Edward Joseph Collins

Biography

Born: November 10, 1886; Joliet, IL   Died: December 7, 1951; Chicago, IL  
Following studies in Chicago and Berlin, Edward Joseph Collins performed extensively before settling in Chicago and taking up teaching and composition. His music attracted the attention of Chicago Symphony Music Director Frederick Stock who subsequently scheduled nearly all of Collins' major works for CSO performance. Initially influenced by the late German Romantics, Collins increasingly moved closer to twentieth-century Expressionism, Read more ultimately finding his own singular voice. After his death, his music languished except for occasional performances, but the 1990s brought a renewed interest leading to both live performances and recordings. A project was launched in 2000 to edit all of Collins' works, publish them, and record the composer's entire oeuvre.

After early lessons in Joliet, Collins studied with Rudolf Ganz in Chicago, later traveling with Ganz to Berlin where he entered the Hochschule für Musik. There he studied composition under Bruch and Humperdinck and polished his piano technique under Portuguese virtuoso José Viana Di Mota.

Following a successful Berlin debut, Collins returned to the United States and toured the East coast, earning a series of positive reviews. He toured with contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink (Collins' sister Catherine was her accompanist) and was appointed an Assistant Conductor at New York's Century Opera for 1912 - 1913. A subsequent appointment as Assistant Conductor at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany was cut short by the outbreak of war and Collins returned to the United States. When his country entered the war, Collins was in uniform as a private, but soon won promotion to Lieutenant, serving in intelligence and winning a citation for bravery. While in the military, Collins composed a musical, Who Can Tell, produced throughout the war zone and seen by President Wilson during a European visit. Following the Armistice, Collins was appointed bandleader by John Philip Sousa.

When he returned to Chicago, Collins resumed his concert career and joined the Chicago Musical College where he met and married a young voice student, Frieda Mayer, daughter of the meatpacking industrialist, Oscar Mayer. Once Collins began to devote himself to composition, he undertook several works on a grand scale. Two of his concert overtures were among the five works chosen for the semi-final round at a Chicago North Shore Festival competition in 1923. Collins' 1914 later-named A Tragic Overture, won the $1000 first prize.

Frederick Stock had served on the jury making the selection and later began programming Collins' works both with the CSO and with other ensembles he guest conducted. He led the premiere of Collins' Piano Concerto in E flat major in 1926 with the composer as soloist. Two more piano concertos would follow, both first heard with the CSO. In 1928, Collins composed Hymn to the Earth, a large work for orchestra, chorus and soloists. An opera written in the late 1930s, Daughter of the South, remained unperformed except for several programs of excerpts, but nonetheless won the prestigious David Bispham Award in 1939.

Chamber works, pieces for solo piano, and songs also occupied Collins over the final two decades of his life, all exquisitely crafted and full of feeling, and entirely removed from the increasing academism that surrounded him. The project, begun in 2001, to record all of Collins' completed works testifies to the quality of a musician who lived in the midst of the Chicago School, yet remained apart from it. His restrained Romanticism and adventuresome harmonic structure bespeak a unique and important composer. Read less

There are 12 Edward Joseph Collins recordings available.

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