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By the time of his premature death in December 1975, Bernard Herrmann was a well-known figure on the London musical scene, both as a composer with a formidable list of major works to his name, and as a conductor, the role in which he first made his mark, and in which he gave the most tangible proof of his great interest in British music. He was born in 1911 in New York, and studied composition with Bernard Wagenaar of the Juilliard School. At New York University his teachers included Philip James and Percy Grainger whose enquiring and enterprising attitude made a great impression on the young student composer. In 1931 he founded the New Chamber Orchestra of New York, which he conducted until he was appointed staff conductor of the Columbia Broadcasting System three years later. He became conductor-in-chief of the CBS Symphony Orchestra in 1940, a post he held for fifteen years, and appeared regularly with many American orchestras. It was during this period that he attracted attention through the very large number of British compositions he introduced to the American public. His compositions of the 1930s and 1940s made a great impact and earned him something of a reputation for being the enfant terrible of American music. Although perhaps best known for his film scores, particularly through his association with Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Wells, he also wrote a number of important concert, operatic and chamber works. Wuthering Heights (1950), an opera in four acts, was first performed in 1982 in the States by Portland Opera, and the choral cantata for male voices Moby Dick (1938) received its premiere with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. A Portrait of Hitch (1968), a short orchestral piece dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock, is based on music written for the film The Trouble with Harry. Active to the end despite poor health, at the time of his death Herrmann was writing a new film score and making plans for several gramophone recordings.
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