Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Victor Young

Victor Young was an American violinist, composer, arranger, and conductor, born (in Chicago) on August 8, 1899 (two years before Heifetz was born.)  He is an example of instrumentalists who gravitate from concertizing to other endeavors – in his case, composing, arranging, and conducting for films and records.  Violinists Iso Briselli, Pierre Monteux, Jaap Van Zweden, Eddy Brown, and Joseph Achron are five others who more-or-less switched careers as other things drew their attention.  Young is remembered as having been nominated for an Academy Award 22 times (an all-time record) and never actually winning – in any case, not while he was alive.  He began violin studies with Isidor Lotto (pupil of Joseph Lambert Massart and teacher of Bronislaw Huberman) at the Warsaw Conservatory at age 10 and later studied piano with Isidor Philipp (pupil of Camille Saint Saens) at the Paris Conservatory.  Being highly gifted, at age 13, he made his debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic.  He toured Europe as a soloist for a while, but with the outbreak of World War One in 1914, his grandparents, who had been raising him since his arrival in Europe, sent him back to the U.S.  Young then embarked on a career as an orchestral violinist with popular and classical orchestras, often serving as concertmaster or conductor in theatre and radio orchestras, all the while teaching himself the art of arranging popular music.  He was barely 16 years old.  These activities were mostly centered in Chicago.  He played in the Isham Jones and Ted Fiorito orchestras during this time - other members of the Jones orchestra were Woody Herman and Benny Goodman, both of whom would become more famous than Young.  He participated in early recordings with Bing Crosby and radio programs with Betty Grable too.  In New York, where he moved in 1931, Young recorded with Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Al Jolson, and Lee Wiley (his girlfriend), among many others.  In 1933, he started writing music for films, his first one being Murder at the Vanities (a rather obscure but notorious film.  Some sources say his first movie score was Wells Fargo – a film about the stage coach company, not the bank.)  In 1934, Young signed a contract with Decca Records and stayed with them for the rest of his life.  In 1936, he moved to Hollywood, initially writing music for Paramount Pictures and leading the orchestra at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  In Hollywood, he eventually wrote soundtracks for movies and television and recorded with many legendary stars, Judy Garland among them.  His scores include Golden Boy, Around the World in Eighty Days, Shane, Samson and Delilah, Scaramouche, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, and For Whom the Bell Tolls.  It is known that Young was a workaholic.  In fact, he died while working on a movie score (China Gate), on November 10, 1956, at age 57.  By then, he had worked on over 350 movies and had spent almost 90 percent of his professional life in the popular music sphere.  It had been a long way from the Warsaw Philharmonic to the Hollywood sound studios.  Brandeis University (Boston) has  a collection containing more than one hundred scores and recordings of Young's music.  About Victor Young, Henry Mancini has been quoted as saying “All he had to do was sit down at the piano and the melodies fell out of his sleeves.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment