Damrosch, Walter


Famed conductor & composer, premiered Gershwin’s “American in Paris”, led US premiere of Wagner’s “Parsifal”, etc.



Condition: Very Good
Description: (1862-1950) German-American conductor and composer best remembered today as long-time director of the New York Symphony Orchestra and for conducting the world premiere performances Gershwin’s “Piano Concerto in F” (1925) and his “American in Paris” (1928). He was also instrumental in the founding of Carnegie Hall and conducted the world premiere of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto” with Rachmaninoff as soloist.

His mother was an opera singer and his father and brother were conductors. He was instructed by his father in harmony and also studied at the Dresden Conservatory. He emigrated to the US with his parents in 1871. During the great May 1881 music festival given by his father, he first acted as a conductor at 19. In 1884, when his father performed all-German opera at the Metropolitan Opera, he was made an assistant conductor. After his father’s death in 1885, he held the same post under Anton Seidl and also became conductor of the Oratorio and Symphony Societies in New York. In 1890, he married the daughter of presidential candidate James G. Blaine.

Damrosch was best known as a conductor of Wagner, and In 1894 founded the Damrosch Opera Company to perform Wagner’s works. He was a pioneer in the radio performance of music and became a chief US popularizer of classical music. At the request of General Pershing, he reorganized the AEF bands in 1918. One of his principal achievements was the March 1886 successful US premiere performance of “Parsifal”, perhaps the most difficult of Wagner’s operas, by the Oratorio and Symphony societies. Carl Goldmark’s opera “Merlin” was premiered in 1887 in the US under his direction at the Met. Opera.

Before his radio broadcasts Damrosch was equally well known as a composer. He composed operas based on stories such as “The Scarlet Letter” (1896), “Cyrano” (1913), and “The Man Without a Country” (1937), very seldom performed now. He also wrote music for performances of Euripides and Sophocles dramatic works and such songs such as the intensely dramatic “Danny Deever”.

Damrosch was NBC’s music director under David Sarnoff, and hosted NBC’s “Music Appreciation Hour”, a popular radio lecture series on classic music for students. (The show was broadcast during school hours, teachers provided with textbooks and worksheets by NBC.) Although Damrosch took an interest in music technologies, he recorded sporadically. Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center is named in honor of his family.

Frameable 3 x 4 1/4 signed slip, New York, February 25, 1892.

Type: Signature

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