Which composer and conductor was nicknamed the “African Mahler”?
Known in America as the “African Mahler”, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) overcame the constraints of his race to succeed in his career as a classical composer and musician. African people considered Coleridge-Taylor a beacon of hope for the future and continue to remember him as an iconic figure of Black British history.
Samuel Coleridge Taylor was born on 15th August 1875, the son of a white British woman and an African-American man from Sierra Leone. His maternal family encouraged him to attend the Royal College of Music. After graduating, he became the conductor of the orchestra at the Croydon Conservatoire. Due to a printing error in which a hyphen was added to his name, people came to know him as “Samuel Coleridge-Taylor”, which he kept as his professional name.
Between 1898 and 1900, Coleridge-Taylor produced one of his most successful series of works, 'The Song of Hiawatha', based on his favourite poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82). Due to its success, Coleridge-Taylor had the opportunity to tour three times in the United States of America. He also participated in the 1900 First Pan-African Conference, of which he was the youngest delegate.
During Coleridge-Taylor’s third tour of the USA, he conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, which at the time was directed by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). The success of the concert earned Coleridge-Taylor the sobriquet “African Mahler”.