At age three and a half, shortly after the death of his father, Victor moved to live with his grandparents in Kent, England, where he received encouragement in his creative endeavours. His grandfather was the Irish novelist, playwright and composer Samuel Lover. He re-joined his mother in Stuttgart in 1867, where his mother remarried a physician, Carl Schmidt of Langenargen, Germany, and his music was put on hold until a relatively late age. Herbert received his early musical training with Max Seifriz at the Stuttgart Conservatory in 1876, where he developed into an outstanding cellist. He played cello in the orchestra of Johann Strauss in Vienna. Herbert married the Viennese soprano Therese Förster in 1886, and the couple soon came to the United States in 1886 (when he was 27 years old) when his wife was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera Company.
Herbert began his career in America playing the cello in the Met orchestra. Madame Herbert-Förster sang the title role in the Met's first production of Verdi's Aida. The couple had two children, Ella and Gilbert. In 1892, Victor Herbert exhibited another side of his musical life when he became conductor of the 22nd Regimental Band of the New York National Guard, succeeding the great Patrick Gilmore; the following year he took over leadership of Gilmore’s civilian band following Gilmore’s death. Herbert conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1898 until 1902, building that orchestra into a major American ensemble, with tours to major cities, including New York and Chicago, where his Auditorium Festival March celebrated the twelfth anniversary of Chicago's Auditorium Theatre in 1901, designed by Louis Sullivan.
Six years later, Herbert founded the Victor Herbert Orchestra and conducted programs of light orchestral music on tours and at summer resorts for many years. His orchestra made a series of acoustical recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company and Herbert was a cello soloist in several Victor recordings as well. Among other works, Herbert composed two operas, Natoma and Madeleine, one cantata, 43 operettas, incidental music to 10 stage productions of others including several of the Ziegfeld Follies, 31 compositions for orchestra including the Auditorium Festival March (1901), nine band compositions, nine cello compositions and five violin compositions with piano or orchestra, 22 piano compositions, one flute and clarinet duet with orchestra, 54 songs not including those from other works, 12 choral compositions, and numerous orchestrations of works by other composers. In 1894, Herbert composed the first of his operettas, Prince Ananias, which was soon followed by the successful The Wizard of the Nile, The Serenade and The Fortune Teller. Starting in 1903, Babes in Toyland, Mlle. Modiste, The Red Mill, Naughty Marietta, and other successes made him one of the best-known figures in American music.
He finally realized his long-standing intention to compose an Irish operetta, Eileen, produced in 1917. Herbert's last operetta was The Dream Girl in 1924. A number of these Herbert operettas are still performed and recorded today by light opera companies, as well as occasionally by the larger opera companies. Herbert's first opera Natoma debuted in Philadelphia on February 25, 1911 and in New York on February 28, 1911. It starred Mary Garden in the title role and the young Irish tenor John McCormack in his opera debut, creating the role of the American seaman, Paul. His short opera Madeleine was produced at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914. Antonín Dvořák claimed to have been inspired to write his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, Op.
104 (1894-1895) after hearing Herbert's 1894 Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 30. Herbert's concerto has been recorded by cellists such as Yo-Yo Ma (with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic), Julian Lloyd Webber (with Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Symphony Orchestra), and an early rare recording by Bernard Greenhouse (with Max Schönherr and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra), adding weight to Herbert's reputation as an under appreciated composer of his era. In the early years of the twentieth century, Herbert championed the right of composers to profit from their work and worked closely with John Philip Sousa, Irving Berlin, and others in founding, on February 13, 1914, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), the organization that even today protects the rights of creative musicians.
Herbert served as the organization's vice president for a decade. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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