American composer and conductor Bernard Maximillian Herrmann was born in New York City on 29 June 1911 into a middle-class Jewish family of Russian origin. Encouraged by his father, young Max Herrmann learnt violin and won a composition prize when he was thirteen. This persuaded him to concentrate on music, and he studied with Percy Grainger and Philip James at New York University.
At twenty he formed his own orchestra, and three years later he became a staff conductor for CBS. Two years after that he became music director of the experimental radio drama series Columbia Workshop, for which he wrote and arranged music. By the 1940s he was Chief Conductor of the CBS Symphony Orchestra. His broadcasts featured unknown music, old and new, including music by Charles Ives, Myaskovsky, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Richard Arnell, Edmund Rubbra, Niels Gade, Hermann Goetz and Alexander Gretchaninov. Also during the 1940s, Herrmann's own orchestral music was played by conductors such as Leopold Stokowski, Thomas Beecham and Eugene Ormandy.
Benny Herrmann was best known for his film, TV and radio drama music, and he worked with Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Harryhausen, Rod Serling, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese and François Truffaut.
By 1967 he was working almost exclusively in England, and he settled in London in 1971. It could have been during this period that Herrmann met Basil Ramsey, and they hatched a plan to start a new music publishing business - a plan which was partially thwarted by Herrmann's early death.
Bernard Herrmann died in the night in the early hours of 24 December 1975, aged sixty-four, in his hotel in Los Angeles, USA, apparently from a heart attack.
A selection of M&V articles about Bernard Herrmann
Dies Irae - George Colerick takes a look at secular and romantic uses of the old Latin hymn
An Invaluable Book - Gergely Hubai's 'Torn Music: Rejected film scores, a selected history', recommended by Patric Standford
Ensemble. A Splendid Violinist - Peter Fisher's 'Music from the Movies', enjoyed by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Spirited Playing - Matthew Coorey conducts Sinfonia Viva, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Intimate Mode - Quartets by Evans, Glass, Antheil and Herrmann, recommended by Howard Smith. '... wholly engaging ...'