James Henri Anderson, The Lays of the Hebrews

For pianoforte, 1844
Edited by Richard Divall
Australian Music Series – MDA017
ISBN 978-0-9923957-6-6 / ISMN 979-0-9009643-6-6


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Pianist, organist and composer James Henri Anderson was born in 1822/23 and at the age of twenty arrived in Hobart on 4 February 1842. He had studied with Professor Thomson in Edinburgh and then with the English symphonist and friend of Beethoven, Philip Cipriani Potter (1792-1871), at the Royal Academy of Music, Hanover Square. Potter, as head of keyboard studies had succeeded Nicholas Charles Bochsa (1789- 1856), as director of orchestral studies in 1827, and as Principal in 1832, replacing Crotch who had retired.1 Anderson lived for some time in Launceston before returning to Hobart, and then moving to Sydney in 1844. During his time in Tasmania he was involved with the Consecration of the Launceston Synagogue in St John’s Street in 1846, and contributed a ‘symphony’ to the opening celebrations there. Prior to moving to Hobart Anderson lived in the same street. He was an excellent pianist, but ‘disorganised’ as a lecturer or speaker.

The Lays of the Hebrews is a collection of four melodies, two of them tunes to Psalms ninety-one and twenty-four. Dedicated to the British philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, the work was arranged for performance at the Consecration of the Sydney Synagogue in York Street on 2 April 1844. Isaac Nathan was in charge of the musical ceremonies, and also composed two works for the same consecration, namely a new Hallelujah Chorus and a setting of the Benedictus, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, both of which have not survived. Styled on the title page ‘a Professor of Music, Sydney’, the only surviving copy of this work by Anderson is held in the Mitchell Library, the State Library of New South Wales. On the title page of his Fitzroy Quadrilles of 1850, and published in Melbourne, Anderson described himself as ‘of the Royal Academy’. Little is known of his life, and he died in Melbourne on 1 May 1879.