Adolph Martin Foerster

Composer and Music Teacher

Adolph Martin Foerster, from the 1880’s to 1920’s, was an internationally known composer, a music teacher, music historian, and conductor.  His "Old German School" compositions include numerous suites, overtures, and festival marches for orchestra: a violin concerto, two piano trios; a piano quartet, and pieces for violin.  His works were performed by major orchestras in America and Europe.  The orchestras of Theodore Thomas, Anton Seidl, Walter Damrosch, Frederick Stock, Arthur Claassen and Asgar Hamerick frequently played his compositions. In Pittsburgh he taught at the Pittsburgh Female College and gave private lessons.  As a music historian he wrote articles for the Musical Forecast and other national music periodicals. Foerster conducted the Pittsburgh Symphonic Society in 1879 and the Musical Union in 1882.

"Adolph Foester today represents the finest in music, a leader in Pittsburgh circles and a man who has brought lasting glory to the place of his birth.” -Pittsburgh Press July 20, 1924

Adolph Foerster was born in Pittsburgh in 1854 to Emil and Elise Noll Foerster.  His father was a well-known portrait and landscape painter.  His mother, a talented amateur pianist, gave him his first music lessons.  He continued his studies with Jean Manns, a piano method author.  He also received music instruction in the Pittsburgh public schools.  He spent three years working commercial pursuits, before he concluded that he could have greater success in the world of music.

In 1872 he went to Germany to study music at the Royal Conservatory at Leipzig.  Over three years he studied music theory and composition with E. F. Richter and Dr. Robert Papperitz, voice with Leo Grill and Adolphe Schimon, and piano from Emst F. Wenzel and Theodore Cocci.  Upon his return to America he spent one year teaching at the Ft. Wayne Indiana Conservatory of Music.  He returned to Pittsburgh moving to 227 South Atlantic Avenue in the Friendship neighborhood where he lived for the rest of his life.  He became a leader of the Pittsburgh music community.  He conducted the Symphonic Society during the 1879-1880 season and the Choral society in 1883.  After 1883 he devoted himself to teaching and composition.

Recordings of some of his compositions are found on current releases.  The “American Romance” CD by the Rawlins Piano Trio features “Trio Serenade, for piano trio, Op. 61”.  The “Edward Macdowell and Company” CD on New World Records performed by Malcolm Frager includes a recording of “On the Sea”.

The works of Foerster that were most recognized during his lifetime include:

 “March Fantasie” an orchestral composition first given in Pittsburgh under the composer's direction in 1879 and in Chicago under Fritz Scheel

“Thusnelda” a symphonic poem for orchestra given by the orchestras of Theodore Thomas and of Carl Schroeder inGermany and under the composer's direction in Boston in 1886.  

“Festival March “was performed in 1893 at the "World's Fair" under Theodore Thomas.

“The Falconer a suite; a prelude to Goethe's Faust”; given in 1898;

Three dramatic arias for soprano and orchestra, “Love Song”, “Hero and Leander”, and “Verzweiflunir”  “Love Song” was given at the May Festival in 1889 under Anton Seidl;  

 “Sigrid” - a symphonic poem

Quartets Op. 21 and Op. 33 along with Trio Op. 29 were frequently performed in Germany and the United States

 The “Dedication March” written for the inauguration of Carnegie Music Hall in 1895

“Trio Serenade” composed in 1907 and is a lush romantic work.