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RICHARD ADDINSELL – Fathers of Film Music, Part 16

July 4, 2016 Leave a comment

Richard AddinsellArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 13 January 1904, London, England.
Died: 14 November 1977.

Richard Stewart Addinsell was the youngest of two sons born to business accountant Arthur Addinsell and his wife, Annie Beatrice Richards. His mother was so possessive and protective of young Richard that he was kept from public school and instead educated at home. Although fascinated by music, he was enrolled by his family at Hertford School, Oxford to pursue a degree in Law. He found his studies uninspiring and after two terms left, never to return. On his own initiative, he enrolled in the Royal College of Music, where he hoped to pursue his true passion – music. Yet he was not a good student and soon left the college to express his talent in the real world. In 1926 he began collaborating with writer Noel Grey, writing songs for the Andre Charlot revue to support himself. This led to travel to the continent where he visited the major musical and theatrical cultural centers of the day, including Berlin and Vienna. By chance he came to meet singers Gertrude Lawrence and Clemence Dane, with whom he began a fruitful collaboration, which led to success theatrically. He collaborated with Dane to provide incidental music for Adam’s Opera in 1929, and then in 1932 an Eva Le Gallienne adaptation of the Lewis Carroll’s alice in Wonderland tale. These successes were fortuitous in that their notoriety opened an amazing door – film work. Read more…

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NINO ROTA – Fathers of Film Music, Part 15

May 1, 2016 Leave a comment

Nino RotaArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 3 December 1911, Milan, Italy.
Died: 10 April 1979.

Giovanni Rota was born to Emesta Rinaldi and Ercole Rota in Milan in the northern Italian province of Lombardy. He was blessed with the gift of a musical family, as his mother was an accomplished pianist. She took the reigns of nurturing his nascent talent, tutoring him on the piano. It became apparent to her very early on that Nino was gifted, and so he was enrolled in the Conservatory of Milan, where he studied under the auspices of Giacomo Orefice and Ildebrando Pizzetti. By the early age of twelve Nino, as he was nicknamed, had already gained the reputation as a child prodigy. His first concert work, the oratorio L’Infanzia di San Giovanni Battista (1923), which remarkably he had composed four years earlier, was warmly received in both Milan and Paris, For his next concert piece, he composed the fairy opera Il Principe Porcaro (1926), which was also well received. These successes carried him to Rome, where he studied under Alfredo Casella at the Academia di Santa Cecilia. In 1930, after just three years, he received his diploma in piano and composition. Read more…

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BRONISLAU KAPER – Fathers of Film Music, Part 14

March 1, 2016 Leave a comment

Bronislau KaperArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 5 February 1902 Warsaw, Poland.
Died: 26 April 1983.

Bronislau Kaper was of Jewish heritage, and at the very early age six took up the piano, soon demonstrating a remarkable musical talent. His family realized that he was a child prodigy and so enrolled him in the prestigious Chopin Music School to cultivate and refine his gift. By time of his teens he had blossomed creatively and was already writing original compositions. Although his heart was drawn to music, in deference to his father’s wishes he began studies in Law at Warsaw University. Yet, soon after he returned to his true love, and enrolled in the Warsaw Conservatory where he studied composition and piano.

Upon graduating Kaper relocated to Berlin, then a culturally vibrant metropolis, which abounded with countless theaters and cabarets. There he joined many aspiring artists from Eastern Europe, all seeking to make a mark on a world stage. He spent the 1920s and early 1930s working as a song composer for film and cabaret, and gained an increasing notoriety. Read more…

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WILLIAM WALTON – Fathers of Film Music, Part 13

November 1, 2015 Leave a comment

William WaltonArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 29 March 1902, Oldham, England.
Died: 8 March 1983.

William Turner Walton was born into a musical family of Charles Alexander Walton and Louisa Maria Turner in the English mill town of Oldham in Lancashire, the second son in a family of three boys and a girl. His father was a trained musician who studied under Charles Hallé at the Royal Manchester College of Music. He supported the family as a singing teacher, church organist and choirmaster. His mother before marriage had been a professional singer. William’s musical gift manifested when he was a young boy, taking up both the piano and violin with vigor, although he never truly mastered either instrument. He had however his mother’s gift and was more successful as a singer in his father’s choir. In 1912 at the age of ten his exceptional voice earned him a place at the Christ Church Cathedral Choir School in Oxford. The school’s Dean, Dr. Thomas Strong, cultivated his progress, and by age twelve William was composing choral works, songs and organ music. During his Oxford years Walton came under the influence of Hugh Allen, the dominant figure in Oxford’s musical life who made a lasting impression. Allen introduced Walton to a tableau of modern music, which included the works of Stravinsky, Debussy, Sibelius and Roussel. Although at 16 he was one of the youngest to ever enter Oxford, he regretfully failed after four years to achieve his BA. While he passed his musical examinations with ease, he failed the Greek and algebra courses required for graduation. Read more…

JEROME MOROSS – Fathers of Film Music, Part 12

September 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Jerome MorossArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 1 August 1913, New York City, New York
Died: 25 July 1983

Jerome Moross was born in Brooklyn, the second of three sons of a family of Jewish émigrés from Russia. Although his parents were not musicians, it became clear very early that he was gifted. He began playing the piano by age five and composing pieces by the age of eight. His parents recognized his talent and enrolled him in the DeWitt Clinton High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. It was here that young Jerome would first meet and strike up a lifelong friendship with Bernard Herrmann, who was two years his senior. Although Herrmann struggled with his studies, Moross possessed a keen intellect and advanced academically at a phenomenal rate, gaining promotions four times. He graduated from high school at the age of 14 – a most impressive achievement. Moross and Herrmann both had an affinity for the avant-garde modernist music that was burgeoning in the 1920s, and they pursued it together. In time they formed a trio with Hermann’s young brother, Louis, who played the cello, and they made a modest living, securing paying engagements around town. Read more…

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HERBERT STOTHART – Fathers of Film Music, Part 11

July 1, 2015 1 comment

Herbert StothartArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 11 September 1885, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Died: 1 February 1949.

Herbert Stothart was born of Scottish and German ancestry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1885. He studied at Milwaukee Normal School with a curriculum tailored to prepare him for an academic career as a teacher of history. He helped pay for his education by working as a theatre usher, which also elicited a lifelong fascination with movies. It came to pass that he joined an Episcopal Church choir, which kindled a fervent love of music. When he entered the University of Wisconsin, he continued on this path by composing and conducting musicals for the Haresfoot Dramatic Club. His exposure to the musical arts and his extracurricular activities staging school musicals ignited in Stothart a lifelong passion for music, which would now dominate his life. His hard work paid off when one of his productions, “Manicure Shop”, was successfully staged professionally in Chicago, which opened opportunities for further musical studies in Europe. Once this occurred his career path was firmly set, and he returned to America, securing full-time employment as a composer for vaudeville and New York musical theatre. Read more…

DAVID RAKSIN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 10

May 1, 2015 Leave a comment

David RaksinArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 4 August 1912, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Died: 9 August 2004.

David Raksin was of Russian Jewish heritage; the eldest of three sons born in Philadelphia after his parents had emigrated to America. He was blessed with a musical family as his father Isidore played the clarinet professionally while also writing and conducting music for silent films. Isidore encouraged his son’s nascent talents and instructed him in both the piano and woodwinds. Well, young David was a quick study and by age twelve he had formed his own dance band, which he later expanded for broadcasting on the local CBS radio station, WCAU. During high school his talent earned him steady employment playing the clarinet for professional dance bands. Remarkably, he taught himself orchestration and received a bona fide Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. Upon graduation he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania to study composition under Harl McDonald. He paid for his education by playing in society bands and radio orchestras. He also both arranged and conducted the first programs of improvised jazz at football games, for which he won several prizes. Read more…

HUGO FRIEDHOFER – Fathers of Film Music, Part 9

April 1, 2015 1 comment

Hugo FriedhoferArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 3 May 1901, San Francisco, California.
Died: 17 May 1981.

Hugo Wilhelm Friedhofer was born in San Francisco into a musical family, his father being an accomplished cellist who trained in Dresden, Germany. His musical gifts surfaced early and he began playing the cello in earnest at the age of 13. He was not fond of school and so quit at 16, obtaining work as an office boy. In his teen years both music and art competed for his affections, and it was not until the age of 18 that he finally decided to pursue music for a career. He enrolled in night classes at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco, and then later studied harmony and counterpoint at Berkeley, where he gained employment as a cellist for the People’s Symphony Orchestra. Read more…

VICTOR YOUNG – Fathers of Film Music, Part 8

February 1, 2015 5 comments

Victor YoungArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 8 August 1899, Chicago, Illinois
Died: 10 November 1956

Victor Young’s early life was not an ordinary one by any measure. He was born of Jewish heritage into a family with musical talent; his father William being a successful tenor in Joseph Sheehan’s touring Opera Company. Sadly, following the untimely death of his mother in 1909, Young and his sister Helen were abandoned by their father. Undeterred, he and his sister embarked on a truly remarkable journey that would take them back to their family’s ancestral homeland of Poland, then a dominion of the Russian Empire, where their grandparents lived. Young’s grandparents were ecstatic at their return and lovingly raised them as their own. Victor’s musical gift was recognized quickly and his grandfather provided him with a violin, which he began playing in earnest at the age of ten. Young quickly mastered the instrument by the age of thirteen and gained acclaim as a prodigy. His grandfather fostered his education, enrolling him in the prestigious Warsaw Imperial Conservatory where he would study the violin under Isador Lotto, achieving the Diploma of Merit. Additional studies in Paris included study of the piano under the tutelage of Isidor Philipp. Read more…

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BERNARD HERRMANN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 7

December 1, 2014 1 comment

Bernard HerrmannArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 29 July 1911, New York, New York.
Died: 24 December 1975

“Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields. See how these names are feted by the waving grass, and by the streamers of white cloud, and whispers of wind in the listening sky… The names of those who in their lives fought for life, who wore at their hearts the fire’s center. ”

Herrmann carried this excerpt from a poem by Stephen Spender in his wallet his entire life. Within its words are found the burning nexus of this remarkable man.

Bernard Herrmann was born in New York City, the first of three children by Abraham and Ida Herrmann, one of many Jewish families that fled the Tsarist Russian pogroms of the 1880s. His father inculcated Bernard with a love and appreciation of the arts, taking him to the opera as well as having him tutored in the violin. His artistic gift manifested early when he won a composition prize at the age of thirteen. He decided early in life to concentrate on music and so after high school enrolled at New York University. Read more…

MIKLÓS RÓZSA – Fathers of Film Music, Part 6

November 1, 2014 2 comments

Miklós RózsaArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 18 April 1907, Budapest, Hungary.
Died: 27 July 1995

Miklós Rózsa was born to upper class parents who resided in Budapest during the waning years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His mother, Regina Berkovits, was an accomplished pianist who had studied with pupils of Franz Liszt, while his father, Gyula, was a prominent industrialist. Both had a love for classical music, traditional folk songs and instilled in Miklós a love of music. His maternal uncle Lajos Berkovits, an accomplished violinist with the Budapest Opera, presented him with his first instrument, a violin at the age of five. Rózsa began formal study under Lajos Berkovits (a pupil of Hubay), which also included training with both the viola and piano. By age eight he was already composing original works and performing in public, which included a movement from a Mozart violin concerto where he dressed as Mozart, and also as conductor of a children’s orchestra where he turned in a splendid performance of Haydn’s Toy Symphony. Read more…

FRANZ WAXMAN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 5

October 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Franz WaxmanArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 24 December 1906, Königshütte, Germany.
Died: 24 February 1967

Franz Wachsmann was born of Jewish ancestry in the city of Königshütte in Germany (now Chorzów, Poland). He was the youngest of eight children and suffered permanent impairment to his eyes from a scolding water accident in the kitchen at age three. Very early on Franz revealed a natural gift for the piano, but his development was stymied by his father, a salesman in the steel industry, who preferred that he pursue a more traditional career. As such young Franz became a bank teller and used his meager earnings to support his piano lessons.

Waxman was determined to pursue music and so in 1923, at age 16, he enrolled in the Dresden Music Academy where he studied composition and conducting. His success playing popular music on piano allowed him the means further advance his education by later enrolling in the prestigious Berlin Conservatory. During his work as a pianist with a dance band called the Weintraub Syncopaters, he met lifelong friend Frederick Hollander, who introduced him to Bruno Walter, one of the preeminent conductors of the age. Waxman’s career momentum began to build as he gained notoriety as an orchestrator for the German film industry. He got his first break to score Hollander’s film for the Marlene Dietrich “The Blue Angel” (1930). But a dark pall was descending upon German society and later that year Waxman suffered a severe beating by Nazi sympathizers in Berlin that led him to flee Germany with his wife to Paris. Read more…

DIMITRI TIOMKIN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 4

September 1, 2014 1 comment

Dimitri TiomkinArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 10 May 1894, Kremenchuk, Ukraine.
Died: 11 November 1979.

Dimitri Zinovich Tiomkin was born in Kremenchuk, Ukraine during the wanning years of the imperial Russian Empire. His mother Marie was a music teacher who nurtured his nascent talent as a pianist and his father Zinovie, was a physician. At the urging of his wife, Zinovie enrolled Dimitri in the prestigious St. Petersburg Conservatory, which was overseen by renowned Russian composer Alexander Glazunov. Tiomkin’s native gifts allowed him to quickly gain prominence as a solo pianist under the tutelage of Felix Blumenfeld and Isabelle Vengerova.

The early 20th century was a rich time for music and the arts in Russia and Tiomkin would often visit the “Homeless Dog” café where he would enjoy the company of other rising artists such as fellow student Serge Prokofiev and dancer Mikhail Fokine. The café offered Tiomkin his first exposure to American ragtime, blues and jazz. The seeds of these experiences would later blossom; helping him lay the foundation of his American film music career. To supplement his income Tiomkin would provide piano accompaniment to Russian and French silent films as well as army post tours, which featured the prima ballerina Thamar Karsavina. Read more…

ALFRED NEWMAN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 3

August 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Alfred NewmanArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 17 March 1900, New Haven, Connecticut.
Died: 17 February 1970

Alfred Newman is remembered as one of the Titans of film music. Indeed the Newman family has collectively gained recognition as one of the most gifted ever to grace the recording studios of Hollywood. His two younger brothers, Emil and Lionel, were both composers, as are his sons David, Thomas and his nephew Randy. The Newman family legacy is nothing short of remarkable.

Alfred was born humbly of Jewish ancestry, the eldest of ten children. He quickly revealed an appetite for music and we are thankful that his mother, despite their poverty, somehow managed at age six, to secure him piano lessons for 25 cents a session. Everyday Alfred would walk the ten-mile round trip to practice on a neighbor’s piano. It became apparent early on that he was a prodigy and that his gift required tutelage beyond the skills of this local piano teacher. Read more…

ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD – Fathers of Film Music, Part 2

June 1, 2014 1 comment

Erich Wolfgang KorngoldArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 29 May 1897, Brünn, Moravia.
Died: 29 November 1957

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was born of Jewish ancestry in the city of Brünn located in the province of Moravia, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (and is now Brno in the Czech Republic). He was the second son of renowned music critic Julius Korngold and his wife Josephine. His innate musical gifts manifested early when he played his Cantata “Gold” for composer Gustav Mahler, who was so impressed that he declared him a musical genius. When at age 11 his ballet “Der Schneemann” premiered at the Vienna Court Opera house for Emperor Franz Josef his destiny was set. His parents chose to act on Mahler’s recommendations and enrolled Erich to study under the auspices of Alexander von Zemlinsky and Robert Fuchs. To support his education Korngold made live recordings for player piano rolls, some of which survive today. Read more…