A Letter to Henry Cowell May 1933

Bob Kosovsky
29 June 2014

The Letter

[On the stationary of:]

Dr. A. Herrmann, optometrist, 236 East 14th Street, New York. Phone:  Tompkins Sq. 6-7859


May 18/33

236 E 14th St



My dear Henry,


Forgive me for not writing sooner, but I have had the misfortune to lose my father after a short illness.  I am sure you will understand.[1]


The concert of the New Chamber Orchestra was a great success in all respects—the hall was jamed and about 30 people standing.[2] The audience was a distinguished one.  Such people as Hugh Ross[3], James[4], Douglas Moore[5] and 40 Columbia students, Hadley[6], Gibbs[7], The English Consul, Mrs. Meyer & Miss Meyer.  Lots of society dames, and Mrs. Striker[8] of the Beethoven Ass.[9] Well anyway they went wild about the program and yelled bravos and hurrahs and gave me an ovation.  I had to repeated your “Reel”[10] which was a howling success.  We made all our expenses including the rental for the hall and a few dollars for myself.  The program started at 8:45 and finished at 11:00 PM.


[Page 2]

The orchestra played superbly and with grand finish of style.  The press the following day was remarkable.  I must say that this was the first time this season that a program of new music was received with such enthusiasm by the press and such space accorded them.  Grainger[11] was delighted and in 7th heaven about the concert and the playing of the orchestra.  Ross said that it was the first modern concert that he has heard in which the music was played and interpreted in such style.  In other words I made a very All in all I made a very excellent debut.  This all seems to indicate for a very swell series for next season.  The school by the way said that the audience was one of the largest and distinguish that the School has ever had.  I am very happy that they feel this way about it, for this has proven to them that modern music can be made exciting and grand entertainment.


[Page 3]

Now for the program – I may discount the first 3 numbers—they were well received.[12] Grainger went over big[13]—James[14]—fairly well.  Heilner[15]—very well—Cowell[16]—I had to repeat—Duke[17]—grandly—Ives made a deep impression[18]—My work was well liked[19]—Benett[20] – (Benett playing the piano part) was a great hit—Morross[21]—Bravos and hisses, cheers and cat calls—and then the audience went home.[22]

The total cost of the concert was:


Orchestra $158 (3 rehearsal of 2 ½ hours)
Printing 25
Hall 50
Total $233 Keep these figures a secret
Extras 10
Total Expenses $243
Box and Sales $255


Also in addition to the above outstanding people in the audience were the following as far as I can recollect.  John Green[23]—Jay Gorney[24]—Harold Arlen[25]—Vincent Youmans[26]— (for Tin Pan Alley).  The young composers—Roy Harris[27]—Aaron Copland[28] —Barron[29]—Achron[30]—Schillinger[31]—Kalmus[32] – etc. Rosenfeld[33]- by Riesenfeld[34] Barzin[35]


[Page 4]

I hope that you will excuse this perhaps over-excited letter, but it is being written so soon after the concert that I haven’t had time to calm down yet.  So pardon me.  I am beginning from tomorrow morning to write letters to the composers that you and I decided should have new works for our concerts next season.  I will write in fall [full?], and enclose my lists of works from which you can draw the works that will be perform[ed].  I will also enclosed to these composers the program and press notices of the concert, in hopes that they may perhaps cheer them up.  So more about these lists and composer by my next letter which should follow this in about a week.  Riegger[36]—Berger[37] and Jerry[38] will write to you.  James wishes your permission to play your “Reel” over the radio.  I have loaned Barzin my score for he may play it at the Stadium.  Laws will play over the radio in course of the next few weeks—the Bennett—Moross—Cowell—Ives—McCleary—Dukelsky——Herrmann—


[Page 5]

and Heilner works.  So that means more publicity for all of us.  The audience I understand was interested keenly in the prospectus for your series next season, and we had many conservatives at the concert.  I believe we made many new disciples.


I was unable to make records as Seeger[39] left town a week before the concert and his brother was busy working on some job.  I will sent with my next letter the music magazines notices.

Regard from Bennett—Grainger—Duke and Ross

Thanks for pardoning this rambling letter

Yours Ever

Benny Herrmann.


P.S.  if you would like more of the programs I will be able to supply you.  By the way Morross “Peas” looks grand.  But I am slightly peeved as is Jerry, that the printer omitted the dedication.

Note: The concert was originally scheduled to be held on May 10, 1933 but was postponed a week due to Abraham Herrmann’s death.

A Letter to Henry Cowell
Bob Kosovsky • 29 June 2014
Orchestra/ensemble: New Chamber Orchestra
Location: New York, NY, USA