Herrmann, Bernard

Bernard HerrmannHerrmann, the son of a Jewish middle class family of Russian origin, was born in New York City. He attended high school at DeWitt Clinton High School, at that time on 10th avenue and 59th Street in New York City. His father encouraged music activity, taking him to the opera, and encouraging him to learn the violin. After winning a $100 composition prize at the age of thirteen, he decided to concentrate on music, and went to New York University where he studied with Percy Grainger and Philip James. He also studied at the Juilliard School and, at the age of twenty, formed his own orchestra, The New Chamber Orchestra of New York.

In 1934, he joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (today CBS) as a staff conductor. Within two years he was appointed music director of the Columbia Workshop, an experimental radio drama series for which Herrmann composed or arranged music (one notable program was The Fall of the City). Within nine years, he had become Chief Conductor to the CBS Symphony Orchestra. He was responsible for introducing more new works to U.S. audience than any other conductor — he was a particular champion of Charles Ives’s music, which was virtually unknown at that time. Herrmann’s radio programs of concert music, which were broadcast under such titles as Invitation to Music and Exploring Music, were planned in an unconventional way and featured rarely-heard music, old and new, which was not heard in public concert halls. Examples include broadcasts devoted to Music of Famous Amateurs or to notable royal personages, such as the music of Frederick the Great of Prussia, Henry VIII, Charles I, Louis XIII and so on.

Herrmann’s many US broadcast premieres during the 1940s included Miaskovsky’s 22nd Symphony, Malipiero’s 3rd Symphony, Richard Arnell’s 1st Symphony, Edmund Rubbra’s 3rd Symphony and Ives’s 3rd Symphony. He performed the works of Goetz, Gretchaninov, Gade and Liszt, and received many outstanding American musical awards and grants for his unusual programming and championship of little-known composers. In Dictators of the Baton, David Ewen wrote that Herrmann was “one of the most invigorating influences in the radio music of the past decade.” Also during the 1940s, Herrmann’s own concert music was taken up and played by such celebrated maestri as Leopold Stokowski, Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Thomas Beecham and Eugene Ormandy.

In 1934, Herrmann met a young CBS secretary and aspiring writer, Lucille Fletcher. Fletcher was impressed with Herrmann’s work, and the two began a five-year courtship. Marriage was delayed by the objections of Fletcher’s parents, who disliked the fact that Herrmann was a Jew and were put off by what they viewed as his abrasive personality. The couple finally married on October 2, 1939. Fletcher was to become a noted radio screenwriter, and she and Herrmann collaborated on several projects throughout their career. He contributed the score to the famed Campbell Playhouse adaptation of her story “The Hitch-Hiker” (starring Orson Welles), and Fletcher helped to write the libretto for his operatic adaptation of Wuthering Heights. The couple divorced in 1948. The next year he married Lucille’s cousin, Lucy (Kathy Lucille) Anderson. That marriage lasted 18 years, till 1964.

While at CBS, Herrmann met Orson Welles, and wrote or arranged scores for his Mercury Theatre broadcasts which were adaptations of literature. He conducted music for Welles’s infamous adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938, which consisted entirely of pre-existing music. When Welles moved to movies, Herrmann went with him, writing the scores for Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), although the score for the latter, like the film itself, was heavily edited by the studio. Between those two movies, he wrote the score for William Dieterle’s The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), for which he won his only Oscar. In 1947, Herrmann scored the atmospheric music for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

 

Bernard Herrmann – Wikipedia