Taylor, (Joseph) Deems

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Taylor, (Joseph) Deems

Taylor, (Joseph) Deems, greatly popular American composer and writer on music; b. N. Y., Dec. 22, 1885; d. there, July 3, 1966. He graduated from N.Y.U. (B.A., 1906); studied harmony and counterpoint with Oscar Coon (1908-11). After doing editorial work for various publishers and serving as war correspondent for the N.Y. Tribune in France (1916-17), he was music critic for the N.Y. World (1921-25), ed. of Musical America (1927-29), and music critic for the N.Y. American (1931-32). He was an opera commentator for NBC (from 1931); was intermission commentator for the N.Y. Phil. national broadcasts (1936-43); also served as director (1933-66) and president (1942-48) of ASCAR In 1924 he was elected a member of the National Inst. of Arts and Letters and in 1935 of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1967 the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award was created in his memory for honoring outstanding writings on music. Following the success of his orch. suite Through the Looking-Glass, after Lewis Carroll’s tale (1923), he was commissioned by Walter Damrosch to compose a symphonic poem, Jürgen (1925). Meanwhile, 2 widely performed cantatas, The Chambered Nautilus and The Highwayman, had added to his growing reputation, which received a strong impetus when his opera The Kings Henchman, to a libretto by Edna St. Vincent Millay and commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, was premiered in that house on Feb. 17, 1927. Receiving 14 performances in 3 seasons, it established a record for American opera at the Metropolitan Opera, but it was surpassed by Taylor’s next opera, Peter Ibbetson (Feb. 7, 1931); this attained 16 performances in 4 seasons. These successes, however, proved ephemeral, and the operas were allowed to lapse into unmerited desuetude.

Works

dramatic: Opera: The King’s Henchman (1926; N.Y., Feb. 17, 1927); Peter Ibbetson (1929-30; N.Y., Feb. 7, 1931); Ramuntcho (Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1942); The Dragon (N.Y., Feb. 6, 1958). Other: Cap’n Kidd & Co., comic opera (1908); The Echo, musical play (1909); The Breath of Scandal, operetta (1916); incidental music. ORCH.: The Siren Song, symphonic poem (1912; N.Y., July 18, 1922); Through the Looking- Glass for Chamber Orch. (1917-19; N.Y., Feb. 18, 1919; for Full Orch., 1921-22; N.Y., March 10, 1923); Jürgen, symphonic poem (N.Y., Nov. 19, 1925; rev. 1926 and 1929); Circus Day for Jazz Orch. (1925; orchestrated by F. Grofé for Full Orch., 1933); Marco Takes a Walk (N.Y., Nov. 14, 1942); A Christmas Overture (N.Y., Dec. 23, 1943); Elegy (1944; Los Angeles, Jan. 4, 1945); Restoration Suite (Indianapolis, Nov. 18, 1950). CHAMBER: The Portrait of a Lady, rhapsody for 10 Instruments (1919); piano pieces. VOCAL: The Chambered Nautilus, cantata for Chorus and Orch. (1914); The Highwayman, cantata for Baritone, Mixed Voices, and Orch. (1914); song cycles; solo songs.

Writings

(all publ. in N.Y): Of Men and Music (1937); The Well Tempered Listener (1940); Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940); ed., A Treasury of Gilbert and Sullivan (1941); Music to My Ears (1949); Some Enchanted Evenings: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein (1953).

Bibliography

J. Howard, D. T (N.Y., 1927; 2nd ed., 1940).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Taylor, (Joseph) Deems

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Taylor, (Joseph) Deems (b NY, 1885; d NY, 1966). Amer. composer, critic, and author. Mus. critic, New York World 1921–5. Orch. works well received; commissioned by NY Met to write opera The King's Henchman (1926–7), this being followed by Peter Ibbetson (1930–1). Became mus. adviser to CBS 1936 and well-known for narrations of NY Met broadcasts and NYPO concerts. Spoke narration in Disney's Fantasia. Popular orch. works incl. Through the Looking Glass (1922) and Marco Takes a Walk (1942).