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Bernstein, Leonard (25 August 1918–14 October 1990), conductor and composer, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Bernstein, a supplier of barber and beauty products, and Jenny Resnick. He began to pursue musical activities with abandon at about the age of ten and as a teen performed in classical and popular venues, including staged operettas with friends, as a jazz pianist at parties, as piano soloist with the Boston Public School Orchestra, and by playing light classics on the radio for thirteen weeks in 1934. Bernstein’s consuming interest in music was not encouraged by his father, but he never seriously considered another career. In 1939 he received a B.A. cum laude in music from Harvard University, where his teachers included Heinrich Gebhard, ...

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Chávez, Carlos (13 June 1899–02 August 1978), influential Mexican composer/conductor, author, and educator, of Spanish and some Indian descent, was born Carlos Antonio de Padua Chávez y Ramírez in Mexico City, the seventh son of Augustin Chávez, an inventor, and Juvencia Ramírez, a teacher. His mother supported the children after her husband’s death in 1902. Chávez began his musical studies at an early age and studied piano, first with his elder brother Manuel, then with Asunción Parra, and later with composer and pianist Manuel M. Ponce (1910–1914) and pianist and teacher Pedro Luis Ogazón (1915–1920). Chávez credited Ogazón with introducing him to the best classical and Romantic music and with developing his musical taste and technical formation. He received little formal training in composition, concentrating instead on the piano, analysis of musical scores, and orchestration. Chávez’s maternal grandfather was Indian, and from the time Chávez was five or six his family frequently vacationed in the ancient city-state of Tlaxcala, the home of a tribe that opposed the Aztecs. He later visited such diverse Indian centers as Puebla, Jalisco, Nayarit, and Michoacan in pursuit of Indian culture, which proved a significant influence on his early works....

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Dixon, Dean (10 January 1915–04 November 1976), orchestra conductor, was born Charles Dean Dixon in New York City, the son of Henry Charles Dixon, a lawyer and hotel porter, and McClara Dean Ralston. Both of Dixon’s parents were West Indian—his mother was born in Barbados and his father in Jamaica. Because more than two decades elapsed before his parents secured their U.S. passports, according to Dixon, “[T]here is a lot of legal questioning as to whether I am an American or whether I only have an American passport. Both [of] my parents were Commonwealth citizens when I was born” (Dunbar, pp. 189–90)....

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Gould, Morton (10 December 1913–21 February 1996), composer and conductor, was born in Queens, New York, to James Gould, a real estate agent, and Frances Arkin Gould. His parents had immigrated to America as children, his father from Vienna, his mother from Russia. He grew up in Queens and remained a resident of that borough for the rest of his life, living as an adult in Great Neck, only a few miles from his childhood home....

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Hamlisch, Marvin Frederick (02 June 1944–06 August 2012), composer, songwriter, and conductor, was born in New York City, the son of Lilly Schachter and Max Hamlisch, a musician. His Austrian Jewish parents had very narrowly escaped the Nazis, reluctantly leaving Vienna and arriving in America in 1937, poor and hampered by their inability to speak English fluently. By the age of three, his father recognized the small boy’s musical gifts, and at the age of six, Marvin was enrolled in the Preparatory Division at the Juilliard School of Music in Manhattan, where he was the youngest student ever accepted. He possessed perfect pitch and the ability to re-create on the piano, in any key, any music he heard. As a scholarship student, each year brought dreaded recitals and the audition to retain the scholarship, which he compared to facing a firing squad. By the age of ten, the decidedly anxious prodigy was swallowing Maalox and chewing antacids for what would eventually become a well-earned bleeding ulcer. Already young Marvin had realized, definitively, that he would not become an acclaimed classical pianist. Instead, thrilled by such diverse musicals as ...

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Herbert, Victor (01 February 1859–26 May 1924), composer and conductor, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Edward Herbert, a businessman, and Fanny Lover. When he was three years old, his father died in Paris, and he was taken by his mother to the estate of his maternal grandfather, the Irish poet and novelist Samuel Lover, in Kent, England. Lover noticed his grandson’s obvious aptitude for music and determined that he should have a musical education. Accordingly, at age seven young Victor was taken to Germany for musical training. He studied in Leipzig, Munich, and Berlin and developed exceptional proficiency on the cello....

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Iturbi, José (28 November 1895–28 June 1980), pianist and conductor, was born in Valencia, Spain, the son of Ricardo Iturbi, a gas company employee who supplemented his income tuning pianos, and Teresa Baguena, an opera singer. His musical talent became apparent at an early age. Iturbi entered the Escuela de Musica de Maria Jordan when he was five and by age seven was earning money by giving lessons himself and performing in silent movie theaters, at balls, and at recitals. He entered the Conservatorio de Musica in Valencia and also studied privately under Joaquin Malats. Citizens of his hometown raised donations to send the young Iturbi to the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris to complete his studies, where he worked under the tutelage of Staub. After graduating with first honors, Iturbi moved to Zurich and earned money playing in a fashionable café. There he attracted the notice of the director of the Geneva Conservatory, who immediately hired Iturbi to be head of the conservatory’s piano department. In June 1916 Iturbi was married to Maria Giner, who died soon after the birth of their daughter, Maria....

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Klemperer, Otto (14 May 1885–06 July 1973), conductor, was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), the son of Nathan Klemperer, a businessman, and Ida Nathan. Both parents were musical, and Otto’s mother began giving him piano lessons when he was four years old. That same year, 1889, the family moved to Hamburg, where ...

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Koussevitzky, Serge (26 July 1874–04 June 1951), double-bass virtuoso and conductor, was born Sergei Aleksandrovich Kusevitskii in Vishny-Volotchok, Tver (now Kalinin), Russia, the son of Alexander Koussevitzkii and Anna Barabeitchik. Both of his parents were musical; his mother was a pianist and his father, a ...

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Leginska, Ethel (13 April 1886–26 February 1970), concert pianist, conductor, and composer, was born Ethel Liggins in Hull, Yorkshire, England, the daughter of Thomas Liggins and Annie Peck. A child prodigy, Leginska gave her first public piano recital at the age of seven. In 1900 she won a scholarship to study the piano at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt under James Kwast and theory under Bernhard Sekles and Ivan Knorr. In 1904 she began a three-year period of study with Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna and in Berlin. In 1907, the year of her London debut, she married Roy Emerson Whittern, an American who was studying composition; he later changed his name to Emerson Whithorne....

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Mancini, Henry (16 April 1924–14 June 1994), composer and conductor, was born Henry Nicola Mancini in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Quinto Mancini, a steelworker, and Anna Pece. Mancini’s father was an amateur musician, and he made his son start studying the flute and piccolo at the age of eight. While in high school in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Mancini began studying music under Max Adkins, the arranger and conductor of the house orchestra at Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theater. Mancini briefly attended the School of Music at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and then transferred to the Juilliard School of Music in New York. His formal studies ended when he was drafted in 1943....

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Mannes, David (16 February 1866–25 April 1959), violinist, conductor, and educator, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Mannes, a merchant, and Nathalia Wittkowsky. Mannes’s parents and elder brother had immigrated to the United States in 1860. With financial help from a cousin, Mannes’s father had opened a clothing store on Seventh Avenue in New York City. Mannes was born in the impoverished family’s home above the store. As a young child Mannes created his first violin from a cigar box, a piece of wood, and a string. His parents, hoping to encourage him, bought him a cheap violin and arranged for his intermittent studies. One of his earliest and most influential teachers was John Douglas, an African-American violinist, who had studied in Dresden with Eduard Rappoldi. Douglas was a talented, European-trained violinist who was never able to secure a chair in a symphony orchestra in the United States; he refused to charge Henry Mannes for David’s lessons. In New York, Mannes also studied violin with August Zeiss, Herman Brandt, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, and Carl Richter Nicolai, Brandt’s successor as concertmaster of the Philharmonic. As a young adult Mannes traveled to Germany to study with Heinrich de Ahna, second violin of the Joachim Quartet, and Karel Haliř, a violin professor at the Hochschule für Musik. His violin studies culminated in six months in Brussels with celebrated violinist Eugène Ysaÿe....

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Rachmaninoff, Sergei (02 April 1873–28 March 1943), composer, pianist, and conductor, was born Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff on his parents’ estate at Oneg, near Novgorod, Russia, the son of Vasily Arkadyevich Rachmaninoff, a wealthy but dissolute army officer, and Lubov Petrovna Butokova. As a result of Vasily Rachmaninoff’s extravagant ways, the family was forced to liquidate its assets, which included a number of country estates, and in 1882 they moved to a small flat in Saint Petersburg....

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Reiner, Fritz (19 December 1888–15 November 1963), conductor, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Ignatz Reiner, a textile merchant, and Vilma Pollak. Reiner was brought up in a cultivated, music-loving, middle-class household. His parents were Jewish, but he later renounced that faith and became a Roman Catholic. In deference to his father’s wishes, Reiner studied law at the University of Budapest. But his real ambition was to become a and he abandoned his legal studies in 1905, the year that his father died. By then he was a music student at the Academy of Music in Budapest, where he studied composition, music history, and the piano with several illustrious teachers, including Hans Koessler, István Thoman, and ...

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Stokowski, Leopold Anthony (18 April 1882–13 September 1977), conductor, was born in the Marylebone district of greater London, Middlesex County, England, the son of Joseph Boleslaw Kopernik Stokowski, a cabinetmaker of Scottish and Polish extraction, and Anne (Annie) Marion Moore, the daughter of an Irish bootmaker. Although he grew up in a nonmusical family, young Leopold was musically precocious, learning to play the violin, piano, and organ while still a child. With little more than a grade school education Stokowski began conducting at the age of twelve and in 1896, at thirteen, was accepted as a student at the Royal College of Music. There he studied piano, organ, composition, and counterpoint, becoming a member of the Royal College of Organists at age sixteen and a fellow of the College of Organists when he was eighteen....

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Szell, George (07 June 1897–29 July 1970), conductor and musician, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Charles Szell, a businessman and lawyer, and Margarethe Harmat. A child prodigy, Szell was tutored privately at home in Vienna, studying piano with Richard Robert, music theory with Eusebius Mandyczewski, and composition with J. B. Foerster and Max Reger....

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Toscanini, Arturo (25 March 1867–16 January 1957), operatic and symphonic conductor, was born in Parma, Italy, the son of Claudio Toscanini, a tailor, and Paola Montani. Showing musical talent at an early age, he entered the Parma Conservatory of Music in 1876 and graduated in 1885, with highest honors in cello and composition. After a few months of playing cello in the Parma opera house, he traveled with a touring opera company to Brazil. He made his professional conducting debut in Rio de Janeiro on 30 June 1886, having been drafted to lead Giuseppe Verdi’s ...

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Varèse, Edgard (22 December 1883–06 November 1965), conductor and composer, was born Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse in Paris, France, the son of Henri Varèse, an engineer, and Blanche-Marie Cortot. Beset by domestic difficulties, his family entrusted him to the care of his maternal aunt and uncle who lived in Villars, Burgundy. Varèse split his early years between Paris and Burgundy until his family settled in Turin, Italy, in 1893. Although his father strongly discouraged his interests in music, Varèse soon became enamored of late Romantic composers such as Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss as well as impressionist composers such as Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas. At age twelve he composed an “opera” based on a novel by Jules Verne for performance by his schoolmates. He later received informal music lessons from Giovanni Bolzoni, director of Turin Conservatory, and, at age nineteen, decided to pursue a career in music despite the urging of his father to study engineering. Varèse nevertheless remained interested in science and technology, which played a major role in his musical development....

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Weston, Paul (12 March 1912–20 September 1996), musician, was born Paul Wetstein in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Paul Richard Wetstein, a teacher at Miss Hill's School for Girls, and Anna Grady Wetstein. Educated through high school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he was Phi Beta Kappa at Dartmouth College, majoring in economics and leading a jazz band, and graduating cum laude in 1933....