(b 1731; d London, 1776). English psalmodist. He was probably the Aaron Williams, son of William Morgan, who was baptized at Caldicot, Monmouthshire, on 6 August 1731. He was a singing teacher, an engraver of music (at West Smithfield) and for some time clerk to the Scottish Church, London Wall. He published several collections of church music explicitly designed ‘for country choirs’, of which the most popular were The Universal Psalmodist (6 edns, 1763–76), Royal Harmony (1765) and Psalmody in Miniature (3 edns, 1770–83). The first comprised the usual didactic introduction, psalm tunes plain and florid, and anthems. The second was more ambitious, intended for Anglican use, consisting of 30 anthems including many of the cathedral type, some by Purcell, Croft, Greene and other leading cathedral composers, others by Williams himself. This collection was several times reprinted in New England as part of Daniel Bayley’s American Harmony. Psalmody in Miniature was in five pocket-sized books and was designed for the use of dissenters. Williams’s psalm tunes and anthems were popular in America well into the 19th century; ‘Bangor’ is still widely used, and ‘Psalm 34’ was a principal model for the early development of the American fuging-tune. His technique of composition was somewhat superior to that of Knapp or Tans’ur, but his tunes were not memorable and are represented in modern English use only by the undistinguished ‘St Thomas’.
The list of Williams’s anthems given by M.B. Foster in Anthems and Anthem Composers (London, 1901) is erroneous: fewer than half of those listed are in fact by him. One of his anthems was reprinted (from an American source) by Daniel.
J.D.Brown and S.S.Stratton: British Musical Biography (Birmingham, 1897/R)
R.T.Daniel: The Anthem in New England before 1800 (Evanston, IL,1966/R)
N.Temperley: The Music of the English Parish Church (Cambridge,1979), i, 186
N.Temperley and C.G.Manns: Fuguing Tunes in the Eighteenth Century (Detroit, 1983), 22
A.P.Britton, I.Lowens and R.Crawford: American Sacred Music Imprints 1698–1810: a Bibliography (Worcester, MA,1990), 116–34
(b Buenos Aires, 23 Nov 1862; d Buenos Aires, 17 June 1952). Argentine composer, conductor, pianist and teacher. Born into a family of musicians, he began to compose very early. His first piano lessons were with Pedro Beck; he also attended the Colegio S Martin and, from its foundation, the Escuela de Música de la Provincia, where he studied with Luis Bernasconi (piano) and Nicolás Bassi (harmony). While still a pupil at the school he played works by Paer and Liszt at the Teatro Colón; one of his first public performances was in 1879 at a Sociedad del Cuarteto concert organized by Bernasconi. Two years later he published his first work, the mazurka Ensueño de juventud. A scholarship took him in 1882 to the Paris Conservatoire, and there he was a pupil of Georges Mathías (piano), Emile Durand (harmony) and Benjamin Godard (instrumental ensemble), also studying composition with Franck. In Paris the piano works Souvenir d’enfance op.2 and Première mazurca op.3 were published. He returned to Argentina in 1889 and gave recitals in several provinces, acquainting himself with the forms, tunes and rhythms of folk music until he was able to incorporate them in compositions, beginning with the piano piece El rancho abandonado (1890). Composing in and promoting a new nationalist style, he founded and conducted the Athenaeum Concerts (1894), the National Library Concerts (1902–5), the Popular Concerts and the Buenos Aires Conservatory Concerts. He had a decisive influence on music education, particularly in initiating progress towards the adoption of the teaching methods he had learnt in Europe; this led to the foundation in 1893 of a conservatory (eventually named the Conservatorio Williams) in Buenos Aires, which was directed by Williams until 1941. In 1900 he returned to Europe and conducted the Berlin PO in a concert of his works; in 1930 there were three concerts of his music in Paris, one of orchestral works, one of chamber pieces and a piano recital. His 75th birthday was celebrated in Buenos Aires with a programme of his Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies conducted by José Gil.
Williams is one of the precursors of Argentine nationalism. His large output, which includes 150 opus numbers in almost every genre, may be divided into three periods. The first, up to 1890, was markedly influenced by European composers, principally Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Franck. The second and most influential period, from 1890 until about 1910, was inspired by the themes and rhythms of Argentine folksongs and folkdances. These years also saw the best of his chamber music, such as the Flute Sonata, the three violin sonatas, the Cello Sonata and the Piano Trio. In the third period, although his music remained nationalistic, he also explored international trends. From about 1910 to 1933 he produced six of his nine symphonies, the nine cycles of Poemas for piano, and vocal and piano works; thereafter he wrote principally for orchestra.
Among the posts he held were the presidency and vice-presidency of the National Arts Commission, the musical directorship of the Athenaeum and the presidency of the Argentine Concert Association. He was an honorary member of the Argentine Association of Composers, the Chamber Music Association and the Folklore Association; and in 1939 he was made a member of the Légion d’Honneur. He founded the magazine La kena and the paper of the same name in 1919, both aimed at the popularization and teaching of music; he also published textbooks, poetry and criticism. Williams was the first New World composer to write as many as nine symphonies.
Orch: Primera obertura de concierto, 1889; 9 syms., 1907, 1910, 1911, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1937, 1938, 1939; 5 danzas argentinas-milongas, 1912; Primera suite argentina, str, 1923; Las milongas de la orquesta, 1938; Poema del Iguazú, 1943; Aires de la pampa, 1944; 11 other works
Chbr: 3 sonatas, vn, pf, 1905, 1906, 1907; Sonata, vc, pf, 1906; Pf Trio no.1, 1907; 4 other works
Pf: El rancho abandonado, 1890; Primera sonata argentina, 1917; 100 other works
Vocal: 15 choral works, 75 songs
19 essays; many textbooks on music, piano technique, solfège; musical editions
V.A.Risolía: Alberto Williams (Buenos Aires, 1943)
Compositores de América/Composers of the Americas, ed. Pan American Union, ii (Washington DC, 1956)
J.O.Pickenhayn: Alberto Williams (Buenos Aires, 1979)
M.Ficher, M.Furman Schleifer and J.M.Furman: Latin American Classical Composers: a Biographical Dictionary (Lanham, MD, and London, 1996)