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Mary Howe

1882 - 1964

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Mary Howe (née Carlisle) was born in Richmond, Virginia, at the home of her maternal grandparents, and lived most of her life in the Washington, D.C., area. Her father, Calderon Carlisle, was a well known and successful lawyer descended from the Scottish nobility. Her early lessons were with the noted pianist Hermione Seron. By the time she was 18, she was performing publicly and was accepted into Baltimore's Peabody Institute. It was there that she began studying with Richard Burmeister, reaching a high level of accomplishment on the piano. She also studied composition with Gustav Strube, Ernest Hutcheson, and Harold Randolph, and in 1933, she went to Paris to study with the famous French pianist Nadia Boulanger.

Shortly thereafter, she started performing with her friend Anne Hull, one of their most notable performances being Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos. However, she much preferred composition. She notably emulated neo-romanticism, with an unusually open mind for modernism. Her early compositions were almost exclusively for piano. However, she began to develop an interest in themes in nature and American themes, paving the way for some of her most famous orchestral works (which include Sand, Stars, Rock, Three Pieces after Emily Dickinson and "Chain Gang Song" for orchestra and chorus). Her "Chain Gang Song" was especially praised for its lack of femininity; after the chorus and orchestra called her up to bow after its first performance, a man from the audience praised the conductor for the piece and asked why the woman was bowing with the ensemble.

Later in life, Howe developed a passion for composing for the voice, writing many art songs. In support of her country during World War II, she composed vigorous pieces in support of the troops that incorporated the texts of William Blake, which were also written for voice. She died in 1964 at the age of 82, ten years after the death of her husband, Walter Bruce Howe.

Biography taken from Wikipedia.

Wind Quintet | 1957 | 20 mins

Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn

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