The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Isidore George Henschel, 1850-1934

Nationality: German/Polish, English
Date of Birth: 1850.02.18
Place of Birth: Breslau
Date of Death: 1934.12.10
Place of Death: Aviemore


Sir Isidore George Henschel was a singer, composer, conductor, and Professor at the Royal College of Music. Henschel was born at Breslau of Jewish and Polish descent. He married the American singer Lillian June in 1881. She died in 1901. Their daughter Helen was also a musician.


He was educated at St Magdalen College and the Wandett Institute. In 1862 at the age of 12, he appeared as a pianist in Berlin before attending the Royal Conservatory in 1870. After his first appearance in England in 1877, he made his mark as a singer and unlike most musicians (who appeared posthumously), he appeared in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians several times during his lifetime.

Between 1881 and 1884, he was the first conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and later on be became the first conductor of the Scottish orchestra and responsible for the organisation of London symphony concerts.

His marriage to the American singer Lillian June in 1881 marked a step forward, as until her death in 1901, they performed numerous duets with each other. After her death, he retreated into retirement and it was not until 1909 that he reappeared and began a new career as a conductor, which lasted until 1914. In addition to this he sang in the Schubert centenary celebrations in 1928 and appeared one last time in 1934 at the age of eighty-four.

He was knighted in 1914 and received the Degree of Doctor of Music from Edinburgh University in 1910.

George Henschel appears to have been a relatively close associate of JW. In several of the letters there is evidence of a strong relationship. In one dated May or June 1890, JW sent Henschel one of his etchings. In another dated December 1884, JW invited Henschel to his studio to show him Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate (YMSM 315). In addition, Henschel's name was included on the invitation list for a dinner to be held in JW's honour at the Critrion in May 1889.


Macy, L., Sir (Isidor) George (Georg) Henschel in "The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online at (accessed July 2003); Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.