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ClassicsOnline Home » HERBERT, V.: Beloved Songs and Classic Miniatures
Victor Herbert (1859-1924)
Beloved Songs and Classic Miniatures
Victor Herbert composed in every style of
music but he is perhaps best remembered today as the creator of delightful and
elegant songs. His wife to be, Therese Foster, was already an established
soprano in Germany in 1885 when Herbert, a cellist of the orchestra at
Stuttgart's Royal Court, first met her. In 1896, Therese was discovered by
Frank Damrosch, who was touring Europe to find fresh talent for the
Metropolitan Opera. Therese refused a contract, which she refused unless
Herbert was also offered a position in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Damrosch agreed. They were married in August 1896, and came to America that
fall. Therese was scheduled for many major performances. She was an immediate
success, and although she shortly retired from singing, it is not surprising,
given Herbert's prolific gifts as a composer and arranger, that many of his
finest efforts were the result of his collaborations with Therese and, by
extension, for the soprano voice. As he began writing for the musical theater
-some forty operettas and two operas - a variety of other well-known sopranos
became the vehicles for Herbert's gifts.
On arrival in New York, Herbert, with his
usual zeal, set about all kinds of activities. In addition to his opera duties,
he became active in chamber music and shortly established himself as a major
solo cellist, appearing first with the New York Philharmonic in 1887 and
numerous times thereafter. He even founded his own orchestra which was likely
modeled on his experiences in Vienna with the Eduard Strauss orchestra. The
"Victor Herbert Orchestra" performed a mixture of classics and other
light music. As the years passed, perhaps also in the manner of the Strauss
family, he created innumerable light compositions for the concerts of his
orchestra. His hand-picked ensemble soon achieved great fame and began touring
about the country.
The present release includes highlights from
Herbert's marvelous legacy for the soprano voice, as well as some of his most
popular lighter orchestral compositions.
Toyland is the title tune from Herbert's smash hit
and extravaganza, Babes in Toyland. One
critic aptly commented, "It will prove a perfect dream of delight to the
children, and will recall the happy days of childhood to those who are facing
the stern realities of life."
Life, as sung by
soprano Alice Nielsen, was a shows topper in Herbert's great 1898 success The Fortune Teller. This fiery portrayal
of a gypsy fortune teller, with its rich Magyar flavor, remains a hit today.
1892, was one of Herbert's earliest instrumental hits. The music is fleet,
lighthearted and wildly virtuosic.
the Dark appears in
one of Herbert's last shows, Orange Blossoms
of 1922, and was the hit of the show. It is sung by the lead Kitty
to her grandfather as she recalls an adventure in Deauville and the thrill of a
kiss from "a stranger in the dark".
want to be a Prima Donna") is found in The
Enchantress, one of Herbert's finest operettas. It opened in 1911.
Herbert thought this operetta might become his "masterpiece in every
way". Art is Calling is a
delightful, but very biting parody of the prototypical image of sopranos as
Americana was conceived
by Herbert for an engagement with his orchestra at the 1902 Pan-American
Exposition in Buffalo. Calling the work a morceau
caractéristique, he combined themes of three of the early founding
elements of the hemisphere: Indians, American ragtime and Latin music of a
Cuban-Spanish character. He predicted the music would be "of the more
popular order and will make a hit". It did. The three distinct styles
still live gracefully together.
Molly is an original of Herbert's but sounds like
a classic Irish folk song. Herbert was born in Dublin. Although he moved to
Germany at the age of seven, his romantic memories of his native land never
dimmed. Molly was composed in
1919 for the great Irish tenor, John McCormack.
is another of
Herbert's mercuric, piquant and sometimes romantic miniatures. Filled with
surprising contrast, he called it an intermezzo.
For up-to-date inspiration, he drew on the cakewalk rhythms then
sweeping the country. It was composed in 1903. The following year it was
included in Herbert's Broadway operetta It
Happened in Nordland.
was part of the
extended first act finale of The Red Mill. The
show opened in 1906 and was one of Herbert's greatest successes. The song is
atmospheric, touching and dramatically effective.
Street Song and Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life were both part
of Herbert's great hit with his 1910 operetta Naughty
Marietta. Italian Street Song is sparkling with Italianate verve. Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life, was one of
Herbert's most popular melodies ever. It expands with powerfully yearning
Again dates from
Herbert's 1905 operetta Mlle Modeste and
was penned for one of the great Herbert sopranos, Fritzie Scheff. This ever-so-slowly
gliding waltz was a personification of tender love.
Dance is another of
Herbert's clever creations in the "characteristic" vein. The music
speaks to the popular imagination in his usual humorous way.
You're Away first
appeared in the production of The Only Girl in
1914. This gentle romantic waltz song has become one of Herbert's most
Sec Polka carries
echoes of the great Strauss orchestra of Herbert's younger days. This humorous
polka is about the joy of drinking. 11 was probably composed during Herbert's
"classical career", when he was music director of the Pittsburgh
Symphony (1898-1903). Since the outgoing and gregarious Herbert loved to have a
good time, often inviting his players to join him for post-concert meals and
libations, both this lively polka and his fabulous parties with food and drink,
were doubtless very popular with his musicians.
The American soprano Virginia Croskery is
well known for her dramatic interpretations of twentieth century repertoire
and the music of Victor Herbert. She has performed Herbert selections with
numerous orchestras across the United States, including those of Cincinnati,
Minnesota, Milwaukee, Houston, Utah and Indianapolis. Her 1991 National
broadcast from Chicago's Grant Park featured Victor Herbert and was enjoyed by
over a million spectators. With the conductor Keith Brion and the New Sousa
Band she also introduced many of Herbert's songs to Japanese audiences in a
1996 tour of twelve cities. A frequent soloist in both concert and opera, she
has appeared with major orchestras and conductors of the greatest distinction
throughout America in a wide repertoire ranging from Schubert and Mozart to'
Berg and Kurt Weill. As a winner of the Third Luciano Pavarotti International
Voice Competition, she performed with Luciano Pavarotti in the Opera Company of
Philadelphia's 1989 production of L'elisir
d'amore. She also, appeared with the Broadway and National Tour
productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom
of the Opera. With degrees from Northwestern University, Virginia
Croskery is an alumna of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's prestigious Center for
American Artists and has studied with Virginia Zeani, Nicola RossiLemeni and
Margaret Harshaw. As grand prize winner of the 1986 Bel Canto' Opera Competition
she travelled to Italy to work with Carlo Bergonzi.
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra was
founded in 1929 as the first professional music ensemble to meet broadcasting
needs in Slovakia. The orchestra was first conducted by the Prague conductor
Frantisek Dyk and in the course of the past seventy years of its existence has
worked under the direction of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors.
Ondrej Lenárd was appointed its principal conductor in 1977 and a number of the
orchestra's successful performances abroad are connected with his name. When
Robert Stankovsky took over the orchestra in 1993, regular concert performances
followed, at home and abroad, with important recordings for the radio and for
foreign companies. The major recording partner of the orchestra remains HNH
International, the parent company of Naxos and Marco Polo, for which the
orchestra has so far recorded over 140 CDs. The orchestra has undertaken a
number of successful tours in Europe as well as in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong.
Keith Brion is a freelance conductor of
symphony orchestras and bands and is director of his own Victor Herbert
Orchestra and New Sousa Band. He is known internationally for his
specialization in the work of Victor Herbert, John Philip Sousa, Percy
Grainger, Alan Hovhaness and Charles Ives. He also appears in a variety of
other popular light music orchestral concerts. The music of Victor Herbert has
long been a feature of Keith Brion's concerts and he is involved in touring
with his Victor Herbert Orchestra, presented in cooperation with the Victor
Herbert Foundation. In 1993 he directed the world premiere of Herbert's A Vision of Columbus with the Columbus
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HERBERT, V.: Beloved Songs and Classic Miniatures