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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 1 February 1859Dublin, Ireland
Date of Death 24 May 1924New York City, New York, USA

Mini Bio (1)

Every professional recording artist today owes their livelihood to some degree to Victor Herbert. Working closely with John Philip Sousa, Irving Berlin and others, he was the driving force in founding the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) on February 13, 1914. He became its vice-president and director until his death in 1924. The organization has historically worked to protect the rights of creative musicians and continues to do this work today. In 1917, Herbert won a landmark lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court that gave composers, through ASCAP, a right to charge performance fees for the public performance of their music. Herbert was born in Dublin, Ireland to Protestants Edward Herbert (d. 1861) and Fanny Herbert (née Lover). At age three and a half, shortly after the death of his father, young Herbert and his mother moved to live with his maternal grandparents in London, England, where he received encouragement in his creative endeavours. His grandfather was the Irish novelist, playwright, poet and composer Samuel Lover. The Lovers welcomed a steady flow of musicians, writers and artists to their home. Herbert joined his mother in Stuttgart, Germany in 1867, a year after she had married a German physician, Carl Schmidt of Langenargen. In Stuttgart, he received a strong liberal education at the Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium, which included musical training. Herbert had ambitions to become a physician himself, but medical education in Germany was prohibitively expensive and he fell back on his first real interest as a child, music. Initially studying the piano, flute and piccolo, he ultimately settled on the cello, beginning studies on that instrument with Bernhard Cossmann from age 15 to 18. Herbert then attended the Stuttgart Conservatory. After studying cello, music theory and composition under Max Seifritz, Herbert graduated with a diploma in 1879. He was engaged professionally as a player in concerts in Stuttgart. His first orchestra position was as a flute and piccolo player, but he soon turned solely to the cello. By the time he was 19, Herbert had received engagements as a soloist with several major German orchestras. He played in the orchestra of the wealthy Russian Baron Paul von Derwies for a few years and, in 1880, was a soloist for a year in the orchestra of Eduard Strauss in Vienna. Herbert joined the court orchestra in Stuttgart in 1881, where he remained for the next five years. There he composed his first pieces of instrumental music, playing the solos in the premieres of his first two large-scale works, the Suite for cello and orchestra, Op. 3 (1893) and the Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 8. In 1883, Herbert was selected by Johannes Brahms to play in a chamber orchestra for the celebration of the life of Franz Liszt, then 72 years old, near Zurich. In 1885 Herbert became romantically involved with Therese Förster (1861-1927), a soprano who had recently joined the court opera for which the court orchestra played. Förster sang several leading roles at the Stuttgart Opera in 1885 through the summer of 1886. After a year of courtship, the couple married on August 14, 1886. On October 24, 1886, they moved to the United States, as they both had been hired by Walter Damrosch and Anton Seidl to join the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Herbert was engaged as the opera orchestra's principal cellist, and Förster was engaged to sing principal roles with the Met. During the voyage to America, Herbert and his wife became friends with their fellow passenger and future conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, Anton Seidl, and other singers joining the Met.

Herbert was a prolific composer, producing two operas, one cantata, 43 operettas, incidental music to 10 stage productions, 31 compositions for orchestra, nine band compositions, nine cello compositions, five violin compositions with piano or orchestra, 22 piano compositions, one flute and clarinet duet with orchestra, numerous songs, including many for the Ziegfeld Follies, and other works, 12 choral compositions, and numerous orchestrations of works by other composers, among other compositions. Some of his best-known works were created for Broadway working with the even more prolific librettist Harry B. Smith. Many of his Broadway productions, such as The Red Mill (1906), Sweethearts (1913), Sally (1920) and Orange Blossoms (1921) were major hits, while others, such as When Sweet Sixteen (1911) were financial disasters. Herbert also composed The Fall of a Nation (1916), one of the first original orchestral scores for a full-length film (a credit often erroneously given to Max Steiner while working for Radio Pictures in the 1930's). The score was thought to be lost, but it turned up in the film-music collection of the Library of Congress. It was given a recording in 1987. During the last years of his career, was frequently asked to compose ballet music for the elaborate production numbers in Broadway revues and the shows of Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, among others. Throughout his career he was regarded as extremely unpretentious and supportive of his peers. He was also a contributor to the Ziegfeld Follies every year from 1917 to 1924 (see 'Other Works').

As a composer, Herbert is chiefly remembered for his operettas. Of his instrumental works, only a few remained consistently within the concert repertoire after Herbert's death in 1924. However, some of his forgotten works have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity within the last few decades. A statue of him commissioned by ASCAP, by sculptor Edmund Thomas Quinn (1868-1929) was dedicated in 1927 still stands in New York City's Central Park.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet

Spouse (1)

Therese Förster (14 August 1886 - 24 May 1924) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (7)

Pictured on the 3¢ US postage stamp in the Famous Americans/Composers series, issued 13 May 1940.
The first great figure in American musical theatre, Herbert is famous for his catchy, tuneful operettas, which are neither as Viennese as Sigmund Romberg's or Franz Lehár's nor as American as musicals were later to become in the hands of Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers. He wrote the music for such shows as "The Fortune Teller", "The Red Mill", "Naughty Marietta", "Eileen" and "Babes in Toyland". His shows have been neglected for quite a long time and seldom presented in their original forms, although currently (c.1999-) the Ohio Light Opera is reviving many of them and recording them complete for the very first time ever, with all their original orchestrations. None of Herbert's operettas have ever been filmed exactly as he wrote them, although "Naughty Marietta" became a famous Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald MGM film (Naughty Marietta (1935)), and "Babes in Toyland" was filmed at least twice, once with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (Babes in Toyland (1934)) and once with Ray Bolger and Annette Funicello (Babes in Toyland (1961)). Although Herbert came to seem dreadfully old-fashioned to many, his operetta "The Red Mill" was revived in 1945, and enjoyed an amazingly long run (nearly two years), though the show was then 39 years old and the dialogue was hopelessly outdated.
Therese Förster, his wife, was a prima donna with the Metropolitan Opera Company.
Among his most famous songs (music only) and instrumental compositions are "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life", "Toyland", "March of the Toys", "I Can't Do the Sum", "Italian Street Song", "I'm Falling in Love with Someone", "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp", "'Neath the Southern Moon", and "In Old New York".
Died of heart failure in his doctor's waiting room.
A founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1914.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

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