About this Recording
8.559026 - 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."

Romany 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.

composed around 1892, was one of Herbert's earliest instrumen­tal hits. The music is fleet, lighthearted and wildly virtuosic.

Kiss in 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".

Art is Calling ("I 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 prima donnas.

Pan 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.

Al Fresco 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.

Moonbeams 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.

Italian 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 passion.

Kiss Me 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.

Cannibal Dance is another of Herbert's clever creations in the "characteristic" vein. The music speaks to the popular imagination in his usual humorous way.

When 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 treasured melodies.

The Royal 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.

Keith Brion

Virginia Croskery
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
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 Symphony.

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