JoAnn Falleta: Frederick Shepherd Converse Endymion's Narrative

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Frederick Shepherd Converse - Endymion's Narrative (1901)
Conducted by JoAnn Falleta with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Frederick Shepherd Converse was born on 5th January 1871 at Newton, MA, and died on 8th June 1940 at Westwood, MA. The youngest of seven children, he began lessons on the piano at the age of ten. His unusual talent was spotted very early on, in particular a gift for composition. In turn, he pursued advanced musical studies at Harvard, from which he graduated summa cum laude. He then tried his hand in business, although it was not long before his passion for music reforged the course of his life. Converse began serious study in composition with George W Chadwick in Boston and followed with work under Joseph Rheinberger in Munich. In a relatively short time, his music began to attract considerable attention. In fact Converse's The Pipe of Desire of 1905 became the first American opera ever to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Today he is best known for a small but hearty collection of orchestral tone poems.

, home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, ...
 Kleinhans Music Hall, home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded by Edward Kleinhans and endowed in the name of his wife, Mary Seaton Kleinhans, and his mother, Mary Livingston Kleinhans. The building was designed by Eero Saarinen with his father, Eliel Saarinen, in the International Style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quite early in his career, Converse wrote two works, based on the exquisite poem Endymion by John Keats (1795-1821). Both were set in the lyrical form of the orchestral romance, the first completed in 1900 and titled Festival of Pan, Op.9. This was followed in the spring of 1901 with Endymion's Narrative, Op.10. Converse wrote that the idea for the piece derived from a scene in Keats' poem at the point where Endymion is withdrawn from the festival by his anxious sister Peona, who leads him to a secluded place. There she divines the source of her brother's sorrow and soothes him with sisterly affection. Converse describes Endymion's despondency as "The struggle of a mind possessed by an idea beyond the common view, and yet bound by affection and devotion to conditions which confine and stifle its surging, internal impulses - one of the most painful spiritual struggles to which a man is subject, whether it be found in the life of an artist, a patriot or a martyr."

Keats wrote Endymion in 1817, set in four books of about a thousand lines each. It is one of the most revered masterpieces in English literature and begins with the celebrated lines:

A THING of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams,
and health, and quiet breathing.