Lot 202
Sold for £4,320 (US$ 7,261) inc. premium
Lot Details
BERNARD HERRMANN Music and Film: Scores, manuscripts and books sold on behalf of Norma Herrmann
Series of eighteen letters to his fellow composer Bernard Herrmann, one signed ("Chas. E. Ives"), the others as drafted by Ives himself for his wife Harmony and daughter Edith to write in their own names, the texts of thirteen written and signed by Harmony (one signed as "Charles and Harmony Ives", the rest signed in her name alone), the texts of four written and signed by Edith (two signed as "Edith Ives for Charles Ives", the rest signed in her name alone); together with a postscript in Harmony's hand, a photocopy of another letter, and an envelope by Harmony, over 50 pages, the first on a Christmas card view of Florence, minor staple-stains, filing-holes or slight spotting but overall in good condition, folio and 8vo, Taormina, West Redding, Connecticut, and New York, Christmas 1932 to June 1946


  • "YOU INSTINCTIVELY SENSE THE INNATE SOMETHING BENEATH THE MUSIC, UP FROM WHICH IT COMES": A REMARKABLE SERIES OF LETTERS BY IVES TO BERNARD HERRMANN. Early in his career, and before achieving world-wide fame as a composer of music for the cinema, Herrmann had been a member of the Young Composers' Group who played an important part in championing Ives's music which, in the 1930s, was still little largely unperformed and unknown: "Of the eight members of the Young Composers' Group, only Herrmann and Jerome Moross actually knew Ives personally in 1932-1933. The two young men had accidentally discovered Ives's privately printed music in the latter 1920s, and Herrmann had made contact with Ives on his own at that time... It was these two young composers who helped to direct Copland's attention to 114 Songs in the early 1930s. Ives liked Herrmann and Moross, and both of them admired and performed his music. Herrmann, in particular, was strongly influenced by the aesthetic judgments of the Essays before a Sonata; and he devoted a great deal of effort to the promulgation of Ives's work. Having assembled a chamber orchestra, he conducted in 1933 the first public performance of the third movement from Ives's Fourth Symphony... He continued to perform this fugue, later adding the Prelude (first movement). Herrmann worked for the Columbia Broadcasting System for many years, and during the 1930s and 1940s he was responsible for the broadcast of a number of Ives's compositions... The tributes that were paid to Ives and his music by these young composers were an important part of the Ives legend. That legend grew mightily among the avant-garde in 1932 and 1933, and it has since reached gigantic proportions" (Frank R. Rossiter, Charles Ives and his America, 1976, p.248). In 1932 Herrmann published his well-known essay declaring that "The music of Charles Ives is a fundamental expression of America - the America of the transcendental period, - of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whittier. It is of New England - the New England of granite puritanism seen through a musical mind unique and extraordinary. His music reveals a brooding introspective and profoundly philosophic temperament, tempered by keen observation of man and nature./ Ives is now close to seventy - he has written over 200 works, in all forms. Of these, not one has been played by any of our large symphony orchestras, and aside from a handful of specialists and musical cranks, even his name is unknown in so-called musical circles" ('Charles Ives' in Trend: A Quarterly of the Seven Arts 1, no.3, September-October-November 1932).

    The present series is typical of Ives's correspondence in that the great majority of his letters were written and signed by either his wife Harmony or daughter Edith. A hand-tremor and poor eyesight made it hard for Ives to write. Edith explains matters thus in her letter of December 1932: "Daddy is better but his hands shake when he writes, & it makes him mad, so I'm doing it for him"; and Harmony in her letter of 18 July 1936: "Mr. Ives can use his eyes very little - I regret to say he has cataracts forming due to a diabetic condition". But this was not the whole truth. Ives was in fact able to write without too much difficulty if he used a pencil (which allowed greater pressure to be applied to the notepad and so minimize the tremor), and he normally drafted letters in this way, which he would then hand on to either Harmony or Edith to copy out, sign and send. Tom C. Owens describes the process: "When Ives sketched, he wrote in the voice of the person who would be drafting the final copy - usually his wife, Harmony, or their daughter, Edith. He referred to himself in the third person, and enclosed direct statements in quotation marks. Many such letter begin, 'I am ----,' an abbreviated version of 'I am writing for Mr. Ives, who is not at all well, and cannot attend to things nowadays as he would like to.' The effect of this opening, usually in letters transcribed and signed by Harmony but composed by Ives, is one of mediation and distancing: she is the buffer between Ives and the recipient of the letter, a buffer required ostensibly because of his poor health. In this mediated correspondence, Ives developed exaggerated characters for all the participants. Edith remained childlike and innocent, even after she had married and had a child. Harmony was always polite and reserved, friendly but proper. And Ives himself became the often ill and always reclusive, crotchety New Englander... even prominent figures such as Aaron Copland and important performer's of Ives's music such as Radiana Pazmor, never met Ives in person. To them he existed entirely as a figure embodied in his music and the letters they received from Harmony. Almost none of them knew the extent to which these letters were in fact written by him" (Selected Correspondence of Charles Ives, 2007, p.2). (In this context, it is worth reiterating that, as the letters make clear, Herrmann and Ives met and made music together on several occasions). It is perhaps significant that the only one of the present letters signed by Ives in person is the one praising Herrmann's "natural, strong-moving and spontaneous" music "inspired by something bigger than nice designs on paper which seems to be the basis of too much music". The tremulous signature shows that this gesture was not lightly made.

    These letters, extraordinary enough in their musical insights and richness of detail, become all the more remarkable when one is aware that it is Ives himself who is speaking. Take for example the letter of 18 July 1936 acknowledging the dedication of Herrmann's Symphony: "Your very kind and interesting letter was greatly appreciated by both Mr. Ives & myself. I will say for my part that it is a great pleasure to have the quality & content of his music admired and noted. So many have spoken of the rhythms & make up of it but it is his greatness of spirit that makes it what it is./ Mr. Ives hasn't been feeling as well this Summer as we had hoped & has been feeling rather helpless & useless and your letter did him good./ To have a symphony dedicated to one is really an honor Mr. Ives feels and he is very glad to be the recipient of a dedication from you - but, he says he admires your courage as you know as well as he that the dedication will prejudice some conductors & give them an excuse for not playing your music so you had better think about that". After describing Ives's cataracts and promising to send Herrmann some music, Harmony continues "Mr. Ives has composed nothing for ten years or more. He says he has tried to but couldn't get 'sailing' so had to stop. He also says 'the Emerson movement of the 2nd Sonata started as a kind of sketch for orchestra with piano - but was not completed as such. There are a few pages of this left but they're hard to make out - probably not worth bothering with'".

    Much of this correspondence is taken up with discussion of Ives's orchestral music, most especially his 2nd and 3rd Symphonies. Not only did Herrmann make his pioneering performance of the Fugue from the 2nd, but he supervised the transcripts being prepared by Carl Pagan of both: "As Mr Ives remembers, one of the things especially referred to was part of the last movement - mostly the second theme, which, he says 'is a kind of a reflection of Stephen Foster & the old barn dance fiddling over it - underneath it a Stars & Stripes shout occasionally - This was mostly from an old piece which was played 50 years ago by a small brass band & fiddlers'. He remembers the fine programme notes you wrote for the Fugue in the 4th Symphony, when you conducted it several years ago.../...he is afraid in the parts which are usually transposed, the Horns in F trumpets & clarinets in Bb only the actual notes are in this old score & possibly in the viola braces the bass or treble clefs were used - Mostly he says because he used to play over his scores many times on the piano in this way often getting in more readily most all of the notes in the orchestral parts. There was a measure or two at the end very end of the last movement, he says, left out of the score which should go back - just a strain of the 'Colombia' tune in the trombones & then a trumpet suggesting a few notes of the 'Reveillé' or 'To Arms'. He thinks he played this over for you a few years ago & that this old ending which was in the old 'overture' was copied down in lead pencil at the end of the copy you have.../...In the 3rd Symphony hardly more than two or three notes, he says, which were wrong - He wants to know if the Double Bassoon as in the last movement is now used? - Also he says in that movement at least towards the end a snare drum was played with the other drums but apparently isn't in this score.../...Of the early symphonies you ask about only the First is in good legible copy. The 2nd & 3rd were copied out in ink but the copies have been lost. Mr. Ives will be gad to show you the MSS. or to have photostats made when we are in N.Y. The same may be said of the Thanksgiving Day movement of the 'Holiday Symphony'".

    Other works covered by these letters include the New England Holidays symphony ("...In the coda of the Decoration Day, father says there is a strain of Reeve's glorious 2nd Connecticut Quickstep which was played by the town bands throughout New England for a generation or so after the Civil War..."), the 'War Song March', Herrmann's arrangement for string orchestra of the 1st Quartet, and his orchestration of 'Charlie Rutlage' ("...Mr. Ives has received a letter from Mr. Mordecai Bauman asking if 'Charlie Rutlage' is or could be arranged for voice & symphony orchestra as he wants to sing it at a symphony concert in New York in December. It has never been so arranged & Mr. Ives, who as you know cannot undertake these things nowadays on account of his eyesight, wonders if you would be willing to do it... As he remembers, a part, or at least passages in the middle section were suggested by an earlier score for Brass band - 'A runaway horse on Main St.'... The first & last pages for the most part might be a kind of strumming accompaniment by strings alone - Mr Ives remembers getting a kind of a banjo effect by having one half of the strings pizz. & the other half separate short bows. A low timpani or two might beat time with the basso as a kind of Indian tom-tom (Mr. Ives had a cousin who lived on a cowboy ranch some 40 years ago who said the cowboys nearly always had an Indian tom-tom beating when they sang & usually some banjos.) The middle section, the runaway horse part, would be for full orchestra & plenty of drums - a piccolo or Eb clarinet might play the cowboy yelling song - 'Whoopee to yi yo' etc..."). Nor did Herrmann confine his advocacy to America ("...He wants to confirm some of the items on the Memorandum Edith took from you over the phone, that she is not quite sure she heard correctly. - She had R. Warren Williams -- is that not Vaughn [sic] Williams?... There are no duplicate copies here of the Concord Sonata & the book of 114 Songs... Mr. Ives says that he deeply appreciates your saying a good word for his music in England - he says you are 'a good boy - a courageous & generous one'...").

    Above all, the abiding impression imparted by this correspondence is one of heartfelt gratitude towards the younger composer: "Mr Ives wants me to say that he 'thanks you from the bottom of his heart for all you have done and that the generosity is all on your side' He says 'It doesn't strike me as particularly generous to fill up another man's shelves with MSS. but to stand up for another man's work, especially when there is a good chance of getting a moving brick for his trouble - now that's not only generous but courageous!'.../... Isn't it joyful that his music is being appreciated so enthusiastically? He says it is to a great extent due to the fine help you have been to it; in playing & in writing in its behalf". Most moving of all, perhaps, is a letter that invokes not just the shade of Ives's father, but that of Leonard Bacon, author of the words sung at the transcendent ending of the New England Holidays symphony: "We have just received the copy of 'Modern Music' with your fine article in it ['The Symphonies of Charles Ives'] & I have just read it to Mr. Ives. He was so deeply moved by it -- & I was too - that it is hard to find words to express our feelings./ He says 'you instinctively sense the innate something beneath the music, up from which it comes.' and he says you reached his own father's heart & that he sends you his 'God bless you' & that he himself joins in his father's thanks as do Currer & Ives! - also he says 'your kindly insight into the old hymns & old lives around them is worthy of Leonard Bacon' - He hopes you are having time for you own composing".

    Two of these letters, those dating from Christmas 1932 and 6 October 1938, are published, from Ives's drafts, in the Selected Correspondence, pp.198 and 267; others are quoted by Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America and Smith, A Heart at Fire's Center. Photocopies were deposited with the Charles Ives Papers at the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University, in 1971, were they are kept with Ives's drafts and Herrmann's letters to Ives (folder 30/4). We can find record of only one letter by Ives - of uncertain status (described as a third person AL) - listed by American Book Prices Current as having been sold at auction, at the Hamilton Galleries on 29 July 1976.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that lots 201 and 202 are exactly as they appear in the catalogue, and not as they previously appeared on the website.
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