For Morris Steinert, a musical education received in his native Germany brought not only an appreciation of the great masters and an ability to play several instruments while still very young, but filled him with a desire to enrich the lives of those around him by imparting to them some of the love of music that was his. When he came to the United States, he became the founder of what was an outstanding organization of its kind in New England, that of M. Steinert and Sons, dealers in music and musical instruments. But he found his life’s work, not in the commercial field alone, but in the training, of others for fuller appreciation of the beautiful things of life, in the sponsoring of some of the finest musical developments that have taken place in the New World. And he, along with others, was responsible in a degree for the improvement in the standards of American music, for the promotion of the best programs on the part of performers and for a more understanding perception of these programs on the part of audiences.
Mr. Steinert was born in Scheinfeld, Kingdom of Bavaria, on March 9, 1831. He attended the town schools of his native place, and while still very young possessed a yearning and a great love for music. He received his first instruction in this art from the cantor of the local church, and learned to play the clavichord. Later, under the Stadt Musikus, he learned the flute and the violin. He studied pianoforte under Herr Schutz. As time went on, he traveled through Germany, Russia, and Finland, engaged in musical work; and after a short period in France, came to America in the sailing vessel, “Jenny Lind.” Arriving on this side of the Atlantic, he played in orchestras and worked for a minstrel for a time, his favorite instrument being now the violoncello.
For a period of several years Mr. Steinert served as teacher of music in Thomasville, Georgia, and at the same time was engaged in the musical mercantile business in Athens, Georgia. Returning North at the outbreak of the Civil War, he eventually made New Haven, Connecticut, his home; and in that city, he founded Steinert’s Orchestra, and later the Music Hall. It was in 1865 that he opened the store in New Haven, which was the beginning of New England’s leading music establishment, with branches, eventually, in many different New England cities.
After his marriage Mr. Steinert came to New Haven with his wife and family, having then two sons, Henry and Alexander, and here established the store that has come to be the leading musical store of the city. Along with his other work, Mr. Steinert became a collector of instruments, new, rare and old, which he gathered both in the United States and abroad. His collection was considered the finest in the world, and many of them he presented to Yale University.
Mr. Steinert also had an extensive career on the lecture platform, having traveled throughout the United States, especially in connection with his educational series of addresses on “The Evolution of the Pianoforte.” In this work, which was essentially a labor of love, he was capably assisted by his sons, Henry and Albert, and by the late critic and writer, Henry Edward Krehbiel, of the New York “Tribune.”
Morris Steinert married Caroline Dreyfus. They became the parents of nine children, all of whom, like the remarkable Bach family of old, were musically gifted.
Founder of numerous New Haven musical groups, not the least of them the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Steinert was a man of rare talents and abilities, one whose death, which occurred in 1912, was a cause of widespread sorrow. His passing meant a heavy personal loss to many friends in all parts of the world, especially in musical circles, but, more than that, a loss to music itself. He had given, as had few men in his time, to the advancement of this great art, and the furtherance of its appreciation by others; had enriched countless lives by the overflowing of his own music-laden spirit. And the memory that he left behind him was an influence of beauty.
The setting sun, and music at the close,
As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
Writ in remembrance more than things long past.