Composers of Today: A Comprehensive Biographical and Critical Guide to Modern Composers of All Nations

By David Ewen | Go to book overview

music for Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing.

CHAMBER MUSIC : Sonata for Violin and Piano.

About Douglas Moore:

Howard, John Tasker. Our American Music; Kinscella, H. G. Music on the Air.


Harold Morris 1890-

HAROLD MORRIS was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1890, where he spent his boyhood and youth. His education was pursued at the University of Texas, which he entered in 1910. In college he revealed an active interest in all artistic activities. He was a charter member of the "Curtain Club," a dramatic organization founded by Stark Young, the well-known dramatic critic and novelist; he wrote, and helped to produce, a musical comedy; and he toured with the University Glee Club.

Since music had been an integral part of his education from earliest childhood, and since he had revealed a marked talent for the piano, Morris decided, upon graduating from the University, to adopt a musical career. He took an intensive course at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, graduating with the highest of honors.

Since 1916, he has been living in New York, where he has distinguished himself equally as concert-pianist and as teacher of the pianoforte. It was not long thereafter before the richest side of his musical personality disclosed itself-- the creative. It was Eugene Ysaye, the famous violinist, who was the first to take a deep interest in Harold Morris's compositions, and strenuously to encourage him to pursue his career as composer. Ysaye was the first to perform one of Morris's works, when, in 1918, he conducted the Poem, for orchestra, (after Tagore Gitanjali) with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

This work aroused such flattering praise at its initial performance, that Harold Morris's career as a composer was launched auspiciously. James G. Huneker, for example, wrote: "It is full of passionate strivings and is scored in the warmly-colored style dear to the younger men. Dissonances abound; they are harmless. Mr. Morris has talent, has science." And that other eminent critic of the period, Henry T. Finck, was even more enthusiastic. "Mr. Morris has succeeded in translating tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers into the orchestra, with which he is thoroly familiar. The composer has shown much ingenuity and there is a modernity which is neither Debussyan or Stravinskyan, and encourages bright hopes for the future."

The success of the Poem (it was performed a year later with even greater enthusiasm in New York under Josef Stransky ) was encouraging, and Harold Morris began working more seriously than ever before upon his composition. His next major work, Trio, revealed that Harold Morris was definitely a rising force in American music. Listen to Lawrence Gilman's unqualified acceptance of the work. "Mr. Harold Morris's Trio . . . is music of exceptional strength and originality, sinewy in structure, distinguished in speech, strikingly independent and self-strung, and with a curious astringency of flavor that sets it apart from any other American music that we can recall. Mr. Morris seems to be able to avoid the clichés of his day without the appearance of undue anxiety over the matter. You hear no Debussyan echoes, no repercussions of Scriabin or Ravel or Stravinsky in this

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