July 22, 2010

Martin Roeder: a brilliant life interrupted

By all accounts, Martin Roeder had everything going for him as a composer, exponent of Francesco Lamperti, writer and author.

Born to Austrian parents in Berlin in 1851, Roeder was something of a renaissance man. He studied violin with Joseph Jaochim at the Königliche Hochschule, traveled to Italy where he studied voice with the Enrico Panocha, Antonio Trivulzi, and the aforementioned Francesco Lamperti; was appointed Choirmaster at the Teatro del Verme before resigning that post to become Ricordi's Editor-in-Chief at the Gazette Musicale; founded Italy's first choral society in Milan before becoming a respected operatic conductor; taught the art of bel canto to Lillian Nordica and Princess Sophia of Prussia; then headed the voice departments at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin and the New England Conservatory in Boston.

Reoder was poised to become a leading voice teacher in America when he died suddenly in Cambridge, Boston in 1895.

He was 44 and had only been in America three years.  

Roeder left behind many compositions, songs, and larger instrumental/choral works. For students of voice, an anthology for tenor voice Italian song is still in print: Tesori Antichi: Sammlung Altitalienischer Arien Und Lieder. You can download it for free at American Libraries. Roeder undoubtedly studied these songs with Lamperti.  

Martin Roeder c. 1892

Roeder also wrote a singing manual with introductory text and progressively difficult exercises titled Fundamental vocal exercises known as the Italian method of singing (1892). This book, along with his position at New England Conservatory, gave him a foothold in America, a country burgeoning with voice teachers. Roeder must have gotten the lay-of-the-land, because he seems to have been a savvy self-promoter, writing letters to newspapers declaring himself the only certified exponent of Lamperti. His book only cemented that impression. The ad below appeared in a Harvard publication. One can only wonder what Roeder might have accomplished had he lived longer.

Addendum: May 17, 2013 

While researching at the NYPL today, I happened to enter Roeder's name into The Boston Globe database, and what did I find? Roeder's obituary. He perished at the young age of 44 two weeks after falling off an "electric car" and hitting his head, a ruptured blood vessel ending his life. Had he lived, it is very likely he would have been Lamperti's leading exponent in America. 

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