Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge: American Patron of Music

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9780028648880: Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge: American Patron of Music

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge supported the work of this century's greatest composers, including Copland, Milhaud, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. While some music aficionados may recognize her name and her more public works as a patron of the arts, previously undisclosed insights about her private life will come as a revelation to all.

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Today the National Endowment for the Arts supports musicians. In the past they turned to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (1864-1953), who inherited a fortune in 1916 and devoted the rest of her life to philanthropy. Through the works she commissioned, personally or via the Coolidge Foundation, and through her aid to musicians who fled to the United States from Hitler's Europe, she had a profound and positive influence on the history of American music. A gifted pianist and promising composer, she was barred from a musical career by the conventions of her social class. Still, Coolidge poured her wealth and energy into supporting chamber music compositions, performances, and the construction of an ideal place for music to be heard: the acoustically superb auditorium in the Library of Congress that bears her name. Her life was often difficult: she lost her husband, father, and mother in quick succession beginning in 1915 and suffered the ironic torture of deafness in later years. But she had the strength and vision necessary for great accomplishments. This monumental biography, written by the head of the Department of Musicology at the Catholic University of America, has scholarly depth and solidity (there are 14 pages of footnotes, 12 of bibliography), but it draws on letters and diaries for a healthy dose of human interest. --Joe McLellan

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