The composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert was born in Somerville,
Massachusetts on September 26, 1868. The product of a musical family, Gilbert
studied violin, piano, composition, and theory at the New England Conservatory
under Edward MacDowell, a leading composer at the turn of the twentieth century.
Gilbert's travels within and outside the United States exposed him to the music
of non-European cultures, which inspired him to compose from some of those
sources. He wrote works influenced by African-American spiritual or gospel
music, as well as the music of Native Americans. His compositions are noted for
their American themes and inspiration. Gilbert wrote songs, choral works, and
works for band and opera, with his most successful works being orchestral. Works
given major performances during his lifetime include "Dance in Place Congo," a
one-act opera performed in 1918 by the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and Orchestra.
Other prominent works include "Negro Rhapsody" and "Comedy Overture on Negro
Themes," the latter conducted by Gliere in Russia in 1914. Henry Gilbert's
"Symphonic Piece" was performed by the Bostom Symphony Orchestra under
Koussevitsky in 1926, and "Nocturne" was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra
shortly before his death on May 19, 1928, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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