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Anthony Philip Heinrich: A Guide to Resources

This guide provides resources related to the life and work of Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781-1861) known as the "Beethoven of America" due to his large-scale instrumental works. The Library of Congress is the major repository of his original manuscripts.


Anthony Philip Heinrich, composer. To the spirit of Beethoven. 1845. Library of Congress Music Division.

Anthony Philip Heinrich was born in Bohemia in 1781, visiting the United States several times before emigrating in 1817. He famously trekked across Pennsylvania and down the Ohio River before deciding to settle in a log cabin near Bardstown, Kentucky. There, he composed his well-known collection of piano and vocal compositions, The Dawning of Music in Kentucky, or the Pleasures of Harmony in the Solitude of Nature (1820). Heinrich was also an accomplished conductor and violinist, leading the first known performance of a Beethoven symphony in the United States while living in Kentucky in 1817. After moving to New York City in 1837, he was appointed chairman of the New York Philharmonic Society. During this period, his compositions for piano, as well as his songs, were widely published. In 1841, he traveled to Washington, DC, to play at the White House for then-president John Tyler, who was later the dedicatee of Heinrich's piano composition Tyler's Grand Veto Quickstep (1844).

He was the first American composer to write large-scale orchestral works, which were often programmatic with evocative titles such as The Columbiad, or Migration of American Wild Passenger Pigeons (1858) and The Ornithological Combat of Kings, or the Condor of the Andes (1847). Many of his orchestral works were written for an uncommonly large number of instruments and were unplayable by fledgling American orchestras. As a result, Heinrich organized a series of successful concerts in Europe, notably an 1836 performance in Graz and an 1857 performance in Prague. His fame beyond the United States is shown by his inclusion in Gustav Schilling's Encyclopädie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften (1838). Upon his death, the following tribute appeared in Dwight's Journal of Music, XIX (May 11, 1861), "The enthusiasm for his art which first led Father Heinrich to adopt it as his profession seems never to have left him even in his sickness and old age...His circumstances were very straitened during the latter part of his life, and his most pressing wants were recently relieved by the ready kindness of his early friends in this city and New York." His orchestral works remained unpublished during his lifetime. The majority of his music manuscripts are part of the Music Division's collection at the Library of Congress and can be accessed in the Performing Arts Reading Room.

About the Performing Arts Reading Room

The Performing Arts Reading Room is the access point for the collections in the custody of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Numbering approximately 20.5 million items and spanning more than 1000 years of Western music history and practice, these holdings include the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, published and unpublished copyright deposits, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.