Frederick Edwin Church, Niagara Falls, 1857
Anthony Philip Heinrich is a particularly interesting figure: a Bohemian wholesale dealer in linen, thread, wine, and other goods who settled in America and only decided to take up music after the failure of his business and death of his wife. According to David Barron, he travelled to Kentucky and in the spring of 1818, where, in a move that anticipates Thoreau, 'he withdrew from the musical society of Lexington, Frankfort, and Louisville and went to live in a log cabin in the woods around Bardstown. This was a significant moment in Heinrich's life, for here he paused to study and instruct himself in the art of music by improvising on the violin, and finally to write down these expressions as vocal, piano, and violin compositions.' His first major publication, a collection of songs and pieces for violin and piano, was called The Dawning of Music in Kentucky or the Pleasures of Harmony in the Solitude of Nature (1820). Like William Henry Fry, he composed a noisy piece inspired by the Niagara Falls, The War of the Elements and the Thundering of Niagara. He was friendly with John James Audubon and in addition to the The Ornithological Combat of Kings mentioned above, composed The Columbiad, or Migration of American Wild Passenger Pigeons. Heinrich's music was performed to acclaim in New York in the 1840s and there were successful concerts back in Prague in 1857, but four years later the old man died in poverty.
John James Audubon, Passenger Pigeon, from Birds of America (1827-38)
The article by David Barron quoted above includes an amusing description of an occasion on which Heinrich was introduced to President Tyler, written by John Hill Hewitt, the piano teacher to Tyler's daughter:
'The composer labored hard to give full effect to his weird production; his bald pate bobbed from side to side, and shone like a bubble on the surface of a calm lake. At times his shoulders would be raised to the line of his ears, and his knees went up to the keyboard, while the perspiration rolled in large drops down his wrinkled cheeks.
The ladies stared at the maniac musician, as they, doubtless, thought him, and the president scratched his head, as if wondering whether wicked spirits were not rioting in the cavern of mysterious sounds and rebelling against the laws of acoustics. The composer labored on, occasionally explaining some incomprehensible passage, representing, as he said, the breaking up of the frozen river Niagara, the thaw of the ice, and the dash of the mighty falls. Peace and plenty were represented by soft strains of pastoral music, while the thunder of our naval war-dogs and the rattle of our army musketry told of our prowess on sea and land.
The inspired composer had got about half-way through his wonderful production when Mr. Tyler restlessly arose from his chair, and placing his hand gently on Heinrich's shoulder, said;
“That may all be very fine, sir, but can't you play us a good old Virginia reel?”'