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Victor Herbert map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This bronze portrait bust of Victor Herbert (1859–1924), an Irish-American cellist, composer, and conductor, is by sculptor Edmund Thomas Quinn (1868–1929), and was dedicated in 1927.

Herbert was born in Dublin, Ireland on February 1, 1859. His early musical training was in Germany, where he studied cello and composition at the Stuttgart Conservatory. In 1886 he and his wife Therese, a well-known Viennese opera singer, moved to New York City, where she sang with the Metropolitan Opera Company while he played as first cellist. Herbert also established a reputation as a performer playing in orchestras under Theodore Thomas and Anton Seidl.

In the early 1890s, Herbert was made leader of the 22nd Regiment Band of the New York National Guard, and in the role of bandmaster often conducted concerts before large audiences gathered at the Central Park Bandstand. From 1898 to 1904, Herbert conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony, and during this time also served as guest conductor for the New York Philharmonic Society.

Herbert’s renown is perhaps most attributed to his prolific work as a composer of operettas and popular music. He wrote more than 40 operettas, including Babes in Toyland (1903) and Naughty Marietta (1910). He also wrote two grand operas, and a score for the film Fall of A Nation (1916), reputed to be the first original symphonic score for a feature-length film.

Part of the early 20th-century Tin Pan Alley era of popular song, Herbert’s classical training enabled him to compose tunes of greater complexity and chromatic richness than was typical of his peers. Herbert also championed the cause of copyright legislation passed in 1909, and played a key role in the founding of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1914. Late in life he contributed compositions to the Ziegfeld Follies. Herbert died in New York City on May 26, 1924.

This commemorative sculpture of Herbert was commissioned by ASCAP. Quinn, who trained with Thomas Eakins in Philadelphia, was a well-known sculptor of his day who received numerous public and private commissions, and also sculpted the portrait bust of Edgar Allen Poe once situated outdoors in Poe Park, the Bronx, and now on view inside Poe Cottage. The sculpture of Herbert was unveiled by his daughter Ella on November 29, 1927 in a lavish ceremony presided over by Arthur S. Middleton, President of the Dramatists League. Among the numerous dignitaries attending were Mayor James J. Walker, Manhattan Parks Commissioner Walter H. Herrick, and composers Arthur Hammerstein and Irving Berlin.

In 1936 the Herbert monument was refurbished, and in 1992 the Central Park Conservancy again conserved the statue. In 1995 the Victor Herbert Foundation established a sculpture maintenance endowment. Today, standing a stone’s throw from some of Herbert’s finest moments on the Central Park Concert Mall, the restored monument is a testament to a titan of American popular song.

Victor Herbert Details

  • Location: Mall, across from Bandshell
  • Sculptor: Edmond Thomas Quinn
  • Description: Bust on pedestal
  • Materials: Bronze, Stony Creek granite
  • Dimensions: Total H: 11'7" W: 4'8" D: 4'3"
  • Cast: ca. 1927
  • Dedicated: 1927
  • Donor: American, Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
  • Inscription: VICTOR / HERBERT / 1859-1924

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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