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In 1908, he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and one year later, helped to formulate American copyright law. He was an active fighter for composers' legal rights. Herbert's testimony before Congress had great impact upon the American copyright law of 1909 that secured royalties for composers on the sales of sound recordings. In 1914 he was one of the founders of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), of which he remained a vice-president and director until his death. In 1917 he won a landmark case that had been carried as far as the Supreme Court. Composers were granted the right to collect fees for public performances of their works, through ASCAP.

Although Herbert's instrumental music fell out of favour after his death, it has begun to reappear both in the concert hall, and on recordings. The Second 'Cello Concerto, in E minor however, has always held its place in the repertoire. This work, with its connected movements and thematic transformation, is modelled upon Liszt's concertos. Enjoying an immediate success with the public, it inspired Dvorák, who knew Herbert well, to compose his 'Cello Concerto in B minor. Shortly before his death, Brahms read Herbert's score. He spoke of the regret he then felt at not having written a major work for the 'cello. He added that he had not previously realised how excellent the instrument could be in a solo capacity.

A Suite of Serenades was his last work to be premièred. It was included in the famous Aeolian Hall concert, Experiment in Modern Music, which took place on 12 February 1924. The evening has been best remembered for Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which also received its first performance. Herbert died suddenly of a heart attack three months later, shortly after his final show The Dream Girl began its pre-Broadway run in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Copyright © 22 March 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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