Edward Burlingame Hill

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Monday, September 9, 2019

Today is the birthday anniversary of the American composer and teacher Edward Burlingame Hill, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872.

Hill studied at Harvard, which was not surprising, since his grandfather had been President of the college, and his father taught chemistry there. “My father sang the songs of Schubert,” recalled Hill, “and was a great admirer of Bach. Thus at an early age I was imbued with a deep love for serious music.” Hill studied with the 19th century American composer John Kowles Paine, who had established at Harvard the first music department in any American university. After Hill took all of Paine’s courses, he went on to study in Paris with Charles Widor.

Hill’s early works were in the French style, and you might say that he “wrote the book on the subject” — literally. In 1924, Hill published a study titled “French Music” and was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his efforts. During his lifetime, major American orchestras performed Hill’s music, but today, if he’s remembered at all, it’s as a teacher at Harvard. Toward the end of tenure, one his students was Leonard Bernstein, who, in 1953, made a recording of his teacher’s “Prelude for Orchestra.” Hill died in New Hampshire in 1960, at the age of 88.