HERRMANN A Concert of English Music (1945) - PASC202

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HERRMANN A Concert of English Music (1945) - PASC202

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HANDEL Water Music Suite (arr. Harty)
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Concerto for Oboe and Strings in A minor
Falstaff, Op. 68

Recorded 1945
Total duration: 75:50

Mitch Miller, Oboe
The Columbia Broadcasting Symphony
conducted by Bernard Herrmann

This set contains the following albums:

A fabulous Falstaff; Mitch Miller shines in Vaughan Williams

Superb previously unissued live broadcast recording from Anglophile Herrmann

This fascinating recording comes from the archives of Edward Johnson. It dates from precisely one week after the surrender of Japan brought the Second World War to an end, and in Bernard Herrmann and Mitch Miller features two artists who would go on to become major names in their respective fields - Herrmann as a hugely successful and influential film composer, and Miller as one of the major movers and shakers in the music industry. Herrmann was a passionate Anglophile, which perhaps explains the programme here, and he and Miller had given the US première of Vaughan Williams' Oboe Concerto three months prior to this broadcast.

The present recording had previously been very well dubbed onto high quality 1/4" tape from what sound like excellent acetate discs for this era. For much of the recording the disc origin of the recording is hard to detect, with very little surface noise. However there are some areas where surface clicks and the occasional swish may be detected, though these have been kept to a minimum.

The recording is technically notable for its wide dynamic and frequency range, with a particularly well-extended treble for this era. I have retained announcements as broadcast, as well as including a short section of the start of the news broadcast, for historical interest.

Andrew Rose

  • HANDEL Water Music Suite (arr. Harty)
  • VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Concerto for Oboe and Strings in A minor
  • ELGAR Falstaff, Op. 68
    CBS Broadcast, Sunday 9th September 1945
    Introduced by Sidney Berry
    Brief extract from the news read by Bern Bennett

A CBS live radio broadcast, 9th September 1945, introduced by Sidney Berry, from the archive of Edward Johnson
Transfers and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, November 2009
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Bernard Herrmann

Total duration: 75:50


conducts English and American Music

The death of Bernard Herrmann on Christmas Eve, 1975, in Hollywood, deprived the film and music worlds of one of their most outspoken, colourful and talented personalities. It is true that his choleric personality and abrasiveness were not exactly endearing but in the words of one who was close to him, he was like a toffee-apple, all crusty on the outside and soft on the inside’.

Benny,” to his friends, was born in New York City in 1911 and showed an interest in music at an early age. After graduating he went to New York University and later became a student at the Juilliard School of Music. His career took a professional turn when he went to work for the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1933. He soon made his mark on their radio programmes, planning them in an unconventional way and featuring rarely heard music seldom played in public concert halls. One American composer whom Herrmann championed for many years was Charles Ives, several of whose works received their premieres under his direction.

Always an ardent anglophile, Herrmann presented a great deal of English music on the CBS network, introducing compositions by Vaughan Williams, Bax, Delius, Cyril Scott and many others. Indeed, when Herrmann became Conductor-in-Chief of the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in 1940, Baker’s Musical Dictionary noted that he was ‘probably responsible for introducing more new works to American radio audiences than any other conductor.’

By 1948 he had also earned a chapter in David Ewen’s Dictators of the Baton in which the author commented on Herrmann’s ‘lack of attention to detail’ but concluded: Whatever his faults as a conductor may be, it cannot be denied that he is a splendid musician, that he has an enthusiasm which is found contagiously in his performances, and that with his detestation of the stereotyped he has been one of the most invigorating influences in the radio music of the past two decades.'

Although he was busy championing the music of others, he did not neglect his own composing career and by the late 1940s several of his concert works had received notable performances. Barbirolli had conducted his Cantata Moby Dick with the New York Philharmonic in 1940 and his Symphony was performed by the same orchestra under Howard Barlow in 1942.That same year Beecham conducted the CBS Symphony in the suite Welles Raises Kane . The Devil and Daniel Webster Suite was given its concert premiere by Ormandy and his Philadelphians in 1944 and was taken up by Stokowski and the New York Philharmonic in 1949.

After the war, Herrmann made many guest appearances in British concert halls and in 1950 completed work on his most ambitious composition, the windswept lyric-drama Wuthering Heights . This was a project which had occupied him for three years and reflected his wide literary tastes.

In 1951 after the CBS Symphony Orchestra was disbanded, he spent more time in England, where he eventually settled. In 1956 he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in two broadcasts, one of which included the British premiere of Charles Ives’s Second Symphony ( PASC 232 ) and Elgar’s Falstaff , a particular Herrmann favourite. He considered it to be Elgar’s ‘supreme orchestral work’ and it was one that he also performed in his CBS days ( PASC 202 ).

As time went on his public appearances became less frequent, the last of them taking place at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1974, when he conducted the Royal Philharmonic in a Byron Commemoration Concert featuring music by Berlioz, Liszt, Richard Arnell and Elizabeth Maconchy.

Bernard Herrmann’s own concert works haven't really established themselves in the regular repertoire but his name is still kept firmly in the public eye by the many films for which he wrote the music. Quite a few of these appear on TV from time to time and there is no doubt that it was in this sphere of composition he was at his best. He was introduced to the world of motion picture music by Orson Welles, for whose Mercury Theatre Playhouse Herrmann had written background scores in his early CBS radio days. When Welles moved from broadcasting to the cinema he took his Mercury Theatre colleagues with him and made Citizen Kane . This was Herrmann’s first film music assignment and it set him on a second career which he pursued to the end of his life.

One of the most notable director/composer collaborations in cinema history began in 1955 when Bernard Herrmann wrote the score for The Trouble with Harry , the first of several Alfred Hitchcock films on which he was to work. His second Hitchcock film was a splendid remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much and included Herrmann’s only screen appearance. This occurs in the famous Albert Hall sequence marking the film’s climax and featured the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Arthur Benjamin’s Storm Clouds Cantata , the same music that had been heard in Hitchcock’s earlier version of the story in 1934.

Quite the most celebrated of Herrmann’s film scores, however, is the one he wrote for Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960. Using a large string orchestra and employing every trick in the string-player’s book he complemented the hard black-and-white images with a similarly monochrome score. His music for the shower murder, with its frenzied bird-like shrieks from the violins, was something quite new in movie music history and has been much imitated ever since.

His break with Hitchcock came after Marnie , owing to the studio’s insistence that in common with the then-current vogue in film music, all movies should have a hit-parade “pop” tune to help sell the picture. Herrmann demurred and instead wrote a dramatic score that Hitchcock completely rejected. The resulting break in their relationship caused others to provide the scores for Hitchcock's subsequent films. As it happens, these did not match Herrmann’s for memorability, nor were they especially helpful in box-office terms.

The lucrative profession of writing music for the movies undoubtedly helped to finance the recording of Wuthering Heights which Bernard Herrmann undertook in 1966 and which began yet another phase in his career – a considerable amount of work in the recording studios. He not only recorded much of his own concert hall music but also suites and excerpts from a number of his film scores. Sadly, however, there was a general slowing down of tempi in his final years due to increasing ill-health. Even so, many of his later recordings, both on Unicorn and in Decca's 'Phase-4 Stereo' series, were well-received. In particular, his concert suite from The Three Worlds of Gulliver is one of the most enjoyable scores he ever wrote, whilst his championship of other composers’ film music - notably Shostakovich's Hamlet and Constant Lambert’s Anna Karenina - was rewarded by excellent performances.

As an advocate of the lesser-known works of infrequently performed composers, he must have been pleased at the reception given to his recording of Raff’s Lenore Symphony . In Records and Recording , Geoffrey Crankshaw wrote that 'the whole work is replete with vitality and Bernard Herrmann conducts it with immense zest, giving it a tremendous performance which is matched by a superb recording.’

The two CDs issued by Pristine, from studio broadcasts which feature Herrmann's championship of English and American music respectively, each have the 'zest and vitality' that characterises the best of his commercial recordings. In his MusicWeb International review of each CD on their initial release, Rob Barnett wrote that Herrmann's was a 'very fine reading' of the Ives 2nd Symphony and he also found much to enjoy in Robert Russell Bennett's Violin Concerto: 'Tuneful, jazzy, a touch of Broadway here, a slice of Walton there.'

He was equally taken with the all-English collection, noting that soloist Mitch Miller's contribution to the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto was 'dignified and forthright.' He also praised Herrmann's performance of Elgar's Falstaff : 'Moods, episodes and interludes are vividly painted and character leaps out at the listener. Elgarians must hear this.' In these two compendiums, Herrmann enthusiastically championed the music of composers he specially admired, so they would surely be welcome additions to any collections that feature his own celebrated movie music.

Edward Johnson

Abridged and adapted from "Bernard Herrmann: Hollywood's Music Dramatist" (Triad Press: published 1977)