Today the Pittsburgh area has a strong classical music culture. Classically trained musicians perform in many renown ensembles including the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, The New Music Ensemble, the Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, the Mendelssohn Choir, the River City Brass Band, and Pittsburgh Camerata choir. This strong classical music culture began with the early German and English settlers who brought their talents and passions to the frontier gateway. It continued with the waves of immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe who came to the booming iron city during the 1870s through the 1890's.
Classically trained musicians came to Pittsburgh from Europe beginning in the late 1790s to practice their passion and trade. They composed music, gave performances, founded musical societies, lead church choirs, opened music stores, and taught the children of the Pittsburgh area. In the 1820s the Harmonists of Economy village established one the largest orchestras in early America, commissioned works, built a large performance venue, and held frequent concerts. Early Pittsburghers organized and participated in many musical performance societies as the Appolonians, The Pittsburgh Music Society, and the Mozart Society. The Art Society of Pittsburgh formed in 1873 led to the formation of the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1879. Led by its maestro conductors Victor Herbert, Fritz Reinhard, William Steinburg. Andre Previn and Lorin Mazeel it became one of the foremost orchestras in the world.
Pittsburgh's Classical Superstars
Pittsburgh has produced many world renown classical artists. Pianists Earl Wild and Byran Janis are consider two of greatest pianists of the 20th century. Oscar Levant was the top drawing solo concert artist in the U.S. and is the foremost interpreter of the works of George Gershwin. Today concert pianists Awardagin Pratt and Donna Amota record and appear on concert stages around the world. Conductor Lorin Maazel and Antonio Modarelli led the Pittsburgh Symphony and other renown orchestras. The world's opera stages were graced by divas Louise Homer, Herva Nelli, Nan Merriman, Ellen Faull, Esther Stoll and Florence Wickham. Many great classical works have been composed by Charles Wakefield Cadman, Ethelbert Nevin, Adolph Martin Foester and Anna Priscilla Rischer. Conductor and composer Victor Herbert brought the Pittsburgh Symphony to national acclaim and composed many of his works while in Pittsburgh.
Mary Caldwell Dawson founded the National Negro Opera Company (NNOC) in Pittsburgh in 1941. For twenty-one years she trained students in voice and classical music and produced acclaimed opera performances in New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Washington. Pianist Patricia Prattis Jennings became the first African American woman ever to be awarded a full contract by a major American symphony orchestra when she became the principal keyboardist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She gained national attention working with Arthur Fielder, Benny Goodman, and Andrew Previn.