Carl Busch Minniehah’s Vision

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Carl Busch Minniehah’s Vision Program Notes

Taught by two of its founders, Nils Gade and Johan Hartmann, Carl Busch attended the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He would have known Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), three years his junior. After additional studies (Brussels and Paris), Busch moved to the United States in 1887, settling in Kansas City, already home to 2,000 Danish expatriates. Busch conducted various Kansas City orchestras, including the first Kansas City Symphony, from 1911-18. His longest appointment was teaching at the University of Kansas City, but he also taught at the University of Chicago, Notre Dame, and Interlochen: his students include Robert Russell Bennett (of famed Broadway arrangements) and William Dawson, later of the Tuskagee Institute. As well as guest conducting across the USA and in Europe, Busch composed works for orchestra (suites, rhapsodies, symphonic poems), woodwind ensembles, and bands.

Many of Busch’s works took melodic inspiration from Native American melodies, such as this piece from 1914, Minnehaha’s Vision. Its genesis is the epic poem The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82), itself inspired by Native American legends.

She was thinking of a hunter, From another tribe and country, Young and tall and very handsome, Who one morning, in the Spring-time, Came to buy her father’s arrows, Sat and rested in the wigwam, Lingered long about the doorway, Looking back as he departed. She had heard her father praise him, Praise his courage and his wisdom, Would he come again for arrows To the Falls of Minnehaha?     Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha, Chapter 10

Minniehaha’s Vision opens with idyllic, yearning passage (imagine the lightness of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, but with more plaintive, falling half-steps, and an “Indian Drum,” actually a bass drum played with a hard beater). With thematic material introduced early in the piece, Busch evokes the passion of the young Minniehaha, with a sense of expectation (ostinato and syncopated string writing over a gently dissonant bass line).  Passionate writing, and a noble “Maestoso” section are followed by a passionate crescendo, before the piece gives way to a soft and pastoral F major. (Later in the chapter, Hiawatha does indeed return, with great news about peace between tribes – he asks for Minniehaha’s hand, and she accepts.)

Carl Busch Born: March 29, 1862, Denmark Died: December 19, 1943, Kansas City, MO

Categories: Program Notes