Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge: American Patron of Music

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Schirmer Books, 1998 - Biography & Autobiography - 436 pages
The work of the arts patron, the music patron, is often not sufficiently recognized, let alone celebrated... And yet the musical masterpieces which (Coolidge) helped bring into the world are by now legendary. My generation certainly grew up on them, learned from them, built further upon them, was inspired by them. My awareness of Coolidge began when as a teenager I began to study the works of Bartok, Milhaud, Honegger, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Webern, Copland and so many others, when I saw in the front pages of the scores the name Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge... Cyrilla Barr has brought her subject out of the half-light, and has enabled us to see several related and important human qualities n that proud and at times imposing woman. --from the Introduction by Gunther Schuller
She was brought up in the heyday of romanticism, lived on to hear experiments with aleatory and electronic music, and in fact, commissioned some of the most avant-garde works of the early twentieth century. Her circle of friends included practically every major composer and performer from the first half of this century, and her munificence brought beauty into the lives of literally millions of unnamed music lovers who heard the broadcasts and attended the free concerts that she sponsored. --Cyrilla Barr, from the preface
Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge supported the work of this century's greatest composers, including Copland, Milhaud, Schoenberg and Stravinsky. While some music aficionados may recognize her name and her more public works as a patron of the arts, previously undisclosed insights about her private life will come as a revelation to all. Author Cyrilla Barr has studied the private familypapers of the Coolidge family and shares with the reader the fascinating story of one woman's remarkable journey--from her deferred dreams of a career in music and her struggle after the tragic loss of her family over the course of less than a year, to her courageous decision to create a career for herself, and her gradual emergence as a powerful American philanthropist in her own right. Cyrilla Barr is Professor of Music at The Catholic University of America. She is author of The Coolidge Legacy (Library of Congress, 1997) and co-editor with Ralph Locke of "Cultivating Music in America: Women Patrons and Activists, 1860 to the Present" (University of California Press, 1997).

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The Atwoods and the Spragues
Coming of Age
Enter Frederic

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About the author (1998)

Cyrilla Barr has lectured and written widely on the popular religious music of medieval and renaissance Italy. Her early work, The monophonic lauda and the lay religious confraternities of Umbria and Tuscany in the Late Middle Ages, is well known to musicologists and historians of the period. With "The Trophy Bride's Tale," Barr's musicological scholarship and dedicated interest in women's issues come together in an intriguing historical novel based upon authentic archival records that document an actual case of abuse, murder, and criminal justice in sixteenth-century Florence.

Cyrilla holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the Catholic University of America where she has taught and later became chair of the Musicology Department.

She now makes her home in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where she continues to write.

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