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HERBERT, Victor  (1859-1924)

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Herbert, Victor (August), famous Irish-born American composer; b. Dublin, Feb. 1, 1859; d. N.Y., May 26, 1924. He was a grandson of Samuel Lover, the Irish novelist; his father died when he was an infant; his mother married a German physician and settled in Stuttgart (1867), taking the boy with her. He entered the Stuttgart high school, but did not graduate; his musical ability was definitely pronounced by then, and he selected the cello as his instrument, taking lessons from Bernhard Cossmann in Baden-Baden. He soon acquired a degree of technical proficiency that enabled him to take a position as cellist in various orchs. in Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland; in 1880 he became a cellist of the Eduard Strauss waltz band in Vienna; in 1881, he returned to Stuttgart, where he joined the Court Orch., and studied composition with Max Seifritz at the Cons. His earliest works were for cello with orch.; he performed his Suite with the Stuttgart orch. on Oct. 23, 1883, and his 1st Cello Concerto on Dec. 8, 1885. On Aug. 14, 1886, he married the Viennese opera singer Therese FŲrster (1861ó1927); in the same year she received an offer to join the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y., and Herbert was engaged as an orch. cellist there, appearing in N.Y. also as a soloist (played his own Cello Concerto with the N.Y. Phil., Dec. 10, 1887). In his early years in N.Y., Herbert was overshadowed by the celebrity of his wife, but soon he developed energetic activities on his own, forming an entertainment orch. which he conducted in a repertoire of light music; he also participated in chamber music concerts; was a soloist with the Theodore Thomas and Seidl orchs. He was the conductor of the Boston Festival Orch. in 1891; Tchaikovsky conducted this orch. in Philadelphia in a miscellaneous program, and Herbert played a solo. He was associate conductor of the Worcester Festival (1889ó91), for which he wrote a dramatic cantata, The Captive (Sept. 24, 1891). In 1893 he became bandmaster of the famous 22nd Regiment Band, succeeding P.S. Gilmore. On March 10, 1894, he was soloist with the N.Y. Phil. in his 2nd Cello Concerto. In the same year, at the suggestion of William MacDonald, the manager of the Boston Ideal Opera Co., Herbert wrote a light opera, Prince Ananias, which was produced with encouraging success to N.Y. (Nov. 20, 1894). From 1898 to 1904, Herbert was conductor of the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch., presenting some of his own compositions: Episodes amoureuses (Feb. 2, 1900); Hero and Leander (Jan. 18, 1901); Woodland Fancies (Dec. 6,1901); Columbus (Jan. 2, 1903). In 1900 he directed at Madison Square Garden, N.Y., an orch. of 420 performers for the benefit of the sufferers in the Galveston flood. On April 29, 1906, he led a similar monster concert at the Hippodrome for the victims of the San Francisco earthquake. In 1904 he organized the Victor Herbert N.Y. Orch., and gave concerts in N.Y. and neighboring communities.
But it is as a composer of light operas that Herbert became chiefly known. In the best of these he unites spontaneous melody, sparkling rhythm, and simple but tasteful harmony; his experience as a symphonic composer and conductor imparted a solidity of texture to his writing that placed him far above the many gifted amateurs in this field. Furthermore, he possessed a natural communicative power in his music, which made his operettas spectacularly successful with the public. In the domain of grand opera, he was not so fortunate. When the production of his 1st grand opera, Natoma, took place in Philadelphia on Feb. 25,1911, it aroused great expectations; but the opera failed to sustain lasting interest. Still less effective was his 2nd opera, Madeleine, staged by the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. on Jan. 24, 1914. Herbert was one of the founders of ASCAP in 1914, and was vice-president from that date until his death. In 1916 he wrote a special score for the motion picture The Fall of a Nation, in synchronization with the screenplay.
Works:          Operas: Prince Ananias (N.Y., Nov. 20, 1894);
The Wizard of the Nile (Chicago, Sept. 26, 1895); The Gold
Bug (N.Y., Sept. 21, 1896); The Serenade (Cleveland, Feb.
17, 1897); The Idolís Eye (Troy, N.Y., Sept. 20, 1897); The
Fortune Teller (Toronto, Sept. 14, 1898); Cyrano de Bergerac
(Montreal, Sept. 11, 1899); The Singing Girl (Montreal, Oct.
2,1899); The Ameer (Scranton, Pa., Oct. 9, 1899); The Viceroy
(San Francisco, Feb. 12, 1900); Babes in Toyland (Chicago,
June 17, 1903); Babette (Washington, D.C., Nov. 9,1903); It
Happened in Nordland (Harrisburg, Pa., Nov. 21,1904); Miss
Dolly Dollars (Rochester, N.Y., Aug. 31, 1905); Wonderland
(Buffalo, Sept. 14,1905); MIle. Modiste (Trenton, Oct. 7,1905); Ti
The Red Mill (Buffalo, Sept. 3, 1906); Dream City (N.Y., Dec.
25, 1906); The Tattooed Man (Baltimore, Feb. 11, 1907); The
Rose of Algeria (Wilkes-Bane, Sept. 11, 1909); Little Nemo Z
(Philadelphia, Sept. 28, 1908); The Prima Donna (Chicago,
Oct. 5,1908); Old Dutch (Wilkes-Bane, Nov. 6,1909); Naughty
Marzetta (Syracuse, Oct. 24,1910); When Sweet 16(Springfield, I
Mass., Dec. 5,1910); MIle. Rosita (later called The Duchess; Ti
Boston, March 27,1911); The Enchantress (Washington, D.C.,
Oct. 9,1911); The Lady of the Slipper (Philadelphia, Oct. 8,
1912); The Madcap Duchess (Rochester, N.Y., Oct. 13, 1913);
Sweethearts (Baltimore, March 24, 1913); The Debutante (Atlantic City, Sept. 21, 1914); The Only Girl (Atlantic City, Oct.
1,1914); Princess Pat (Atlantic City, Aug. 23, 1915); Eileen
(Cleveland, Jan. 1, 1917, as Hearts of Erin); Her Regiment
(Springfield, Mass., Oct. 22, 1917); The Velvet Lady (Philadelphia, Dec. 23, 1918); My Golden Girl (Stamford, Conn., Dec.
19, 1919); The Girl in the Spotlight (Stamford, Conn., July 7,
1920); Oui, Madame (Philadelphia, March 22, 1920); Orange
Blossoms (Philadelphia, Sept. 4, 1922); The Dream Girl (New a
Haven, April 22, 1924). Operas: Natoma (Philadelphia, Feb.
25, 1911) and Madeleine (Metropolitan Opera, N.Y., Jan. 24,
1914). Other stage productions: Cinderella Man (1915); The
Century Girl (1916); Ziegfeld Follies (1917; 1920-23); The
Willow Plate, marionette play by Tony Sarg (1924). Non-stage
works: Serenade, op. 12; 1st Cello Concerto (Stuttgart, Dec.
8,1885); 2nd Cello Concerto, op. 30 (N.Y. March 10, 1894);
Pan-Americana; Suite of Serenades (composed for Paul White-
manís arch.; perf. 1924); Golden Days; Dramatic Overture;
orch. arrangements; menís choruses; songs; many pieces for
piano, violin and piano, and cello and piano.