Douglas Moore

(1893–1969) was an American composer known for the “grace and tender

lyricism” that mark the slower passages of his many works, especially his Symphony in A major and clarinet quintet. He wrote music for the theater, film, ballet and orchestra, but his greatest fame is associated with his tuneful operas on American themes, especially The Devil and Daniel Webster (1938), an adaptation of  the O. Henry Prize-winning story

by Stephen Vincent Benet, and The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956), which The New York Times called a “landmark American opera,” with Beverly Sills in the title role. He also composed the symphonic tone poem Moby Dick.

Hired in 1921 as director of music by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Moore took the opportunity to study composition with Ernest Bloch at the nearby Cleveland Institute of Music and perform in plays at the Cleveland Play House. The same year several popular songs he had composed while at Yale, in collaboration with the poet Archibald MacLeish and later with John Jacob Niles—including the Yale fight song “Goodnight, Harvard”—were published under the collective title Songs My Mother Never Taught Me.  Moore made his debut as a composer and conductor in 1923 conducting his Four Museum Pieces with the Cleveland Orchestra.

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His opera Giants in the Earth was awarded the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for music. He was also the author of two well received books, Listening to Music (1932) and From Madrigal to Modern Music (1942), and served as president (1953-1956) of the National Institute and American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Performances of Moore’s music found on Youtube include his Symphony of Autumn, The Pageant of P.T. Barnum, In Memoriam for Orchestra, Overture on an American Tune, the Quintet for Woodwinds, and (not to be missed) the late soprano Beverly Sills performing the stunning Willow Song, introduced by Moore himself, from The Ballad of Baby Doe. (Former WCPN/Ideastream program director Dave Kanzeg is a widely recognized authority on the opera and the true story that inspired it.)

Other works by Moore include the symphonic poem, Moby Dick, Incidental Music for Twelfth Night, Carry Nation (an opera), an operatic treatment of Henry James’ famous novel The Wings of the Dove, White Wings (a chamber opera) and Gallantry (a soap opera), the ballet Greek Games, a violin sonata, a string quartet, a piano trio, and The Headless Horseman (an operetta based on Washington Irving’s Hallowe’en classic).