Home » Uncategorized » Daniel Gregory Mason and his “Prelude and Fugue for Piano and Orchestra”

Daniel Gregory Mason and his “Prelude and Fugue for Piano and Orchestra”


     Daniel Gregory Mason (November 20, 1873 – December 4, 1953) was an American composer in the German-influenced Boston group of U.S. composers and music critic.  Mason was born on November 20, 1873, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He came from a long line of notable American musicians, including his father Henry Mason, a founder of the Mason and Hamlin Co. piano firm, and his grandfather Lowell Mason, the music publisher and educator. His cousin, John B. Mason, was a popular actor on the American and British stage. Daniel Mason studied under John Knowles Paine at Harvard University from 1891 to 1895, continuing his studies with George Chadwick and Percy Goetschius. He also studied with Arthur Whiting and later wrote a biographical journal article about him.

In 1894 Mason published his Opus 1, a set of keyboard waltzes, but soon after began writing about music as his primary career. He became a lecturer at Columbia University of New York City in 1905, where he would remain until his retirement in 1942, successively being awarded the positions of assistant professor (1910), MacDowell professor (1929), and head of the music department (1929-1940).  After 1907, Mason began devoting significant time to composition, studying with Vincent D’Indy in Paris in 1913, garnering numerous honorary doctorates and winning prizes from the Society for the Publication of American Music and the Juilliard Foundation.   He was elected a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the national fraternity for men in music, in 1914 by the Fraternity’s Alpha Chapter at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

Mason’s compositional idiom was thoroughly romantic. His music is conservative in form, influenced strongly by the German Romantic composers.  He deeply admired and respected the Austro-Germanic canon of the nineteenth century, especially Brahms; despite studying under D’Indy, he disliked impressionism and utterly disregarded the modernist musical movements of the 20th century; yet he also employed some devices of late 19th- and early 20th-century French and Russian Modernism. Mason sought to increase respect for American music, sometimes incorporating indigenous and popular motifs (such as popular songs or Negro spirituals) into his scores or evoking them through suggestive titles, though he was not a thorough-going nationalist. He was a fastidious composer who repeatedly revised his scores (the manuscripts of which are now held at Columbia). His works include three symphonies, chamber works, and the overture Chanticleer (1926), for which he is best remembered. He also published several books of essays and teaching guides.  He died on December 4, 1953, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

My collection includes the following work by Daniel Gregory Mason

Prelude and Fugue for Piano and Orchestra, op. 20 (1921).

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