Victor August Herbert (1859 – 1924) was an Irish-born, German-raised American composer, cellist and conductor. Although Herbert enjoyed important careers as a cello soloist and conductor, he is best known for composing many successful operettas that premiered on Broadway. He was also prominent among the tin pan alley composers and was later a founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).
A prolific composer, Herbert produced two operas, a cantata, 43 operettas, incidental music to 10 plays, 31 compositions for orchestra, nine band compositions, nine cello compositions, five violin compositions with piano or orchestra, 22 piano compositions and numerous songs, choral compositions and orchestrations of works by other composers, among other music.
Educated in Europe, his musical education covered complete range, but he specialized in the cello. In the early 1880s, Herbert began a career as a cellist in Vienna, Austria, and Stuttgart, Germany, during which he began to compose orchestral music. Herbert and his opera singer wife, Therese Förster, moved to the U.S. in 1886 when both were engaged by the Metropolitan Opera.
Mr. Herbert took his place in the orchestra of the late Anton Seidl, who made him assistant conductor, a position he remained in for several years. The two became very close, which was made evident in concerts later put on by the Metropolitan Opera. At the first of the symphony concerts given by Anton Seidl at the old Steinway Hall, Mr. Herbert's Suite for string orchestra was given a prominent place on the program, Mr. Seidl gracefully handing the baton to the composer during the show.
Herbert continued his performing career, while also teaching at the National Conservatory of Music. His most notable instrumental compositions were his Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 30 (1894), which entered the standard repertoire, and his Auditorium Festival March (1901). He led the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1898 to 1904 and then founded the Victor Herbert Orchestra, which he conducted throughout the rest of his life.
Herbert began to compose operettas in 1894, producing several successes, including The Serenade (1897) and The Fortune Teller (1898). Some of the operettas that he wrote after the turn of the 20th century were even more successful: Babes in Toyland (1903), Mlle. Modiste (1905), The Red Mill (1906), Naughty Marietta (1910), Sweethearts (1913) and Eileen (1917). After World War I, Herbert began to compose musicals and contributed music to other composers' shows. He would do so until his death in 1924.