If the name Henry Holden Huss [pronounced “Hoos”] doesn’t ring a bell, we’re not surprised—but in his heyday, around 1900, he was famous as a leading American concert pianist and composer. On today’s date in 1894, Huss was the soloist with the Boston Symphony for the premiere of his own Piano Concerto in B Major.
Now, piano concertos written in the key of B Major are not exactly thick on the ground, and Huss’s unusual choice was probably influenced by the “Liebestod” or “Love-Death” music from Wagner’s ultra-Romantic opera “Tristan and Isolde.” Certainly, Huss’s Piano Concerto is in a similarly ultra-Romantic vein. After many decades of neglect, it was revived and recorded by the British compact disc label Hyperion for inclusion in their “Romantic Piano Concerto Series,” devoted to both famous and downright obscure examples of the genre.
In addition to his musical fame, Huss was justly proud of his ancestors: He was related on his father’s side to the early 15th century Protestant martyr John Huss and on his mother’s side to a member of George Washington’s staff.
Like his contemporary, pianist-composer Edward MacDowell, Huss studied in Germany. Unlike the more famous but tragic short career of MacDowell, Huss enjoyed a long, healthy and productive creative life. In addition to his Piano Concerto, Huss wrote symphonic poems, chamber works, music for chorus, and, not surprisingly, a number of solo piano works.
He died at the age of 91 in 1953.
Music Played in Today's Program
Henry Holden Huss (1862–1953)Piano Concerto, Op. 10Ian Hobson, piano; BBC Scottish Symphony; Martyn Brabbins, cond.Hyperion 66949