Facing the Music: Portraits of 20th Century American Composers

Leon Robbin Gallery



Composers, like all celebrities, are pestered for autographs. The seven shown here were among a large number who graciously supplied signed portrait photographs to Philadelphia book, print, and autograph collector James Patrick Joseph Murphy, whose collections came to Georgetown a little over a decade ago.

Items in the Exhibition:

Samuel Barber (1910 - 1981)

Known principally for his “Adagio for Strings,” Barber was a prolific composer; his opera Vanessa was the vehicle for a recent Washington appearance by Kiri Te Kanawe. Photo taken before January 8, 1949.

Amy Beach (1867 - 1944)

Amy Marcy Cheney was a distinguished pianist who gave up her career as a performer when she married in 1885; as the wife of Dr. H. H. A. Beach she became recognized as the foremost American woman composer, the first to succeed in creating large-scale art music. Photo taken before September 8, 1944.

Robert Russell Bennett (1894 - 1981)

If for nothing else, Bennett is likely to be remembered for his orchestration of tunes by Richard Rodgers into the sound track for Victory at Sea. Bennett is shown here with two guys named Walter: (Walter) Kirby Higbe, who was coming off a 22-9 season when this photo was taken, and (Walter) Red Barber, then the play-by-play man for the Dodgers. Photo taken before February 9, 1942.

W. C. Handy (1873 - 1958)

While the composer of St. Louis Blues and Beale Street Blues may not have been, as he claimed, “the father of the blues,” he certainly played an important role in popularizing them to the broad American public. Photo taken before January 12, 1942.

Jerome Kern (1885 - 1945)

Best known, of course, for Show Boat, Kern was also an avid bibliophile, still remembered for his good fortune in selling off his huge collection just before the Wall Street crash in 1929. Photo taken before June 22, 1945.

Albert Hay Malotte (1895 - 1964)

A prolific composer, Malotte is remembered now mainly for his enormously popular setting of the Lord’s Prayer, first published in 1935. Photo taken before March 1, 1945.

Richard Rodgers (1902 - 1979)

Already famous as the composer of Oklahoma! when he signed this photo for Murphy, Rodgers still had many popular works to come, including, of course, The Sound of Music. Photo by Alfredo Valente, taken before December 5, 1945.