Howard Swanson

1907 - 1978


Howard Swanson (1907 -1978) born in Atlanta, Georgia, is known as the American Fauré. He began piano study at age twelve in Cleveland where his family had moved in 1916, entered the Cleveland Institute of Music full time, and received his baccaulaureate degree in music theory in 1927, studying under Hubert Elwell. Following that, Swanson studied with Nadia Boulonger in Paris on a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1939. World War II interrupted his studies and Swanson was forced back to the United States, but in 1952, he returned to Paris on a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Academy of Arts and Letters. This happened after Swanson devoted his time entirely to composition after 1945, in wake of working for the Internal Revenue Services and Cleveland Post Office to support himself and his family. Through his compositions, Swanson crystalized a musical style using the conventional forms of classical music infused with a personal style grounded in African American traditions. He is best known for his art songs, most notably "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," and for the Short Symphony. Swanson composed a number of other distinguished works, including "The Cuckoo" Scherzo for Piano (1948); Suite for Cello and Piano (1949); "Night Music" (1950); "Music for Strings" (1952); Concerto for Orchestra (1957); and Symphony no. 3 (1969).