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Damrosch, Walter Johannes

Walter Johannes Damrosch, 1862–1950, German-American conductor and composer; son of Leopold Damrosch. At his father's death in 1885, he finished the season as conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, and conducted there with Anton Seidl until 1891. In 1894 he organized the Damrosch Opera Company, which introduced opera in many American cities. In 1900 he returned to the Metropolitan for two seasons. After a season with the New York Philharmonic, he conducted the New York Symphony. When the two orchestras merged, he stayed on as the director, leaving in 1927 to devote his time to radio broadcasting. His outstanding contribution in that field was his series of children's concerts during school hours. He also composed music for the theater and several operas, notably Cyrano de Bergerac (1913) and The Man Without a Country (1937).

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Damrosch, Walter (Johannes)

Damrosch, Walter (Johannes) (b Breslau, 1862; d NY, 1950). Ger.-born Amer. conductor and composer, younger son of Leopold Damrosch. Succeeded father as cond. NY Oratorio Soc. 1885–98 and ass. cond. Ger. opera, NY Met 1885–91. Cond. first concert perf. in USA of Parsifal, 1886. Formed and cond. Damrosch Opera Co. in NY 1894–9 when it disbanded. Toured USA performing mainly Wagner's operas. Returned to Met 1900–3. In 1903 reorganized NY Sym. Soc. as permanent orch., remaining cond. until merger with NYPO in 1928. Introduced many 20th-cent. works to USA and cond. f.ps. in USA of Bruckner's 3rd and Mahler's 4th syms. Comp. 4 operas, incl. The Scarlet Letter (1896) and Cyrano de Bergerac (1913); choral works incl. The Canterbury Pilgrims, and Dunkirk, bar., male ch., orch. (1943).

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Damrosch, Walter (Johannes)

Damrosch, Walter (Johannes)

Damrosch, Walter (Johannes) , distinguished German- American conductor, music educator, and composer, son of Leopold Damrosch and brother of Frank (Heino) Damrosch; b. Breslau, Jan. 30, 1862; d.N.Y, Dec. 22, 1950. He received lessons in piano and composition before going to N.Y. with his family in 1871, where he continued his music studies. During the 1884–85 season of the Metropolitan Opera, he served as his father’s assistant. When his father fell ill, he received some deathbed coaching from him and made his Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Tannhäuser on Feb. 11, 1885, just 4 days before his father succumbed. He remained on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera until 1891, and also served as his father’s successor as conductor of the Oratorio Soc. of N.Y (1885–98) and the Sym. Soc. of N.Y. (from 1885). In 1887 he pursued training in conducting with Biilow in Frankfurt am Main. In 1894 he founded the Damrosch Opera Co. inN.Y, which he conducted in performances of German operas until 1899, both there and in other major U.S. cities. From 1900 to 1902 he was again on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera. He was conductor of the N.Y. Phil, in 1902–03. After the reorganization of the Sym. Soc. of N.Y. in 1903, he was its conductor until it merged with the N.Y Phil, in 1928. In 1920 he conducted the Sym. Soc. of N.Y on a major tour of Europe. In 1912 he took over the sym. concerts for young people originally organized by his brother, and he also conducted young people’s concerts with the Sym. Soc. of N.Y. His interest in music education prompted him to use the medium of radio to further the cause of music appreciation; on Oct. 19, 1923, he conducted the Sym. Soc. of N.Y in its first radio broadcast from Carnegie Hall. In 1926 he inaugurated a regular series of radio broadcasts, which were later aired as the “NBC Music Appreciation Hour” throughout the U.S. and Canada from 1928 to 1942. He also served as musical counsel to NBC from 1927 to 1947. Damrosch conducted the U.S. premieres of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Sixth syms. as well as scores by Wagner, Mahler, and Elgar. He also conducted premieres of works by American composers, including Gershwin’s An American in Paris. He received honorary doctorates from Columbia Univ. (1914), Princeton Univ. (1929), N.Y.U. (1935) etc. In 1929 he was awarded the David Bispham medal. In 1932 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1938 he received the gold medal. His autobiography was publ. as My Musical Life (N.Y, 1923; 2nd ed., 1930).

Works

DRAMATIC Opera : The Scarlet Letter (Boston, Feb. 10, 1896); The Dove of Peace, comic opera (Philadelphia, Oct. 15, 1912); Cyrano de Bergerac (N.Y, Feb. 27, 1913; rev. 1939); The Man without a Country (May 12,1937); The Opera Cloak (N.Y, Nov. 3, 1942). Incidental Music To: Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis (Berkeley, 1915) and Medea (Berkeley, 1915); Sophocles’ Electra (N.Y., 1917). OTHER: Manila Te Deum (N.Y, 1898); An Abraham Lincoln Song for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1935); Dunkirk for Baritone, Men’s Chorus, and Chamber Orch. (NBC, May 2, 1943); chamber music; songs.

Bibliography

G. Damrosch Finletter, From the Top of the Stairs(Boston, 1946); F. Himmelein, W. D.: A Cultural Biography diss., Univ. of Va., 1972); M. Goodell, W. D. and his Contributions to Music Education (diss., Catholic Univ. of America, 1973); G. Martin, The D. Dynasty: America’s First Family of Music (N.Y., 1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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