren,’ a Marcia funerale preceded by a choral of four Trombones”; or section 18, “Charlestown on Fire.” It all ended with a belicose “March and Combat, between both Orchestras, on the National Airs.” “The Battle of Bunker Hill” enjoyed a measure of popularity in its day.
At the final concert of their eventful twelfth season, on April 22, 1854, the Boston Philharmonic, in a huge program, gave the first performance of the Symphony No. 20 by the prodigiously prolific German composer Friedrich Schneider (1786-1853), a work dedicated to the Society in appreciation of the composer’s having been elected an honorary member in absentia in 1853. Additionally the Society yet again repeated Spohr’s “ponderous” Die Weihe der Töne” and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.. Also on the program a Duo Concertante on the Air “Araby’s Daughter” by F. Baumann for two french horns and orchestra played by Messrs. H Schmitz and S. Knaebel.
In 1854, the Philharmonic Society noted that it had performed numerous works “written on American soil” by locally resident composers” albeit mostly of assorted foreign origins, including Knaebel from Germany. Other works by Knaebel include the Medley Quickstep for Band, the Hykshos March for brass ensemble, and the State Street Grand March. He died around 1880 at Ossining, NY.
My collection includes the following work by Simon Knaebel:
“General Taylor Storming Monterey” (1848).