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Virgil Thomson Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (5)  | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (3)

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Died in New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameVirgil Garnett Thomson

Mini Bio (1)

One of the driving forces, both as critic and musician, of 20th century American music, Thomson studied music at both Harvard University and elsewhere in the Boston area before moving to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger in 1921. After spending a short time in his native land, he returned to Paris and remained there until 1940, working with many of the major composers, writers, and artists of the period, most significantly Gertrude Stein, with whom he wrote the opera "Four Saints in Three Acts" (1927-28). Upon returning to the US, Thomson became the music critic for the NY Herald-Tribune, earning himself a Pulitzer Prize in Music for his score for the film Louisiana Story (1948). Hated by many in the music world for his acerbic criticism, Thomson nevertheless won numerous accolades, including the Legion d'honneur (1947) and the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement (1983).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: <anthony-adam@tamu.edu>

Trivia (5)

Always ready to demolish popular classical music "idols," Thomson was famous for his withering criticisms of conductor Arturo Toscanini, pianist Vladimir Horowitz, violinist Jascha Heifetz, and composer George Gershwin, whose opera "Porgy and Bess" he termed "fake folklore." He earned the undying enmity of Toscanini for his reviews.
Was one of the famous artistic habitues who resided at New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel, where documentary-film pioneer Robert Flaherty - whose Louisiana Story (1948) Thomson scored - also kept an office.
Largely because he was himself a composer, Thomson took conductor Arturo Toscanini severely to task for supposedly not devoting enough attention to twentieth century music.
He was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1988 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington, DC.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives." Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 830-832. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

Personal Quotes (1)

[on 'Porgy and Bess'] A libretto that should never have been accepted on a subject that should never have been chosen [by] a man who should never have attempted it.. Folklore subjects recounted by an outsider are only valid as long as the folk in question is unable to speak for itself, which is certainly not true of the American Negro in 1935.

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