Scope and Content
Title: Arthur Foote Correspondence,
Date (inclusive): [1922-1927?]
Collection number: ARCHIVES FOOTE 1
Foote, Arthur, 1853-1937
Extent: Number of items: 22 letters
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Shelf location: For current information on the location of
these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
- Elizabeth Elkus, wife of Albert Elkus, Berkeley.
- Date of Gift:
- February 23, 1987.
Collection is open for research.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in
writing to the Head of the Music Library.
[Identification of item], Arthur Foote correspondence, ARCHIVES FOOTE 1, The Music
Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Helen Farnsworth, former secretary of the Department of Music at U. C. Berkeley and
secretary to Professor Albert Elkus when he was Chairman of the Department of
Music, transcribed and typed a copy of each letter. These transactions accompany each
Foote, Arthur (William) (b Salem, MA, 5 March 1853; d Boston, MA, 8 April 1937).
Composer, organist, pianist, piano teacher, and theorist. The youngest of three children,
Foote was reared by his sister, Mary White Foote, following the death of his mother in
1857; his brother, Henry Wilder Foote, was a distinguished clergyman and minister of
King's Chapel, Boston. Arthur Foote began his study of music at the age of 12 with Fanny
Paine, a local piano teacher. After two years she took him to play for her teacher, the
Boston musician B. J. Lang, on whose advice he enrolled in Stephen A. Emery's harmony
class at the New England Conservatory. In 1870 he entered Harvard College, where he
studied counterpoint and fugue with John Knowles Paine; he also led the Harvard Glee Club
in the two years before his graduation in 1874. That summer, with no thought of becoming
a professional musician, he began organ lessons with Lang, who was so encouraging that
Foote decided on a career in music rather than proceeding with his plan to enter law
school. He returned to Harvard for another year's work with Paine and took piano lessons
with Lang. In 1875 he received the first MA in music to be given by an American
university. He was influenced by the German born or trained musicians active in Boston
during the early part of his professional life, and made eight trips abroad over a
20-year period. He attended the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, which afforded him the
opportunity to hear and meet the leading European artists of the day; he also took a few
lessons with Stephen Heller in France in 1883.
On his graduation from Harvard Foote advertised as a teacher of piano, organ, and
composition; he opened a studio on Beacon Hill in Boston next door to the Harvard Musical
Association, an organization in which he was active all his life. In 1876 he made his
piano recital dibut in Boston and was appointed organist at the Church of Disciples,
moving two years later to the First Unitarian Church, a post he retained until 1910. In
1880 he introduced a series of chamber music concerts in Boston, beginning an active
performing schedule as piano recitalist which continued until around 1895. He married
Kate Grant Knowlton in 1880; their only daughter, Katharine, was born in 1881.
Foote's first compositions were three pieces for cello and piano op. 1, and a set of
three piano pieces op. 3, both of which were published in 1882 by Arthur P. Schmidt of
Boston, the firm which became virtually the sole agent for his music. The Gavotte op. 3,
no. 2 was the first of his works to receive a public performance when Annete Essipoff
included it in her recital of American piano music in Boston in 1877. Foote composed
steadily for 45 years, publishing his last numbered work (op. 80) in 1919; he also
produced about 160 unnumbered compositions, including 55 songs and 87 choral pieces. Of
his entire output, only 42 works were not published. He also arranged and edited 127 solo
piano pieces and 15 collections for Schmidt, many of them under the pseudonyms Ferdinand
Mayer and Carl Erich. Most of his major orchestral works were given their premihres ny
the Boston SO, and Foote himself appeared as pianist, often with the Kneisel Quartet, in
many first performances of his chamber works.
In his finest works Foote was a memorable composer. His style, firmly placed in the
romantic tradition, is charcterized by lyrical melodies, expressive phrasing, and claear
formal structure suffused with impassioned feeling. Despite his background as a pianist
he excelled in writing for strings and achieved particular populatiry in his lifetime
with the Suite in E major op. 63 and A Night Piece for flute and strings. The chamber
music especially shows his indebtedness to Brahms, but deserves hearing on its own
merits. Of his works for full orchestra, the Four Character Pieces after the Rubaiyat of
Omar Khayyam op. 48 is noteworthy of its colorful instrumenttal writing. His strong
melodic gift is exemplified in such songs as I'm wearing awa' and an Irish Folk Song.
Foote was highly regarded as a pedagogue, earning his livelihood mainly from private
piano instruction. He was guest lecturer and acting chairman of the music department at
the Univeristy of California, Berkeley, during the summer of 1911, and from 1921 until
his death in 1937 taught piano at the New England Conservatory. With Walter R. Spalding
as joint author, Foote wrote a popular theory text, Modern Harmony in its Theory and
Practice (1905/R 1978). He wrote two other short manuals, Some Practical Things in Piano
Playing (1909), and Modulation and Related Harmonic Questions (1919/R 1978), many journal
articles, and An Autobiography (1946/R 1979); he also translated E. F. Richter's treatise
on fugue and revised Schmidt's edition of Emery's Elements of Harmony. He was one of the
founding members of the American Guild of Organists and its national president from 1909
to 1912, and was active in the Music Teachers National Association during its early
years. He was elected to the National Institute of the Arts and Letters in 1898, was a
Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and received honorary doctorates
from Trintity College and Dartmouth College.
Scope and Content
Correspondence with Albert Elkus, Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley,
probably dating from 1922 to 1927. Each letter is accompanied by a typed transcription
made by Elkus' secretary, Helen Farnsworth, when he served as Chairman of the Dept.