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The Early Musical Career of Bernard Herrmann and Analysis of His Chamber Work Prelude to 'Anathema'

Joshua Patrick Cutting, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Bernard Herrmann is one of the most prolific composers of film scores in American music. From Citizen Kane (1941) to Taxi Driver (1975) Herrmann composed fifty-one scores for cinema. Before he was writing for film, a young Bernard Herrmann was in the middle of the American Modernist movement in music. He was one of the earliest champions of Charles Ives, a disciple of Aaron Copland, and a student of Percy Grainger. He was a charter member of the Young Composers Group, aspiring New York City musicians whose mission was to find and promote American contemporary music, independent from the European tradition. Herrmann’s aspirations of establishing himself as a professional conductor and composer led him to forming the New Chamber Orchestra in 1933, and the first professional performance of his music, a chamber orchestra piece entitled Prelude to “Anathema.” This document details the early musical life of Bernard Herrmann leading up to the formation and performance of the New Chamber Orchestra, and an analysis of his premier work Prelude to “Anathema.” Two performances of the piece were given, one on May 17, 1933, and the other on October 16, 1933, at the New School auditorium. After those performances, it was never performed again or published. The analysis is taken from the original score in Herrmann’s own script. There is also comparative analysis with four of his other works, his first published concert work – Sinfonietta for Strings (1936), and selections from his works for film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960). Additional materials include a music software copy of the complete score to Prelude to “Anathema,” and program pages from the performances of the New Chamber Orchestra.

Subject Area

Music|Music theory

Recommended Citation

Cutting, Joshua Patrick, "The Early Musical Career of Bernard Herrmann and Analysis of His Chamber Work Prelude to 'Anathema'" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29167915.