Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Remembering Composer Bernard Herrmann

The composer best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock would have been 100 today. Jim Fusilli in the Wall Street Journal: "Bernard Herrmann may be best known for his memorable contributions to classic films, including his rousing overture to North by Northwest, the shower scene in Psycho, the romantic themes of Vertigo, the eerie electronic music in The Day the Earth Stood Still and the desolate blues of Taxi Driver

He might have preferred to be celebrated for his opera Wuthering Heights, symphonies and cantatas such as Moby Dick, and other concert works. According to the film composer John Williams, Herrmann's greatest ambition was to be recognized as a conductor. Nonetheless, Herrmann's lasting legacy remains his work in the entertainment industry… No other composer so consistently enriched the audience's understanding of a character's emotional and psychological state."

"His life had the dramatic arc of a great 20th-century maestro: expulsion from Juilliard, expulsion from Juilliard, works commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, major awards, an underappreciated symphony, friendship with Charles Ives, a feud with Leonard Bernstein." Brian Gittis conducts an experiment and reports on the results for the Paris Review: "I loaded two scores, Psycho and Vertigo, onto my iPod and tried them out as personal sound tracks for wandering around New York."

More from David Mermelstein (Washington Post) and Benjamin Ivry (Forward). There'll be a few events here and there to mark the centenary; see the Bernard Herrmann Society for details, appreciations and more. The Estate has more on Herrmann's life. You might, too, flip through CBS's "Bernard Herrmann at 100" photo gallery while listening to the Herrmann channel on

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