The Great Composer You May Not Know

The Great Composer You May Not Know

If you know the films of Alfred Hitchcock, you have heard the music of Bernard Herrmann. His scores for Psycho, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, and other great movies, by Hitchcock and others, are masterful and compelling.

I knew that much about Herrmann, and then I read Steven C. Smith’s fine biography and realized I had only scratched the surface.

Herrmann, a wonderfully idealistic and grumpy man, was in fact a great American composer, to be considered alongside Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ives, and Samuel Barber.

He was the quintessential film composer, but before that he was the busiest and best composer for the Golden Age of Radio, co-creating audio masterpieces with Orson Welles. Herrmann said that movies and radio drama were mosaics, in which music played a crucial, complementary role. He often added that his music was the glue holding those mosaics together.

Throughout his career, Herrmann composed pieces for the concert stage, which are little-known but stunning, such as his opera Wuthering Heights and his magnificent Clarinet Quintet, considered by some the finest chamber work by an American.

Meet Bernard Herrmann, courtesy of Steven C. Smith, and then listen to his music. You will thank me.

A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann

Psycho Suite for Orchestra

Clarinet Quintet: Souvenirs de Voyage, Movement 1


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