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The desire for national identity and identifiability: Edward J. De Coppet and the birth of chamber music in the United States

On October 21, 1886, the Swiss banker and music patron Edward J. De Coppet (1855–1916) organised a musical gathering in his apartment in New York’s upper West Side. The concert marked the beginning of a lively and enduring interest in chamber music by musical New York. Before his death, De Coppet organized 1,054 musical meetings and was also crucial in the establishment of the Flonzaley Quartet. Established in 1902 the Quartet was to rise to become the epitome of modern US-American string quartet culture. In addition De Coppet actively supported the transition of chamber music from a primarily domestic activity into a public venture. His efforts were honored with a remarkable celebration in 1914, celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of De Coppet’s musical activities and the tenth anniversary of the first public performance of the Flonzaley Quartet. The paper will explore De Coppet’s efforts as part of a broader culturally- and politically-charged agenda, strongly linked to the desire for national identity and identifiability that shaped activities in many areas of life in the U.S.A. between 1890 and 1920.