GOOD AMERICAN COMPOSERS AND MAJOR CONDUCTORS

In the first Segment of European Musical Training, we discussed the top five composers during the pre-1943 time period who were classically trained.

In this Segment we are going to consider the rest of the massive amount of talent that either came to America from Europe or found a way to gain classical, European training, even if born in America.

Good American Composers

Let’s start with good composers who never achieved sustained and lasting superiority as of 1943.

Ludwig Englander (1853-1914) was born in Vienna and studied with Jacques Offenbach in Europe before emigrating to New York in 1882.  He was a prolific composer on Broadway with more than thirty musicals to his credit.

Gustave Kerker (1857-1923) was born in Germany and started the study of the cello at age seven.  He emigrated with his parents to Kentucky in 1867.  We have not been able to determine the nature of his musical education; however, he went through a practical education, as he played in pit orchestras, began to conduct and then was permitted to add his own songs to foreign operettas.  Eventually, he wrote his own shows and had a prolific career on Broadway.

Gustav Luders (1865-1913) was born in Bremen, studied in Leipzig and then emigrated to America, where he wrote operettas on Broadway.

Karl Hoschna (1876-1911) was born in Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), studied at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, specializing in the oboe, emigrated to the United States in 1896 and joined the Victor Herbert orchestra as an oboe soloist.

Herbert Stothart (1885-1949) was born in Milwaukee and reversed the process as he went to Europe to obtain classical training.  He also received music education at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  He never had an outstanding career in terms of novel compositions; however, he had a remarkable career on Broadway and in Hollywood as a sturdy, reliable workman.

Vernon Duke, American Composer

Vernon Duke

Vernon Duke (1903-1969) was born in Belarus (originally named Vladimir Dukelsky) of Georgian-Austrian-Spanish-Russian ancestry.  He was admitted to the Kiev Conservatory at age eleven, where he studied composition with Reinhold Gliere and musical theory with Boleslav Yavorksy.  His family escaped the aftermath of the Russian revolution by fleeing in 1919 to Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), where they were able to book passage to New York.  

Adopting the Americanized and shortened name (Vernon Duke) at the suggestion of his friends, Duke started a notable career composing music for Broadway:  from the show Walk a Little Faster (1932.28), that he wrote with lyricist Yip Harburg, came the standard “April in Paris;” out of the second score that he wrote with Harburg (Ziegfeld Follies of 1933-1934, 1934.01), came the wonderful tune “I Like the Likes of You.”  

Duke wrote both the music and lyrics for the magnificent song “Autumn in New York” for the show Thumbs Up (1934.42), and he collaborated with Ira Gershwin on the score for Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 (1936.02).  The great American song that came from this collaboration is “I Can’t Get Started with You,” a song that eventually became the trademark of big band leader Bunny Berigan.

We anticipate that few remember Berigan or his singing style, and we are including the song here.  At the beginning, you will hear Berigan’s trumpet introduction. 

The one Duke show that almost didn’t get produced is Cabin in the Sky (1940.17).  It seems hard to believe that initially only a few people wanted to participate on this project; yet, the core believers persevered, and it was produced for Broadway and adapted into a movie. The lyrics were provided by John LaTouche; and, because of the need to replace an existing number, Duke and LaTouche came up with the enchanting “Taking a Chance on Love,” sung by a young and beautiful Ethel Waters.


Frederick Loewe (1901-1988) was born in Berlin of Viennese parents, studied piano with Ferruccio Busoni and Eugene d’Albert and studied composition and harmony with Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek.  Loewe was the youngest piano soloist (thirteen) to play with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra; he emigrated to the United States in 1924.

Loewe is included in this Segment with other good American Composers only because he was still a minor composer in 1943.  In fact, he would eventually team up with Alan J. Lerner to write such smash Broadway shows as Brigadoon (1947.07), Paint Your Wagon (1951.24), My Fair Lady (1956.01) and Camelot (1960.21).  They would also write the original musical for the movie, Gigi (1958).

For those of you who would like to learn more about Loewe’s music, please start with John McGlinn’s excellent London Studio cast recording of Brigadoon from 1991 on the Angel label.

Major Conductors, Music Directors and Orchestrators

Louis Gottschalk (1864-1934) was born in St Louis, studied in Stuttgart and returned to New York to be a first class music director.

Maurice Abravanel (1903-1993) was born in Thessalonika Greece and studied in Berlin, where he worked with conductors, such as Wilhelm Furtwangler, Bruno Walter, Richard Strauss and Otto Klemperer.  After being an excellent music director on Broadway, Abravanel became the conductor of the fledgling Utah Symphony Orchestra, which, over the next thirty years, he nurtured into a major orchestra.

Max Meth (1900-1984) came to the United States from Austria and won Tony awards as music director for the 1949 show As the Girls Go and for the 1952 revival of Pal Joey.

Victor Baravalle (1885-1939) was an Italian-born composer who became an invaluable music director on Broadway (he worked with Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1927 as music director for Show Boat).  Later, he went to Hollywood.

Alfred Goodman (1890-1972) was born in Nikopol, Ukraine and studied music at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.  He was an accomplished music director for many years on Broadway.

Hans Spialek (1894-1983) was born in Vienna, studied composition and conducting at the Vienna Conservatory, fought in WWI and then studied in Moscow with Gliere. In 1924 he came to New York and joined T.B. Harms, where he had an illustrious career as an orchestrator.

Frank Saddler (1864-1921) was born in Franklin, PA and went to Munich, Germany to study music.  When he returned to the United States, he became, until his death, the key orchestrator for Jerome Kern.

We don’t have many examples of Saddler’s orchestrations, but we do have the wonderful National Jukebox provided by the Library of Congress.  Even with the best filtering equipment, the sound is mostly for scholars and not for first time listeners.

However, YouTube supplies a fresher source for more recent recordings or videos.  Here is McGlinn with Kern’s Overture from Have a Heart that McGlinn recorded for EMI classics.  (As a side note:  anyone truly interested in listening to the music of Broadway shows as they were originally orchestrated should acquire all of McGlinn’s recordings on EMI/Angel.  No website, not even ours, can replace a personal library.) 


Frank Tours (1877-1963) was born,  studied music ( Royal College of Music) and conducted theatre music in London.  When he came to America, he turned to Broadway and was a much-sought-after music director.

 

Anton Seidl, American Conductor

Anton Seidl

Anton Seidl (1850-1898) was born in Pest, Hungary and studied harmony and counterpoint at the Hungarian National Musical Academy. In 1870, he studied at the Leipzig Conservatory (Saxony) and began as a copyist for Richard Wagner in 1872.  Wagner recognized Seidl’s talent and sent him to Vienna to stage productions of the operas Siegfried and Gotterdammerung (the last two in the Ring cycle).  In 1879, Seidl was appointed as conductor of the Leipzig State Opera; in 1885 he was appointed as conductor at the Metropolitan Opera.  He served as conductor at the  New York Philharmonic from 1891 to 1898.

Leopold Damrosch, American Conductor

Leopold Damrosch

Leopold Damrosch (1832-1885) was born in Posen, Prussia and started learning the violin at age nine; however, he acquiesced to his parent’s wishes and completed his PhD in medicine at the University of Berlin, while continuing to study the violin and “thorough bass.”

He acquired fame as a performing violinist in Germany and was appointed by Franz Lizst as a solo-violinist in the Ducal orchestra.  Subsequently, Damrosch conducted  Philharmonic concerts in Breslau for three years.  

In 1871 Leopold took his family (including his two boys, Frank and Walter) to America at the invitation of the Arion Society in New York; he conducted at Steinway Hall in 1871, started the Oratorio Society of New York in 1873 and in 1877 established the Symphony society.  In 1884, he became the General Manager and chief conductor at the Metropolitan Opera until his death in 1885.

Walter Damrosch 1889 Portrait, American Composer

Walter Damrosch 1889

Walter Damrosch (1862-1950) was born in Breslau, Germany and studied under his father, Leopold, and then under Wilhelm Albert Rischbieter and Felix Draeseke at the Dresden Conservatory, before emigrating to the United States in 1871 with his family.  In 1884, he became assistant conductor under his father at the Metropolitan Opera.  Upon the death of Leopold Damrosch, Anton Seidl took over at the Met, and Walter was his assistant.  He took over his father’s role as conductor of the Oratorio Society and the Symphony society.  

He became NBC’s music director under David Sarnoff from 1928-1942 and hosted the network’s Music Appreciation Hour, a series of radio lectures on classic music aimed at students.  He was the long time director of the New York Symphony Orchestra and conducted the world premiere performances of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F (1925) and An American in Paris (1928).

Frank Damrosch, American Music Teacher and Conductor

Frank Damrosch

Frank Damrosch (1859-1937) was born in Breslau and studied music in Germany under Dionys Pruckner.  He continued his studies in New York under Ferdinand von Inten.  For a number of years, he was chorus master at the Met and was instrumental in founding the Musical Art Society of New York.  In 1898, he succeeded his brother, Walter, as conductor of the Oratorio Society, which he directed until 1912.  In 1905, he founded and became director of the New York Institute of Musical Art (now Juilliard).

In order to complete the circle of European musical training and immigration to America of European musicians, Seidl and the Damrosch brothers were instrumental in helping Herbert become a stellar cello soloist in New York.  Seidl also helped Herbert start his career as a conductor.