Claire Reis

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Title:
Claire Reis advocate for contemporary music
Physical Description:
vi, 166 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Thomas, Penny, 1952-
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Subjects / Keywords:
Composers -- Biography -- United States   ( lcsh )
Musicians -- Biography -- United States   ( lcsh )
Curriculum and Instruction thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Curriculum and Instruction -- UF
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bibliography   ( marcgt )
individual biography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1991.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 157-164).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Penny Thomas.
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.

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University of Florida
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aleph - 027207509
oclc - 25769010
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AA00012969:00001


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CLAIRE REIS: ADVOCATE FOR CONTEMPORARY MUSIC


By

PENNY THOMAS
















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

1991

































Copyright 1991

by

Penny Thomas
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

paae


ABSTRACT...................................... .......... v

CHAPTERS

I INTRODUCTION ................................... 1

Purpose of the Study............................ 1
Need of the Study ............................... 2
Research Procedure ............................. 7
Notes ............................................ 8

II REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ........................ 9

Summary ................ ......................... 23
Notes ............................................ 24

III EARLY LIFE AND WORK, THE PEOPLE'S MUSIC LEAGUE
AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMPOSER'S GUILD .......... 25

Early Life and Work.............................. 25
The People's Music League....................... 32
The International Composer's Guild............... 37
Summary ................ ......................... 45
Notes ............................................ 46

IV THE LEAGUE OF COMPOSERS ......................... 51

Summary ........................................... 82
Notes ............................................ 88

V WORK IN OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ..................... 92

IV PROSE WORKS ..................................... 104

Summary .................................... ...... 123
Notes ............................................ 124









VII CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.................. 127

Conclusions..................................... 127
Recommendations ................................. 133
Notes............................................ 136

APPENDICES

A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS BY CLAIRE REIS............ 137

B COMMISSIONED WORKS OF THE LEAGUE OF COMPOSERS... 139

C LEAGUE OF COMPOSERS RADIO BROADCASTS 1947-1948.. 147

D ORCHESTRAS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHICH
COOPERATED WITH THE LEAGUE OF COMPOSERS......... 149

E AWARDS RECEIVED BY CLAIRE REIS .................. 156

REFERENCES............ ................... ............ 157

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH................................. 165














Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

CLAIRE REIS: ADVOCATE FOR CONTEMPORARY MUSIC

By

Penny Thomas

December 1991

Chairman: Dr. David Z. Kushner
Major Department: Instruction and Curriculum

In an effort to assist contemporary composers, Claire

Raphael Reis (1888-1979) helped to found the League of

Composers in 1923 and served as its executive chair for

twenty-five years. Under her direction, the League became

one of the most influential advocacy groups of the first

half of the twentieth century for increasing awareness and

appreciation of contemporary music and composers. Not only

did the League sponsor concerts of contemporary works, but

it also obtained 110 commissions for outstanding young

composers. During Mrs. Reis's tenure as chair, the works of

678 contemporary composers were performed. She also wrote

numerous articles and books about composers and their works.

Despite these and other achievements, little has been

written about Reis.

This study examines Reis's life and work. Her

childhood, education, and experiences which led her to the








advocacy of contemporary music are discussed. Her influence

on the philosophy and activities of the League of Composers,

her impact on the performance of contemporary music, and the

significance of her writings are considered.

Data have been gathered from a variety of sources.

Most important were Reis's books, articles, speeches,

personal papers, and letters from composers. Also important

was a transcript of a series of interviews with Reis,

conducted by Vivian Perlis, director of the Oral History,

American Music Project at Yale University.

The study shows that Claire Reis made a substantial

impact on the production and performance of contemporary

music; indeed, her work in the League of Composers and other

organizations made it possible for the works of many

composers to be performed and published. Her published

writings brought the composer and his music to the attention

of the public. Reis's contributions as an advocate for the

contemporary composer need to be included in the literature

on twentieth-century music and added to the curriculum of

college-level music history and literature classes where

they would shed much needed insight into the development of

twentieth-century music.














CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION


Purpose of the Study


The purpose of this study is to examine the work of

Claire Raphael Reis (1888-1978) on behalf of twentieth-

century composers and their music. At a time when the music

of twentieth-century composers was rarely performed in the

United States, Claire Reis was a leader in bringing this

music to the attention of the public. Through her lectures

and writings, she was successful in educating the public

about living composers and appreciating their music. Mrs.

Reis's activities as chair of the People's Music League,

executive secretary of the International Composer's Guild,

and as a founder and executive chair of the League of

Composers enabled her to organize concerts of twentieth-

century music, and evenings honoring the composers. She was

able to acquire commissions for composers so that they could

continue in their careers as composers, and radio air time

so that their music could be heard by a wider audience. In

view of her accomplishments in the advocacy of twentieth-

century music and composers, this study is intended











1. To determine the influence of Claire Reis on

the philosophy and activities of the League

of Composers.

2. To determine the impact of Claire Reis on the

performance and production of contemporary

music.

3. To determine the significance of Claire

Reis's writings in educating the public about

contemporary music and composers.

4. To contribute to current musicological

research of twentieth-century music with

particular emphasis on the accomplishments of

Claire Reis.

Mrs. Reis was acquainted with many of the leading

composers and critics of the first half of the twentieth

century. She was often mentioned in their memoirs,

autobiographies, or biographies, and many of their comments

about her and her work will be included in this study, as

well as her own personal reminiscences about some of the

leading composers of the day. Also included will be an

extensive bibliography of Claire Reis's prose works.


Need for the Study


One of the manifestations of nineteenth-century

romanticism that carried over into the twentieth century was

the adulation of virtuosi, both performers and conductors.











The result of this adulation was that the focus of concerts

was on the performer or conductor rather than on the

composer or even the music itself.1 This was a problem

that Clair Reis recognized early in her career. In 1923,

she wrote,

Today, music is generally heard under conditions
which have almost obliterated the composer as the
raison d'etre of a program. The interpreter is
the object of attention, the magnet for the
audience, and the works he presented are chosen
because he can best show his art in this soli.
Concert upon concert of the most familiar
selections is thrust upon the public and is
attended for the sake of hearing a prima-donna and
of discussing every angle of the interpreter--from
the voice to the clothes; but the quality and
choice of the music itself is generally unnoticed,
perhaps not heard.2

In an effort to assist contemporary composers, Reis helped

to found the League of Composers and was its executive chair

for twenty-five years. Under her direction, the League

became one of the most influential groups of the first half

of the twentieth century in increasing awareness and

appreciation of contemporary music and contemporary

composers. Not only did the League sponsor concerts of

contemporary works, but also obtained 110 commissions for

outstanding young composers. During Mrs. Reis's tenure as

chair, the works of 678 contemporary composers were

performed.

Prior to her work with the League of Composers, Mrs.

Reis helped to organize free concerts for European

immigrants at Cooper Union in New York as chair of the










People's Music League. She also worked to adapt Montessori

teaching methods to music and helped to establish the Walden

School in New York. After retiring as chair of the League

of Composers, Mrs. Reis continued in her efforts to support

contemporary composers. She served as the chair of an

international committee that concentrated on the

presentation of works by contemporary composers in America

and Europe. She helped to establish the City Center of

Music and Drama in New York and served as secretary to the

board. Other activities included serving as chair of the

Advisory Committee to the Dimitri Mitropoulos International

Competition for Conductors, member of the Works Progress

Administration (W.P.A.) Advisory Board for the City of New

York, member of the Music Committee for the 1939 World's

Fair, founder and chair of the Arts Committee of the New

York Women's City Club, and member of President Roosevelt's

Committee for the Use of Leisure Time.

Through her work in the League of Composers and other

organizations, Claire Reis made a substantial impact on the

performance and production of contemporary music. Many

young composers achieved substantial international standing

due to her efforts. Others would not have had their works

performed or been able to continue working as composers.

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) called her "the mother of us

all."3 Dr. Isadore Freed of the Hartt School of Music

called the League of Composers, "the greatest single










institution that has fought the battle for the composer for

three decades. Modern music would be a totally different

picture today if it were not for the League."4 Other

composers and musicians have expressed similar sentiments

about Claire Reis and the League of Composers. In letters

to Claire Reis, Olga Samaroff (1882-1948) wrote "It is no

exaggeration to say the history of music in America would

have been very different without the tireless and unselfish

devotion of the League of Composers toward contemporary

creative music. Such work requires both vision and

courage."5 Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) wrote "I utterly

neglected to say the very thing I should have wished to say:

namely, to recall for a moment the wonders you [Claire Reis]

have done for music and musicians in our community."6

William Schuman (1910) wrote

I can only say that those of us who had your
support during our formative years were fortunate
indeed. The entire scene of contemporary music
during the heyday of the League of Composers was
one of excitement, of discovery, of belief, (and
often disbelief), but never of apathy or of
criticism. thank you for caring about all of
us.7

George Antheil (1900-1959) wrote

I have no hesitation in saying that the work of
the League of Composers these last eight years is
of the very highest importance to the young
creative artist in America, easily taking
precedence, in my opinion, above all similar
organizations.8










Howard Hanson (1896-1981) wrote

I would like to add my word of commendation for
the important work which the League of Composers
has done for the development of Creative Music in
the United States, and to express my earnest hope
that its important work may not be permitted to be
discontinued in these critical times.9

Despite such words of recognition by these and many other

musicians, Mrs. Reis had been ignored in the major

literature covering twentieth-century music. There was only

a short (283 words) biography of her in the New Grove

Dictionary of American Music (Macmillan, 1986). Such works

as Music in the 20th Century by William W. Austin (Norton,

1966), Introduction to Contemporary Music, 2nd edition by

Joseph Machlis (Norton, 1979), and Twentieth-Century Music:

An Introduction, 2nd edition by Eric Salzman (Prentice-Hall,

1974) made no mention of the work done by Claire Reis on

behalf of contemporary composers. This lack of available

data pointed to the need for a study of her contributions.

This study will provide valuable information on the

significance of the work achieved by Claire Reis in helping

to establish the careers of many important contemporary

composers. Such a study would also add much needed data to

the curricula of twentieth-century music courses which, in

turn, would enhance the teaching about the development of

twentieth-century music and its composers.









7

Research Procedure


Materials for this research were gathered from

newspaper and journal articles, books, and two significant

resources: an oral history interview of Claire Reis

conducted by Vivian Perlis, director of the Oral History,

American Music program at Yale University, and the Americana

Collection located in the New York Public Library and Museum

of the Performing Arts. This repository contained the

Claire Reis collection, League of Composers letters, and

League of Composers clippings file. The Clair Reis

collection contained her personal papers and letters. The

League of Composers letters were made up of letters written

to Claire Reis as chair of the League of Composers. The

League of Composers clippings file contained newspaper and

journal clippings, programs, and miscellaneous material

about the League. These collections were donated to the

library by Claire Reis.

The research procedure was one of historical analysis

of primary and secondary sources. The information was

analyzed to discover the importance of the work of Claire

Reis in gaining acceptance for contemporary composers and

their music, and place the findings into the general history

of music.









8

Notes

1. H. Wiley Hitchcock, Music in the United States: A
Historical Introduction, 3rd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 61.

2. Claire R. Reis, "Contemporary Music and 'the Man on the
Street,'" Aeolian Review 2 (March 1923): 25.

3. Dorle J. Soria, "Copland PS," Musical America 20
(December 1970):32.

4. "New Music Long Fought Uphill Battle," The Hartford
Courant 15 January 1952.

5. League of Composers Letters. Olga Samaroff, June 6,
1931. New York Public Library and Museum of the
Performing Arts. Box 5.

6. League of Composers Letters. Leonard Bernstein,
December 2, 1965. New York Public Library and Museum
of the Performing Arts. Box 1.

7. League of Composers Letters. William Schuman, February
9, 1962. New York Public Library and Museum of the
Performing Arts. Box 6.

8. League of Composers Letters. George Antheil, (no
date). New York Public Library and Museum of the
Performing Arts. Box 1.

9. League of Composers Letters. Howard Hanson, September
17, 1942. New York Public Library and Museum of the
Performing Arts. Box 4.














CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE


Literature related to the subject under study came from

a variety of sources. The most important were works created

by Claire Reis, including books, articles, speeches, letters

to editors, and a series of interviews carried out with her

from 1976-77 for the Oral History, American Music project at

Yale. These interviews were conducted by Vivian Perlis,

director of this project. The interviews, a total of

twenty-six tapes (designated by alphabetical letters) or 302

pages in transcript form, included information about Mrs.

Reis's childhood in Brownsville, Texas, her early music

training, the death of her father and subsequent move to New

York with her mother, her education in Europe, the

beginnings of her interest in contemporary music, her early

musical associations in New York, her early social concerns,

including using Montessori principles to teach music to

children and co-founding the Walden School, and her work in

the People's Music League. The interviews continued with

her association with Varese and the International Composers

Guild, the ensuing split between members of the board of

that latter organization, and the subsequent formation of

the League of Composers. Many of the tapes included










information about her tenure as chair of the League of

Composers. There were many stories and anecdotes about

composers, concerts, the work she did as chair, and other

experiences. In other tapes, she told of her work with the

New York City Center, Women's City Club, and other areas of

interest. In still other tapes there was a discussion of

her speeches and publications. Although these interviews

repeated many stories about the League of Composers found in

here book, Conductors. Composers, and Critics, they included

much information not found elsewhere, particularly about her

early life, education, and about her family. She rarely

discussed her family, but, in these interviews, Mrs. Reis

told of her mother's influence, and of how she managed a

household with a husband and two children while performing

her duties as chair of the League of Composers.

Another important source of primary material was

located in the Americana Collection at the New York Public

Library and Museum of the Performing Arts. These items

included: 1) the Claire Reis Collection, a collection of

Claire Reis's personal papers donated to the library by Mrs.

Reis; 2) the League of Composers Letters, a collection of

letters written by composers, musicians, conductors,

critics, and others involved with the League of Composers;

and 3) the League of Composers clippings file which

contained a number of newspaper clippings, press releases,

and programs about the League of Composers.









11

The Claire Reis Collection was organized into five

boxes. Box 1 contained clippings, a sample of a

questionnaire sent to composers by Claire Reis in 1945,

letters from unidentified composers, articles about Aaron

Copland, notes about New York City Center and the People's

Music League, miscellaneous photographs, and a scrapbook.

Box 2 held letters from, and programs and articles about

Benjamin Britten, Louis Gruenberg, Leo Ornstein, the

People's Music League, and the League of Composers. Box 3

contained miscellaneous material collected for her book,

Composers in America. Boxes 4 and 5 contained miscellaneous

letters from various figures of note.

The League of Composers Letter's file consisted of

seven boxes of letters to the League of Composers, usually

to Claire Reis as Chairman of the Board. These letters were

from composers, conductors, critics, musicians, politicians,

and others involved with or wanting information about the

League of Composers. The list of senders included such

persons as Bl6a Bart6k, Alban Berg, Leonard Bernstein,

Arthur Bliss, Ernest Bloch, Nadia Boulanger, John Cage,

Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Manuel de Falla, Arthur

Farwell, Howard Hanson, Roy Harris, Frederick Jacobi, Otto

Klemperer, ZoltAn Koddly, Serge Koussevitzky, Mayor Fiorello

La Guardia, Darius Milhaud, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Paul Henry

Lang, Ernest Newman, Eugene Ormandy, Cole Porter, Serge

Prokofieff, Gustave Reese, Henri Prunieres, Richard Rogers,










Artur Rodzinski, Carlos Salzedo, Arnold Schoenberg, Roger

Sessions, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, George Szell,

Germaine Tailleferre, Virgil Thomson, Ernest Toch, Bruno

Walter, Kurl Weill, and Egon Wellesz. Some of these letters

contained information about the sender, personal opinions,

doubts about their music, questions about the League,

information for or complaints about the performances of

their music, or outrage over a review. Many, however, were

merely thank you's, or acceptance for a party, dinner, or

reception hosted by Claire Reis, or an answer to a question

posed by Mrs. Reis. Some were only one or two lines long:

a "yes to your kind invitation," or "yes, I will compose a

piece for "

The League of Composer's clippings file contained

newspaper articles and programs about the League of

Composers. This information was in no particular order.

Many of the articles in this file, though providing

excellent information, had been cut so that either the title

of the newspaper or journal, or the date, or both, were

missing, making it difficult to ascertain from where they

came. Also found in this file were several articles written

by Claire Reis that were not found elsewhere, and some which

were written about her.

Claire Reis published two books, Conductors. Composers.

and Critics (1955, reprinted 1974) and American Composers

Today (1930) which was revised, enlarged, and published in










1947 as Composers in America: Biographical Sketches

(reprinted 1977). Conductors. Composers, and Critics told

of her experiences as chair of the League of Composers. She

began with the period during which she joined the

International Composers Guild and discusses the split with

Varese and the formation of the League of Composers. Mrs.

Reis told how she put concerts together, and of audience and

critical reaction. Those concerts that were put together

easily, and those that had difficulties were each discussed.

She included many anecdotes about the composers, conductors,

and others involved with the League of Composers. Her book

was an important source of information about music and

composers in the first half of the twentieth century, told

by someone who was there and directly involved. Mrs. Reis

often painted a more personal portrait of a composer than

what was usually found in a discussion of his music. She

corresponded with many composers, greeted them upon their

arrival in New York, organized evenings of tribute for many

of them, and often made available the music room in her

house for rehearsal.

Composers in America: Biographical Sketches was written

as a source book for organizations that wanted to commission

works from American composers. Claire Reis believed

strongly both in American composers and in commissioning

works, rather than awarding prizes. She stated,

In the case of competition many composers give
their time and effort without recompense, and only










one or two can win the award. Not only is this
unsatisfactory to those who fail to win, but it
may even prove a boomerang to the winner, for too
often the public expects so much of the prize-
winning composition that the result is
disappointing. ..A commissioned work
bespeaks confidence in the chosen individual, and
he does his best to meet this faith. It also
brings the new compositions before the public with
the backing and confidence of a recognized
organization.1

Composers were listed alphabetically. Each listing provided

a brief biography, including when and where that composer's

compositions had been performed, including radio broadcasts.

Following the biography were the titles of their

compositions, listed by genre, the duration of each piece,

the publisher, and the date of publication. This would have

provided anyone at that time who wanted to commission a

piece the information required to choose a composer.

Two other publications with which Claire Reis was

involved were American Composers: A Record of Works Written

Between 1912 and 1932, which she compiled for the

International Society for Contemporary Music (1932 and

1938), and Spend Your Time, for which she was chair of the

editorial board. American Composers was meant to present a

"complete picture of the outstanding works written during

the past twenty years and present the important composers

living in America or American born."2 The purpose was to

be of assistance to orchestras, conductors, publishers,

libraries, and musical organizations; consequently, the

works listed were most often large works. No solo works











were included. The composers were listed alphabetically,

with their works listed by genre in categories such as

orchestral works, chamber orchestra, choral works, chamber

music, and stage works. Along with the title of each piece,

the duration, publisher and date of publication was listed.

Also included was a record of performances, and a short

biography (sometimes as short as two lines).

Mrs. Reis was appointed by President Franklin D.

Roosevelt to the Committee for the Use of Leisure Time. The

result was the publication Spend Your Time for which Claire

Reis served as chair of the editorial board. This

publication listed the City of New York's resources for

spending leisure time. Categories listed include art,

music, theater, libraries, science, history, recreation, and

hobbies. Each resource was listed by name, address, and

offerings enumerated.

Claire Reis wrote a number of articles for journals and

newspapers, as well as letters to editors. One of her first

articles was for the Aeolian Review (1923), titled

"Contemporary Music and 'the Man on the Street'." She felt

that the average man was better able to appreciate and

listen to contemporary music with an open mind than the

listener brought up on the musical values of the past who

was prejudiced and unable to accept "new" music. Those who

had studied music (even just a little) had been "nourished

on the romanticists and had in fact never developed beyond









16

that period,"3 while the "average person was without

esthetic standards which belong to the past and he

has not been educated to accept definite laws based upon

tradition."4 She also felt that the composer had been left

out of the concert. "Music is generally heard under

conditions which have almost obliterated the composers as

the raison d'etre of a program. the interpreter is the

object of attention."5 Mrs. Reis advocated looking toward

the average man for encouragement in contemporary arts.

"Mechanical Developments and Modern Inventions Have

Made Us Adapt Ourselves to New Sensations Reflected in Our

Art" was printed in the Musical Leader in 1931. In this

article, Mrs. Reis discussed the advances of mechanical

developments on musical instruments and composers. The

League of Composers was sponsoring a concert of music for

newly developed electronic instruments and this article

appeared prior to this concert. In it, she compared the

development of new instruments to the development of

machines in society and their effects on artists of all

kinds. Again, she advocated that the listener approach the

music with an open mind and not to be mired in the past.

In December, 1942, Claire Reis wrote an article for The

New York Times about the twentieth anniversary of the League

of Composers. She described the beginnings of the League

and the accomplishments it achieved over twenty years. She

told of the League's contacts with composers in other










countries and giving concerts of their music, the

determination of the League to give young composers their

first public performance, and the encouragement of

commissions. Also included was a discussion of the

compositions to be presented on the anniversary concert.

Claire Reis wrote two articles for the Music Publishers

Journal. "A Marked Global Interest" appeared in 1944, and

concerned the new global interest in the work of the League

of Composers. Many League members were serving in the armed

forces during the war, and they were requesting that the

League's publication, Modern Music, be forwarded to them.

Allied groups were asking for copies of American

contemporary music to be performed on radio broadcasts.

"Government Support of the Arts" appeared in 1945, and was a

plea for government assistance for the arts. The United

States was compared to several other countries, including

Great Britain, Russia, Mexico, France, and Austria, whose

support of the arts far outdistanced that of the United

States, and suggestions were made to improve the situation.

This article was also printed in The New York Sunday Times

in the same year.

In January of 1948, Claire Reis co-authored with Marion

Bauer an article for The Musical Quarterly to celebrate the

twenty-fifth anniversary of the League of Composers. As in

the article for the twentieth anniversary, she began with

the inception of the League and the policies and purposes it










developed, among them the necessity "to bring the entire

range of modern tendencies before the public."6 She

continued with the League's accomplishments, such as a

concert devoted to the younger generation of composers early

in 1924. This type of concert became an important part of

the League's activities. Other activities included interest

in the music of other countries, with concerts devoted to

the composers of those countries, evenings of tribute to

composers, and a project to bring performing artists and

composers together to discuss their common interests and

problems. The publication of Modern Music, the

encouragement of commissions, and efforts to encourage new

stage works, programs dedicated to new electric instruments,

film music, and commissioning music for the war effort were

all projects of the League of Composers.

Mrs. Reis's interest in stage works resulted in three

articles about opera. "Screening for Opera" was published

in April 1956 in Center: A Magazine of Music and Drama. It

contained information about the current state of

contemporary opera and offered suggestions for supporting

and promoting it. In the Spring of 1959, "A New Chapter in

American Opera Repertory" was published in Playbill, the

program notes for the New York City Opera. This article

contained information about eighteen contemporary American

operas which were to receive their premieres at the New York

City Opera in the coming two seasons. The third article,










"Opera in the Making," from Here at Hunter, a publication of

the Hunter College Opera Association, was about the benefits

of the Hunter College opera workshops for talented young

singers.

"Previously Unpublished Composers' Letters" was

published in the January 1963 issue of Musical America.

With opening comments by Claire Reis and Everett Helm, these

were letters written to Mrs. Reis as chair of the League of

Composers (originals of which can be found in the League of

Composers Letters mentioned previously). Mrs. Reis added

introductory comments to each letter. The article included

letters of Copland, Bart6k, Milhaud, Schuman, Riegger,

Prokofieff, Bloch, Schoenberg, Moore, Webern, Malipiero,

Gruenberg, Blitzstein, and de Falla. Also included are

copies of autographed pictures of Copland, Milhaud,

Prokofieff, Schoenberg, Malipiero, and de Falla and Wanda

Landowska together.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of New York City Center

brought "A City Center Chronicle," published in 1968 in

Opera News. Mrs. Reis told of being summoned to Mayor

Fiorello La Guardia's office in 1943 for a conference to

discuss plans for a cultural center for New York City. She

detailed the beginnings of the New York City Center from its

first home in the old Mecca Temple on West Fifty-fifth

Street to the present complex at Lincoln Center. As with










other articles, Mrs. Reis gave a first-hand account of

events and people, trials and tributations, and successes.

Claire Reis was not shy about writing letters to

editors, usually defending the League of Composers from

criticism. The March 1, 1923, Musical Courier contained a

letter from her defending the International Composer's

Guild's production of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. This

production was criticized in the February 8 issue, and Mrs.

Reis was quick to point out the critic's fallacies. Again

in 1936, 1940, and 1943, Mrs. Reis wrote to The New York

Times in defense of the League of Composers. In 1942, she

wrote in support of the Fleisher Music Collection housed at

the Free Library in Philadelphia.

Claire Reis gave many lectures. Manuscripts of some

could be found in her personal papers in the collection

housed in the New York Public Library. One of these was a

presentation on the Dalcroze movement given July 28, 1914;

in another, in the fall of 1915, she described the

eurhythmics of Emile Jacques-Dalcroze and opined that they

had proven value for concentration and coordination for

children. Many years later, in a lecture given at a

Conference on Radio and Education held December 11, 1936, in

Washington, D.C., she discussed the asset radio could be for

bringing contemporary music to a wider audience, and how

repeating works could aid in their understanding. Two other

lectures were given to the National Music Council in 1936,










and 1945, and later published in their Bulletin. In "Demand

and Supply of Performances of Contemporary Music," Mrs. Reis

described how the League of Composers, in its thirteenth

season, embarked on a national plan to influence concert

artists to perform one or more contemporary works on each of

their programs. "The Attitude of the Press Toward American

Composers and How It Can Be Changed For the Better" was her

plan to get more "fair play," as she called it, for

contemporary composers from critics.

There were only a few articles written about Claire

Reis. One of the earliest was published in the French

journal Le Messacer de New York (June 1, 1935). The article

contained information about Mrs. Reis's accomplishments as

an advocate of the arts. Her work establishing the

Montessori method of teaching music, founding the Walden

School, the People's Music League, and the League of

Composers was included in the article. Seven years after

her retirement as chair of the League of Composers, Claire

Reis was interviewed for an article in The New York Times,

written by Howard Taubman. "Endless Battle" (November 20,

1955) recounted her work as chair of the League of Composers

and discussed her work as an active honorary chair. The

point is made that although much had been accomplished in

the early years of the League, there was still much to be

done. In 1969, Claire Reis visited the Santa Fe, New

Mexico, opera festival, which was premiering two American










operas. She was written about in The New Mexican in an

article that recounted her work as a founder and secretary

of the board of the New York City Center, as well as her

promotion of American opera. There was a one-paragraph

biography of her written by Vivian Perlis in the New Grove

Dictionary of American Music; the accompanying bibliography

had only three entries.

Following her death in 1978, there was the standard

obituary in The New York Times and National Music Council

Bulletin. The Musical Ouarterly published a longer memorial

written by Aaron Copland, a close friend of Mrs. Reis.

There are numerous articles from The New York Times and

music journals about the League of Composers, New York City

Center, and other groups with which Claire Reis was

involved. Although she was sometimes interviewed for these

articles, most often only her name was listed as being a

member of the organization.

Another source of information about Claire Reis was in

biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs of those

composers, musicians, and critics with whom she was

involved. They often confirm in their own books what Claire

Reis wrote about them. Aaron Copland, in Copland: 1900

Through 1942, wrote of their friendship and of the support

he received from the League of Composers. Two books about

Stokowski, Leonard Stokowski by Preben Opperby and

Stokowski: A Counterpoint of View by Daniel Oliver, both











confirm the story Claire Reis told of her first meeting with

the conductor Stokowski. In Varese: A Looking Glass Diary,

Louise Varese told a different story about the split between

the members of the International Composer's Guild. Mrs.

Varese's version is more acrimonious than the one Mrs. Reis

recounted in her book. It should be noted that several

other authors, including Daniel Oliver, used the Varese

version of the ICG split rather than what Mrs. Reis wrote.

Claire Reis was mentioned in Milhaud's memoirs, Notes

Without Music, as well as Frederick Martens's biography of

Leo Ornstein, and the biography of Paul Rosenfeld by Jerome

Mellquist and Lucie Wiese. A letter to her was printed in

Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson, and she was mentioned

several times in Minna Lederman's book, Life and Death of a

Small Magazine: Modern Music.


Summary


The review of the related literature suggested that

research on the life and work of Claire Reis was seriously

lacking and that she had been omitted from standard music

sources on the twentieth-century. It was difficult to

understand this neglect, considering her achievements as an

advocate for the contemporary composer and his music, and

her substantial impact on the performance of this music and

the careers of many composers, as well as her efforts to

educate the public about contemporary music. It made this











study all the more necessary to contribute to the curriculum

of college-level music history and literature classes where

this information would add much needed insight into the

development of twentieth-century music.



Notes

1. Claire R. Reis, Composers in America: Biographical
Sketches of Living Composers with a Record of their
Works 1912-1937. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1938, p. 3.

2. Claire R. Reis, American Composers: A Record of Works
Written Between 1912 and 1932, 2nd ed. New York, NY:
The International Society for Contemporary Music, 1932,
p. ii.

3. Claire R. Reis, "Contemporary Music and 'The Man on the
Street'," Aeolian Review 2 (March 1923):26.

4. Claire R. Reis, "Contemporary Music and 'The Man on the
Street'," Aeolian Review 2 (March 1923):27.

5. Claire R. Reis, "Contemporary Music and 'The Man on the
Street'," Aeolian Review 2, (March 1923):25.

6. Marion Bauer and Claire R. Reis, "Twenty-Five Years
With the League of Composers," The Musical Quarterly 34
(January 1948):2.














CHAPTER III
EARLY LIFE AND WORK, THE PEOPLE'S MUSIC LEAGUE
AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMPOSER'S GUILD


Early Life and Work


The influence of family and work on Claire Reis had a

significant impact on her later work. The philosophies and

skills with which she organized and led the League of

Composers were all based on experiences gained earlier.

Claire Raphael Reis was born August 4, 1888, in

Brownsville, Texas, where her father, Gabriel M. Raphael,

was president of the First National Bank. He was from New

York, educated at Hartford Business School, and moved to

Brownsville to go into the mercantile business; later he

became president of the bank. In addition, he had interest

in silver mines. Her mother, Eugenie Salamon Raphael, was

born in Edinburgh, Scotland, of French parents who had moved

to Scotland for business purposes. Along with her older

brother, Angus, and sister, Alice, Reis attended the only

public school in Brownsville. In describing her school and

town, she said,

Our school, the only school in the town, had half
Mexicans and half Americans, and we played games
like baseball with the Mexican girls as well as
boys, but the rest of our life was chiefly, almost
only, with the American people; in this small town
where people came from many parts of the European









26

world as my mother had; and also my father had
come from New York. For a small town, the quality
of the people who had moved there one or two
generations before mine, represented a very
cultured group.1

Reis's mother, her first music teacher, had an

interesting method of teaching piano lessons. She would

place small papers with selected notes of the musical

alphabet (a,b,c,d,e,f,g) on the piano keys and allowed the

children to pick out tunes with which they were familiar by

using this method.2 Reis followed suit with this method

years later when she began to develop a music system for

Montessori kindergartens.3

Another influence from her mother was the idea of

working within the community. She stated,

I think she carried on the tradition from her
mother, which I feel I have carried on from her,
and that is, an active interest in the people of
her town. My grandmother was known as Madame
Clara for a great deal of work for the poor she
did in Edinburgh for charity. My mother took up
the cause of the poor Mexicans who did beautiful
Mexican handwork, and I can remember vividly
seeing those poor youngsters come to the back
porch to sell her their linens. She would also
get benefits for them and try to improve their
condition. So mother had a sense of partaking of
the needs of the town, the way many of us have
tried to do our share in helping improve New York
City.4

Mr. Raphael died in 1898, the year he planned to

retire. Since there was only one school in Brownsville, and

it was considered to be a mediocre one that afforded the

Raphael children a poor education, Mr. Raphael's retirement

plans centered about moving the family to a larger city










where the children could receive a better education. After

his sudden death, Mrs. Raphael followed her husband's plans

and, in September 1898, moved with her three children to New

York. The Raphaels had no family or friends in that city,

but with "single-minded determination and energy,"5 they

established a home there. Since Mrs. Raphael was European,

her own background influenced her decisions in raising her

children. After only a winter in New York, it was decided

that the family would move to France for two years (1899-

1901), where their education included piano lessons, weekly

visits to the opera, and learning the language.6 When

Claire was 16 (1904), the family moved to Berlin, Germany,

for one year for the study of music and the language. Of

this year, she later said,

It was the great year of my educational life,
studying in Germany, because it was a serious
year, I really grew up, and I don't think I could
have given as much of my life to music as I have
done if I had not felt so keenly about making
music my life that year I was in Germany.7

Reis studied with the Leschetizsky Vorbereiter in

Berlin. Her daily schedule included studying to complete

her high school graduation requirements in New York,

practicing the piano four or five hours, and attending

concerts. Concerts were held nightly from 7:00 to 9:00, and

featured the great artists of the day. Reis recalled seeing

such performers as Mark Hambourg, Geraldine Farrar, Emmy

Destin, and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by

Felix Weingartner and Artur Nikisch. Of contemporary music










she said, "The general philharmonic concerts were probably

the same as in any other city today. Maybe some modern, but

no contemporary composer except Busoni (1866-

1924)."8

Upon her return to New York (1906), Reis, with one year

to finish in school, began piano studies with Bertha Fiering

Tapper (1859-1915) at the Institute of Musical Art (later

the Juilliard School). She and a friend, Irene Jacobi,

hired a professional cellist and violinist and studied

chamber music literature together. According to Reis, they

went through "all the sonatas,"9 including piano sonatas,

sonatas for piano and violin, sonatas for cello and piano,

and four-hand arrangements of symphonies. These sessions

were not used to prepare for any concerts, but to study the

literature, and the enjoyment of playing.

After graduation from high school (1907), Reis attended

the Institute of Musical Art, continued her piano studies

with Tapper and attended other music classes. She remained

at the Institute, however, for only two and a half years,

feeling that she "didn't care whether I had a diploma or not

because I wasn't striving for that"10 and that she "had

had the best of the being there."11 She remained a

student of Mrs. Tapper, with whom she studied for seven

years. Reis was a talented enough pianist to be asked by

her teachers to consider a career as a professional pianist.








29

She played in recitals given by Tapper's students, and in

the New York area.

I played--I played for charities, I played for bad
little boys in institutions, I played for sick
people; whenever anybody asked me and as I had the
time I played a whole program, but it never gave
me the feeling that this is what I want to go
with. And I don't regret it to this day.12

Reis's name can be found on programs presented at Cooper

Union accompanying Max Rosen (then 10 years old) performing

Corelli's La Folia on violin; the Women's Trade Union League

of New York Second Annual Entertainment and Ball held

November 10, 1911, performing Chopin's Polonaise in Ab

major; accompanying Conrad R. Strassner, violinist, at the

Carnegie Lyceum April 30, 1911; and accompanying Albert

Greenfeld, violinist, at the Lyceum Theater April 28,

1912.13

Reis's introduction to contemporary music came after

she left the Institute of Musical Art (1910). She formed a

trio with Walter Kramer (1890-1969), a composer, violinist

and music critic, and Waldo Frank (1889-1967), a cellist and

author. Kramer had access to some of the newest music and

would bring those scores to the trio's sessions. They did

not perform in public, but met only to play for the joy of

making music and to experience new music. The only person

allowed to sit in on the sessions was Paul Rosenfeld (1890-

1946), a close friend, who was also interested in

contemporary music (Rosenfeld later became a writer on the

arts, music critic, and ardent champion of new music). Reis










was also introduced to contemporary music through her

friendship with the composer Leo Ornstein (1892). Ornstein

studied at the Institute of Musical Art and was a student of

Mrs. Tapper; he often played some of his own compositions at

his teacher's Saturday afternoon classes.

Two groups with which Claire Reis became involved at

this time were to give her the experience necessary for

later organizing the League of Composers. These groups were

the Walden School and the People's Music League. Reis's

interest in teaching music to children was kindled by her

association with Margaret Naumburg (1890-1983), a friend who

had been in Italy studying with Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-

1952). Reis felt that the Montessori principles would work

well in teaching music. She met Naumburg in Europe in the

summer of 1913 to investigate new methods of teaching music

and dancing, including Montessori and the eurythmic classes

of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1950). She also attended

some of the Yorke-Trotter pedagogical classes given at the

London Conservatory of Music and later studied eurythmics

with a Swiss teacher in New York. Upon their return to New

York in the fall of 1913, Reis and Naumburg were given a

room in the Henry Street Settlement to begin their classes.

Since these were some of the first Montessori groups to meet

in the United States, numerous educators came to observe the

classes. The director of the New York Public Schools

kindergarten department and the director of the ungraded









31

classes visited, and later insisted that Reis and Naumburg

begin a similar class in a public school. After some "red

tape" in getting their teaching licenses, they began a class

in the spring of 1914 at the public school on 182nd Street.

Unfortunately, the promised piano and other materials never

arrived, so Reis and Naumburg decided to establish a private

school. They opened the Children's School in the fall of

1914. The school's name was later changed to the Walden

School. Reis gave several lectures between July and October

of 1914 about the Dalcroze movement. These were given to

the Federation for Child Study in New York and in Baltimore,

and to the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education.

She stated that it was the purpose of Dalcroze Eurythmics to

"develop a conscious rhythmic feeling in every art as well

as in all life" and that Eurhythmics "has proven value for

concentration and coordination.l14

Claire Raphael married Arthur M. Reis in 1915. She was

soon busy with family life, and decided to resign at the end

of her fourth year at the Walden School. When Reis married,

she and her husband had been friends for a long time.15

He understood her drive and her interest in Walden School,

the People's Music League, and subsequently the League of

Composers. Their agreement was that since his business day

with Robert Reis and Company (men's clothing manufacturer)

ended at a specific time, hers would also. Their evenings

were reserved for family and friends.16 However, she










continued her work with Montessori principles by giving

small music classes for her children as well as those of a

few of the neighbors.


The People's Music League


The idea for the People's Music League came from Reis's

concerts with Max Rosen at Cooper Union. She saw the

audience at Cooper Union and felt there was a need for such

an undertaking. Later she said,

That really stirred me, that I remember very
vividly. I have not seen that kind of an
audience. You could tell that they were people--
many people newly arrived, their shawls over them,
some in foreign costume and they just packed the
hall and were excited.1

Although many young men and women did philanthropic work in

the settlement houses, Reis felt she could put her energy to

better use. Her idea was to supply these people with free

concerts. She was introduced to Dr. Frederick C. Howe,

director of the People's Institute, who agreed with Reis

that more cultural events were needed for the newly arrived

immigrants. The People's Music League (the name given by

Reis) sponsored by the People's Institute, with Reis as its

new chair, was formed in November of 1912. The specified

origin and purposes of the new People's Music League were

1. To stimulate musical knowledge and appreciation

among people of New York who have little

opportunity to hear good music and to make its










enjoyment an integral part of the lives of the

people.

2. To offer opportunity for young artists who are

recommended by musicians of unquestioned standing

to appear before audiences.

3. To open the auditoriums in the public school

buildings to the people at large for musical

purposes.

4. To organize orchestras and other musical

organizations in the various neighborhoods where

the concerts are given.18

With the help of the trustees of the People's

Institute, Reis was able to get the school board to allow

the People's Music League to use public school auditoriums

at night for some of the concerts, mostly in districts where

the largest number of people were newcomers. Other concerts

were held at Cooper Union. She gathered together a small

committee of musicians to help and soon began the concerts.

The performers, some of whom were members of the committee,

were all young professionals, most of whom were just

beginning their careers. The artists received $5.00 for an

evening performance. The funding for these concerts came

solely from contributions. During the second year of

concerts the People's Music League received a gift of

$5,000.00 from John W. Frothingham (1878-1935,

philanthropist and music patron, later president of the










League's Board of Trustees), who had attended a concert and

had been impressed by what he had seen. They received this

gift for each of the remaining years the People's Music

League was in existence (1912-1922).19

The concerts were a success, and often the auditoriums

were so full that a concert had to be repeated. Other rooms

in the buildings were opened for the overflow crowd, and

when the artists were finished in one room they would move

to another and repeat their program. Later Reis was to

state,

I don't think that today if you tried something
like that you would find as eager an audience for
entertainment. These people were so largely the
foreigners who were coming in from Ellis Island to
a new country, where they knew nobody or only a
few people, but who had had concerts in all their
small towns in their small parks in their own
homelands.20

The concerts consisted mainly of choral, chamber, and

orchestra music from the standard repertoire, and some folk

music from various countries. In one year, there were 600

concerts.21 Contemporary music was not specifically

planned until the tenth anniversary concert.

In 1919, the People's Music League formed the People's

Chorus, which was directed by Ernest Bloch (1880-1959).

This project was one with which Claire Reis proposed to

address two needs. The first was to offer the opportunity

to the people to sing in a community chorus. Reis began to

organize the chorus, and flyers were printed and addressed

"to music lovers."22 Requirements were "a voice,











knowledge of reading at sight, and regular attendance."23

The chorus met once a week, and a small sum of money was

charged to cover the cost of the music. The second need met

was to help Ernest Bloch. Bloch had arrived from

Switzerland in 1916 with his family, and was little known in

the United States. Reis visited Bloch at his apartment and

discovered how unhappy he was "having to teach young people

who were not all very talented."24 When she asked what he

would like to do, he replied, "I would like to conduct a

chorus of old works, early works."25 What was different

about the People's Chorus and other community choruses was

that the purpose of the People's Chorus was to study and

enjoy the choral music of the fifteenth and sixteenth

centuries, but not necessarily to prepare or perform a

concert. Musical America called the chorus "one of the

League's finest plans."26 Paul Rosenfeld wrote,

It seemed wellnigh impossible that such rare and
subtle music could be taught to a chorus of
amateurs in, say, as work-a-day a place as the
auditorium of the Manhattan Trade School.
Palestrina and Twenty-second Street were mutually
exclusive, one was sure. And yet, to those of us
who assisted at those first meetings, when the
chorus of the People's Music League was being born
a few weeks ago, it was evident that whatever
might hamper the progress of the movement, it was
not the fact that there was unrelatedness between
music and audience. For none existed.27

Although the People's Chorus only lasted one season

(September to May), it was considered a success.

For the concert to celebrate the tenth anniversary of

the People's Music League (held February 12, 1922), Reis










suggested that the program be made up of composers

performing their own works. The composers involved were

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979), Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964),

Frederick Jacobi (1891-1952), A. Walter Kramer (1890-1969),

Lazare Saminsky (1882-1959), and Deems Taylor (1885-1966).

It was unusual at that time for composers to appear

performing their own music, as was noted in Musical America:

One of the first actions of the People's Music
League as an independent body has been to turn its
attention to the young composer. It is something
of an anomaly in the musical world that much music
may be presented while the composer of it is
neglected. Hence the League had had the
inspiration of presenting in concert a most
unusual symposium of writers, who are to interpret
their own compositions.28

The pieces performed included two movements of Rebecca

Clarke's Sonata for viola and piano, Polvchromes for piano

by Louis Gruenberg, three Preludes by Frederick Jacobi, and

songs by Walter Kramer, Deems Taylor, and Lazare Saminsky.

The program was received with "enormous enthusiasm"29 by

the audience as well as by the critics. One critic wrote,

Of singular interest was the composers concert
given on February 12, at Cooper Union, under the
auspices of the People's Music League, when a
group of the most gifted younger writers in this
country presented examples of their work. The
program served to answer with dignity the
irreconcilable critics of native composition, and
indicated also the devoted and serious aim which
distinguishes the writing of these musicians. .
The program successively accomplished its
purpose in revealing the high standard of these
native writings, and in demonstrating the
erudition which accompanies the efforts of each of
these still very young writers. In presenting it,
the League again renewed its valiant efforts to
aid American music.30










Not long after this concert, Claire Reis identified

what she felt had become a serious problem in the People's

Music League. She had noticed that many people in the

audiences of the concerts were leaving in the middle of the

concerts. She wondered if free concerts were necessary for

the newly arrived people anymore. What she discovered was

that these people were leaving the concerts and going to the

movies. Since the concerts were free, and it cost money to

get into a movie, it was suggested that the People's Music

League begin charging a small admission to their concerts.

After some discussion with Dr. Eugene Noble, president of

the Juilliard Foundation for Music, and some serious

thought, Reis decided it was time to stop since the

audiences were dwindling.31 The People's Music League was

dissolved in February, 1922.

In reviewing the recent concert of living composers

works, Reis felt that it was now time for more of those

types of programs.

I felt compelled to find new and better ways to
help with the development of contemporary music.
Something told me that now my activities of the
last ten years had served the purpose, but had
reached their logical end. With this in
mind, I turned to the new interest I had taken in
helping living composers.32


The International Composer's Guild


The Composer's Concert of the People's Music League

brought Claire Reis to the attention of the composer Edgard










Var&se (1883-1965). In 1921, Var&se formed the

International Composer's Guild (ICG) in New York. This was

the first American organization to devote itself exclusively

to performing contemporary music. During the first season,

the Guild produced three concerts which were held in the

Greenwich Village Theater on Sheridan Square. The concerts

were a success, but the location was considered too

inconvenient for most subscribers and critics. The theater

was also quite small, and located over a subway.33 Var&se

needed someone to organize the business affairs of the

Guild, leaving him free to concentrate on the artistic

concerns. According to Claire Reis, in both her book

Composers. Conductors, and Critics and the oral history

interview with Vivian Perlis, Varese came to her through the

recommendation of her friend Louis Gruenberg. Reis wrote

that Varese came to her house in February of 1922 and told

her, "We need your help! If you'd help us to

reorganize the International Composers' Guild--our society

to advance contemporary composers and their music--there may

still be some hope for what we're trying to accomplish.34

Reis agreed to join the Guild and become its executive

secretary for the next season (beginning in the fall of

1922), with Varese as chair and Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961)

as vice-chair. Her first task was to find a new theater.

She was able to rent the Klaw Theater on West 45th Street

for a nominal fee since the owners were friends of hers and











the theater was unused on Sundays when the Guild held their

concerts.

Board meetings of the Guild were usually held in Reis's

home. She recalled that the meetings were usually

unorganized as often wives of the board members and other

musicians would attend the meetings.

At those meetings we had no rules. Varese would
talk, Salzedo would talk, maybe I did a little.
Then in would come some musicians who wanted to
know what was going on, and they were welcomed by
Varese, and I never was sure who belonged and who
didn't.35

For the second concert of the season, the Guild decided

to perform Arnold Schoenberg's (1974-1951) Pierrot Lunaire,

which had been creating a sensation at all of its

performances in Europe. Louis Gruenberg was chosen to

conduct, with Greta Torpadie as soloist and a small ensemble

of five musicians. Fifteen rehearsals were agreed upon, to

be held at Reis's home. She recalled,

As we had a large studio living room in our
apartment they rehearsed there, and I was in the
room next to it, at every rehearsal wondering if I
was in the wrong camp, because I had never heard
so much contemporary music, except when Leo
Ornstein was just beginning to introduce his
music.36

Near the completion of the fifteen rehearsals, Gruenberg

informed Reis that more rehearsals were needed and three

more were agreed upon. At the end of the eighteenth

rehearsal, it was decided that there would have to be two

more rehearsals. After the twentieth rehearsal, Gruenberg

told Reis that they would not be able to perform the work as










scheduled. Since the Klaw Theater was completely sold out,

Reis knew that the performance would have to go on. She

told Gruenberg,

Louis, we have two days left before the scheduled
performance of Pierrot Lunaire. We can add two
more rehearsals. But then, after twenty-two
rehearsals, the work will simply have to be given
according to our agreement with the public.3

Reis and Gruenberg spent the next two hours pacing up and

down her living room arguing about the performance. Reis

finally convinced Gruenberg, and Pierrot Lunaire was given

its American premiere as scheduled. She later wrote,

It was as strange and turbulent a walk as I have
ever taken in my life. To this day I do not
know what reason brought him round, unless it was
my stubborn repetition that his best attempt with
this work at its present state probably would be
as good, and very likely better, than an attempt
by anyone else.3

With the performance of Pierrot Lunaire came

controversy. The first came from Schoenberg himself.

Var&se wrote to Schoenberg to ask permission to perform the

work. Schoenberg first replied that he wanted to know the

aims of the Guild. After receiving their manifesto, he

wrote to ask how the Guild could call itself international

when they had not performed a work by a German composer, and

had they planned enough rehearsals (he had held one hundred

rehearsals for a performance in Vienna), did they have an

adequate woman speaker, did they understand the style of the

work? If they could satisfy him on these and other points,

he would give his permission.39 After a number of letters











and explanations, Schoenberg gave his permission for the

performance. Other controversies stemmed from the reaction

of the press. They avoided attacking Schoenberg outright,

but gave very little praise in their reviews, using such

terms as 'a painstaking performance.' An editorial in the

Musical Courier was very critical of the performance:

Schoenberg first protested the performance of his
Pierrot Lunaire by the New York section of the
International Composers' Guild, but later gave his
consent. Had he seen the performance he surely
would have been sorry that he changed his mind.
.. Since it represents the extreme of descriptive
music, one should at least have been able to hear the
text of which the music was descriptive; as a matter of
fact, owing to one cause or another, not one word in
five could be heard or was intelligible when heard.
The International Composers' Guild does no service to
itself, Schoenberg, or anybody else by such a parody.
We do not share in the enthusiasm of some of
our foreign correspondents for Schoenberg. It may be
that he is the musical Messiah to lead us into new
paths. We doubt it. But we do like to see fair play
for everyone and fair play was not what Schoenberg
received at the hand of the International Guild.4u

Claire Reis was quick to respond to this editorial,

replying:

It seems to us that Fair Play would have been to
have inquired further as to the manner in which
Schoenberg has authorized the recent presentation
of this work before giving so much publicity to
your protest. ... It is but little to expect
that an organization like the International
Composers' Guild would inform themselves of the
traditions concern Pierrot Lunaire and the best
way to present any composer's intentions in
bringing their work to the American audience.41

Despite the critic's opinion, Pierrot Lunaire was a

success with the audience and there were many calls for a

repeat performance. It was the desire by some of the board










members for a repeat performance of Pierrot Lunaire that

brought to the surface the dissatisfactions and

disagreements among them resulting in the resignation of

three board members. Besides the artistic reasons for

wanting a repeat performance, there was also a practical

one: the success of the first concert and resulting

curiosity about the work would have almost guaranteed a full

house, the proceeds of which would have helped the Guild

with the debts it had incurred that year. Unfortunately,

the by-laws of the Guild's charter specifically stated that

the Guild would give first performances only. For some

unexplained reason, it seems that Var&se was the only one

who know about this particular by-law. This was a policy

that he had stipulated for the Guild, and one that he would

not compromise. This altercation seemed to be only the tip

of the iceberg of dissent between members of the board, and

it was only the last in a long list of complaints that

caused their walkout. At first, Reis tried to mediate

between the two groups, but because she was in complete

disagreement with the policy of first performances only,

felt she must resign. She later said:

[There were] some of the things, I think, that
created the now famous walkout of three of the
board--and they really were board members because
they had attended regularly. Gruenberg had been
enormously interested and he felt responsible for
having brought Varese to see me and persuade me to
take over the society; Saminsky was traveling a
great deal during those years in the summer, and
knew many musicians in Europe and brought ideas
back of new works, and Alma Morgenthau Wertheim










was giving money generously to pay the back debts
and to help establish this organization. But I
did not know that their complaints were getting
close to a point of crisis. I was spared that
until the three of them in a temper just broke up
the meeting and said, 'We are resigning.' Varese
was startled. I don't think a dictator always
knows what a dictator's offenses are on
others.42

Reis did not know that there was so much

dissatisfaction. She said,

I think they felt that I was doing a pretty good
job in bringing big audiences and getting enough
money to pay good instrumentalists, and they
didn't want me to worry about Varese's behavior.
He soon really became an impossible kind of an
enemy to the League and to me. He struggled to
keep his society going, and he felt that when the
League was formed--which was a suggestion made to
me by the three dissidents who had walked out;
when they heard that I wasn't going to stay with
him for a completely different reason--because he
wouldn't repeat works--they suggested forming the
League of Composers, or a society which became
called that. Well, by that time I was getting
more and more interested in the lives of composers
and their needs, and I readily saw that a society
could be formed which would not have a dictator,
not have the ruling that had made me break with
Varese, and from there I can go on and tell you we
formed a society immediately with bylaws which we
all agreed upon. The music we would perform would
be from every country, from every trend; the first
year no one who was on the board--no composer on
the board would have his work performed, so we
wouldn't start off as the other society had, with
more or less of a clique feeling in it.43

The split was acrimonious. In her biography of Varese,

Louise Varese later wrote about this episode. She admitted

that Varese was a "despot director"44 of the ICG, but her

condemnation of Reis was nonetheless complete. Her

description of Reis's entry into the ICG was this:










Louis Gruenberg, the pianist and composers whom
Varese had known in Berlin and who had played
something of his own at the first concert,
proposed a friend of his, a Mrs. Arthur Reis, who
had been managing concerts at the Cooper Union.
So Var&se and Salzedo went to see her and she
eagerly accepted. Mrs. Reis began by finding an
auditorium uptown for the concerts. Her
affiliations were many and moneyed. She obtained
the Klaw Theater for three Sundays at a very
moderate rate, as she tells in her carefully
misleading (not to use a less euphemistic word)
account of the ICG in her book. The Klaws were
friends of hers. She also added other friends to
be the executive board: Mrs. Alma Wertheim, who
was a daughter and sister of the Morganthaus, and
Stephen Bourgeois, a picture dealer. She was
indefatigable. She took over. The musical
guidance of the Guild was to be left exclusively
to Var&se and Salzedo. She was a treasure--or so
we thought.45

When the Vareses left for Berlin in July of 1922,

Louise Varese claimed that Varese cautioned Salzedo to watch

out for the "foreign element" in the Guild and that he

already sensed in Reis "a tendency toward tentacular

proliferation.46 About their homecoming, she wrote:

As soon as we returned to New York in the middle
of November, Varese, as chairman of the ICG,
called a meeting and, as naturally as breathing,
resumed leadership. This, it was soon to become
evident, was resented by Mrs. Reis and her clique,
who, during his absence, had assumed that theirs
was the power and the glory to come. They began,
not yet frankly, but with the determination of
pique, working democratically to dethrone him.47

Of the final split, Louise Varese wrote:

The ostensible reason for the final quarrel,
though reason enough, was not the real one. That
was simply, as in most divorce cases, a matter of
incompatibility. If it hadn't been one reason, it
would have been another. Mrs. Reis and Gruenberg,
supported by Saminsky, Jacobi, and Whithorne,
voted for a repetition of Schoenberg's work. .
However, Varese referred them to the bylaws of the










organization which ruled out repetitions. The
purpose of the rule had been to provide the
broadest possible view of contemporary music and
to give a hearing to as many qualified composers
as possible. It was much too early in the life of
the Guild to consider changing this rule. Many
works of many composers, Var&se insisted, still
remained to be heard. Varese's opposition led to
a heated quarrel between him and Gruenberg... To
Varese this question, involving the very raison
d'Atre of the Guild, was not one to be argued
coolly in parliamentary style (Mrs. Reis was a
stickler for parliamentary procedure.) Var&se
felt too deeply. It seemed to him that the same
elements that had disrupted his orchestra might
once more defeat his purpose. He was at this
point not arguing, he was charging. He wanted a
fight--a fight to the finish. It came in the end
when Mrs. Reis, even further overstepping her
role, took it upon herself to call a meeting to be
held at the gallery of her friend Mr.
Bourgeois.48

Although Mrs. Reis did not mention this particular

meeting in any of her papers, a board of directors was

formed and the League of Composers was incorporated in

April, 1923.


Summary


The events experienced by Claire Reis, her family and

the people with whom she was acquainted, had a direct

influence on her philosophy as executive chair of the League

of Composers. Her mother taught her the importance of

music, and to work to improve her community. Mrs. Reis was

a trained musician and excellent performer, as well as a

music educator. Her acquaintances with numerous composers

led her to realize their problems and try to develop

solutions. She gained experience in organizing concerts as










chair of the People's Music League for 10 years, knowledge

that she put to use organizing concerts for the

International Composer's Guild and the League of Composers.

Her tenure as executive secretary of the ICG influenced her

in the forming of the League of Composers and establishing

its philosophy and practices. Mrs. Reis realized the value

of these experiences when she said,

I think perhaps I had a more imaginative mind and
I enjoyed pioneering in certain realms that I felt
should be done, like the People's Music League for
free music for the masses. Then the League of
Composers, and one thing took me on to the other.
There was a definite link.49



Notes

1. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 2.

2. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 4.

3. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 3.

4. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 5.

5. Claire Raphael Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 17.

6. Claire Raphael Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 18.








47

7. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 11.

8. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 13-14.

9. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 16.

10. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 16.

11. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 16.

12. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 18.

13. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. Claire Reis Collection. Box la, folder IV.

14. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. Claire Reis Collection. Box la, folder III.

15. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 32.

16. Claire Raphael Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 27.

17. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 33.

18. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. Claire Reis Collection. Box 2, folder III.










19. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 35.

20. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, pp. 35-36.

21. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 39.

22. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 48.

23. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 48.

24. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 47.

25. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 47.

26. Frances R. Grant, "Cooperation Will Purge New York's
Municipal Music of Political Poison," Musical America
30 (May 3, 1919):46.

27. Paul Rosenfeld, "Palestrina on Twenty-Second Street,"
New Republic 18 (March 8, 1919):179.

28. France R. Grant, "Symposium of Composers To Open
People's Music League Season," Musical America 35
(January 28, 1922):56.

29. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974):
p. 29.

30. Frances R. Grant, "Native Writers Give Own Works,"
Musical America 35 (February 18, 1922):13.











31. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 41.

32. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974):
p. 31.

33. Louise Varese, Varese: A Looking-Glass Diary (New York,
NY: Norton, 1972), p. 176.

34. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 4.


35. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 56.

36. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 59.

37. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 12.

38. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 12.

39. Louise Varese, Varese: A Looking-Glass Diary (New York,
NY: Norton, 1972), p. 186.

40. "Not Fair Play," Musical Courier 86 (February 8,
1923):20.

41. Claire R. Reis, "Pierrot Again," Musical Courier 86
(March 1, 1923):23.

42. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 64-65.

43. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January









50

1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 65.

44. Louise Varese, Varese: A Looking-Glass Diary (New York,
NY: Norton, 1972), p. 165.

45. Louise Var&se, Varese: A Looking-Glass Diary (New York,
NY: Norton, 1972), p. 177.

46. Louise Varese, Varese: A Looking-Glass Diary (New York,
NY: Norton, 1972), p. 177.

47. Louise Varese, Var&se: A Looking-Glass Diary (New York,
NY: Norton, 1972), p. 182-183.

48. Louise Varese, Varese: A Looking-Glass Diary (New York,
NY: Norton, 1972), p. 188-189.

49. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 18-19.














CHAPTER IV
THE LEAGUE OF COMPOSERS


In founding the League of Composers, Claire Reis

believed that she was creating an organization for the

composer, a true composer's guild. She used the experiences

gained from the People's Music League and the International

Composer's Guild to organize and run the League of Composers

for twenty-five years. These previous experiences also

helped her to create a philosophy and purpose for the League

of Composers, making it known that the raison d'etre for

establishing the new group was the composer.

The League of Composers was incorporated in April,

1923. The charter members of the League of Composers's

Executive Board were Arthur Bliss, Stefan Bourgeois, Louis

Gruenberg, Minna Lederman, Leo Ornstein, Lazare Saminsky,

Alma Morgenthau Wiener, Emerson Whithorne, Dr. T. H. Ames,

treasurer, and Claire Reis as executive chair. The stated

philosophy of the League was "to encourage the development

of every nationality and every trend in contemporary

music."1 In that first year, the League's aims were to

encourage and support the production of new and significant

works, to promote living composers and give special support

to young, unknown composers.2 Due to Reis's experiences










with Var&se in the International Composer's Guild, she also

added that while "first performances were to be a feature of

the League concerts, modern works that the board considered

of sufficient importance to have a rehearing would be

included."3

The April 18, 1923, edition of The New York Times

carried the following article:

Another society to further the production of
modern music is now being incorporated, called the
League of Composers. Its immediate purpose is to
present music to the New York public which shall
be representative of contemporary tendencies in
the broadest and best sense. During the season of
1923-24 an opening series of concerts will be
offered at the Klaw Theater, devoted to the work
of modern composers of various schools and
nations.

The league has been founded and is directed
by a small board of composers and laymen. Six of
this number have been members of the group of
eight people who acted as Executive Council for
the International Composer's Guild during the
present season. A year's active association
convinced the seceding members that a broader
interpretation of the guild's original purpose was
imperative if a permanent public for modern music
were to be sought in this country. Owing to
irreconcilable differences as to policy, they have
formed a new medium, the League of Composers,
which will endeavor to present programs of such
disinterestedness, impartiality, and significance
as to place the sincerity of its purposes beyond
question.

The league is being incorporated to
encourage, support, and make possible the
production of music representative of present
time; to enable new composers to achieve
production and publication, to further the
publication of modern music; to promote
cooperation among composers of all countries, and,
finally to give performances, not for profit,
which shall represent and encourage new tendencies
in music.









53

This league holds no brief for the left or
the right wing of the so-called radical movement,
nor for the safe middle road. Nor will a
selective emphasis be placed on any one kind of
experiment, whether with instruments, tones, form
or whatsoever. Finally, the league is not
organized with any intent, expressed or tacit, of
promoting the work of the composers on this board.
The five composers who are part of an Executive
Committee of nine members represent the widest
range of modern tendencies. They are Leo
Ornstein, Louis Gruenberg, Lazare Saminski,
Emerson Whithorne and Arthur Bliss, the English
composer who is coming in the Spring for a
prolonged stay in the United States. The
arrangement of programs will depend on the
unanimous decision of the entire executive
board.4

The office of the League of Composers was established

in a former children's playroom at the top of Reis's house.

There, the League secretary used the old ping-pong table to

spread out programs and circulars ordered for League

programs. Board meetings were usually held at lunchtime (in

accordance with Reis's agreement with her husband about

evenings being reserved for their family). The board

meetings were held everywhere.

When anybody thought they knew of a new cheap
restaurant where the food was good we'd meet for a
lunch meeting, and sometimes we wondered if we
weren't being a little unwise when we'd have
excitement and perhaps too loud an opinion, and
the people at the table next to us got very
interested. And then occasionally we'd be at the
Beethoven Club, and occasionally in somebody's
home. I frankly did not want meetings at my
house. I had lots of parties with League members
or visiting composers, but I felt I didn't want
the responsibility of feeling that in my house
some might feel I had undue power given to me
which I didn't have.5










The first concert of the League of Composers was held

November 11, 1923. The works performed on this concert were

Ernest Bloch's Piano Quintet, Arthur Bliss's (1891-1975)

Songs with Chamber Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971)

Three Pieces for Clarinet, and Albert Roussel's (1869-1937)

Divertissement for Piano and Woodwinds. Although one of the

first rules decided by the League's board was that works by

board members in their first year would not be performed, an

exception was made in the case of Arthur Bliss. He was a

member of the board, but was newly arrived in America, and

was to be in the country only one year. Since he offered to

conduct his work, which was to be an American premiere, the

board decided to allow his work on this first program.

Another rule suggested by Claire Reis was that there should

be no encores. "I had great objection to encores," she

later stated,

I had seen that happen when I was with Varese and
Hvyerprism was played, and some of the audience
then were walking out at the end of the program,
and Salzedo jumped up on stage, finding always a
place to appear, and said, 'We decided to repeat
HvDerprism, and anyone who doesn't want to hear it
may go home. We'll have five minutes for this.'
And there was an exodus of people, but there were
people who stayed, and I thought that was very bad
manners and bad form, and I didn't think it should
happen. So I suggested a rule--no more repeats,
no encores. We would settle our programs
according to the time we wanted to hold one. And
Arthur Bliss understood this, but to my surprise,
with the great applause he received--and he was a
very good-looking figure on the stage and
conducted very well--the applause was more than he
could bear without a repeat, and before I knew it
he had tapped his baton for silence and he was
repeating the work. And at the end I said to him,










'Arthur, I guess you forgot the rule we made--no
repeats, no encores.' He said, 'Oh, I couldn't
help it, they wanted to hear it again.' But we
made a rule at the next meeting that no matter how
well received a work was there would be no more
encores.6

The idea to commission works came early in the life of

the League of Composers. It was first suggested to Claire

Reis by the conductor Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951). Mrs.

Reis met with Koussevitzky in the spring of 1925 to discuss

the possibility of his conducting a League concert in the

fall. Koussevitzky suggested to Mrs. Reis that she contact

Aaron Copland (1900-1990), who had been studying in Paris

but had recently returned to the United States, and

commission a work for Koussevitzky to conduct. This was

done, and Copland's Music for the Theater (1925) was the

League of Composer's first commission.

Claire Reis felt the success of this work opened a new

opportunity for the League in its efforts to aid living

composers. She wrote

it was obvious that competitions often represented
a great waste of time for men of talent, when only
one or two composers could receive recognition.
Others who had to give a great deal of their time
in order to enter the competition found themselves
without either honor or compensation for such
expenditures of time and labor. For this very
reason many composers of real stature would not
enter some of the competitions. If a man was
worthy of consideration, we believe he should be
chosen--as in the time of Mozart and Haydn.7

Through Reis's efforts, it became the policy of the

League of Composers to commission. However, due to the

limited financial scope of the League in its early years,










little or no monetary reward could be offered for a

commission--only the prestige of receiving a League of

Composers commission. The usual policy was that while the

League guaranteed a performance of the work, a composer

owned his work and was able to publish and sell it as he

wished. All he had to do was have printed on the music

'Commissioned by the League of Composers.'

While the prestige of a commission raised morale and

brought a composer's name before the attention of the

public, with little or no monetary reward, it did little to

help a composer earn a living. Concerned about this

problem, Reis realized the need to crusade for commissions

not only from the League but from other groups as well, and

for the League itself to establish a specific fund for

commissions. A chance to crusade came while attending a

meeting of the Music Committee of Town Hall (of which Reis

was a member). During a discussion of the Artist's Awards,

Reis suggested that they not only be awarded to performing

artists, but also to composers. After a discussion, it was

decided to offer a commission to William Schuman (1910), and

his String Quartet No. 3 was premiered in Town Hall the next

fall.

Due to the success of the League of Composers concerts,

with many famous conductors and artists volunteering their

services, the League was able to enlist the aid of a number

of patrons and patronesses to sponsor a series of gala










concerts at the Metropolitan Opera House. The purpose of

these concerts was to raise money to establish a Composer's

Fund with which the League could offer commissions with a

monetary award. Reis was disappointed to discover that

while they were willing to pay $250.00 per ticket, none of

these patrons were willing to contribute to a Composer's

Fund.8 The League of Composers was able to begin a fund

for commissions, but not at the level Reis would have

preferred. By the 1933-1934 season, Reis had developed the

Commission Plan for the League of Composers. The Commission

Plan was "solely for the benefit of the American composers.

Our society is international in scope, it is true.

Nevertheless, when it comes to a case of financial help, we

believe in helping our own first."9 It was to give direct

aid to composers in need of financial assistance, to find

positions in which they could be self-supporting while

continuing their creative activities, and in other ways to

foster their efforts.10 The Commission Plan also provided

performances of the works "by other organizations of this

country and Europe."1

Claire Reis never faltered in her efforts to find funds

for commissions. When approaching the 25th anniversary of

the League of Composers, Reis asked Irving Berlin and

Richard Rodgers to commission a composer to write a work for

the League's anniversary. Others to commission works for

the 25th anniversary were Boosey and Hawkes; Broadcast









58
Music, Inc.; Carl Fischer, Inc.; Hargail Music Press; Edward

B. Marks Corp.; National Federation of Music Clubs; Mrs.

Waler Rosen; Albert F. Metz; and Edwin Franko Goldman.

Other commissions were offered later by The Elizabeth

Sprague Coolidge Foundation at the Library of Congress;

Samuel R. Rosenbaum; the Koussevitzky Music Foundation;

Lado, Inc.; and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, who

gave a commission annually. Throughout her tenure as chair

of the League of Composers, Claire Reis continued in her

efforts to obtain commissions for composers. Even after she

retired as chair of the League, and through the other

organizations with which she was associated, Reis made it

clear that commissions for composers are important.

During its lifetime, the League of Composers offered a

wide variety of concerts of contemporary music. It produced

stage works, including ballets, and several in which life-

size puppets were introduced. There were productions of

American and Soviet operas, concerts honoring young

composers, and some which introduced composers of a

particular country or region. Evenings of tribute to one

composer offered a concert of his music followed by a

reception. Other concerts were dedicated to electronic

instruments, film music, music commissioned during World War

II, and radio broadcasts of commissioned works with a

discussion of the music.









59

The first staged work produced by the League of

Composers was in their second season (1924-1925). Board

member Lazare Saminsky (1882-1959) persuaded the board to

let him produce his new one-act opera Gaaliarda of a Merry

Plague. While Claire Reis and the other board members felt

the League was not ready to produce stage works, the fact

that there were so few one-act operas in production in the

United States made this seem like a worthwhile project to

attempt. Saminsky produced and directed the entire

production. He even managed to persuade a League patroness,

Alma Wertheim, to loan her antique Italian furniture for the

production. The performance was without mishap, but Claire

Reis felt strongly about achieving professional standards in

League performances, so the board decided not to attempt any

more stage productions until those standards could be met.

As it happened, that time came the next season. Reis had

heard about the premiere of Manuel de Falla's (1876-1946)

marionette opera, El Retablo de Maese Pedro, in Paris. The

opera was a success and had repeat performances across

Europe. After reading the reviews, the League decided to

present a concert version during the next season (1925-

1926). Reis cabled the publisher in London for the right of

performance for the League of Composers. It also happened

that Wanda Landowska (1879-1959), who had performed the work

in Paris, was in New York and on the advice of mutual

friends in Paris, had contacted Claire Reis. When Landowska










heard about the League's plans for performing El Retablo,

she offered to help and suggested that the League stage the

opera and not just produce a concert version. This launched

what Claire Reis has always called the League's "first stage

work because it was on a professional basis."12 Robert

Edmund Jones (1887-1954) designed the puppets, Remo Bufano

built them, and Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) conducted.

Landowska had originally asked Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)

to conduct, but when Reis went to discuss it with him, he

tried to convince her to sign over the rights of performance

to him so he could conduct it for Var&se and the

International Composer's Guild. Because the League of

Composers and the International Composer's Guild were the

two most active societies of contemporary music at that

time, there was a great rivalry between them. Reis refused

the request, and, after a number of difficulties, including

finding rehearsal space, El Retable de Maese Pedro was

premiered in Town Hall on December 29, 1925. The League's

production of de Falla's opera was called "a landmark in

stage production," and "one of the most important

experiments. in the theater of this country."13 Due

to the success of this performance, the League decided to

repeat El Retablo. The second performance was given at the

Jolson Theater with Pierre Monteaux (1875-1964) conducting,

and on the same program, a performance of Stravinsky's

(1882-1971) L'Histoire du Soldat was given. These










performances were underwritten by funds raised by an

existing League auxiliary committee. After the

performances, Reis was able to return one hundred percent of

the underwriting and to send twice the amount of payment to

de Falla that was asked for by his publisher.14

The next stage production (1929) of the League was

Stravinsky's Les Noces, with Stokowski conducting. He was

now prepared to work with the League. Stokowski asked that

the performance be held in the Metropolitan Opera House.

Luckily, it happened that the chair of the League's

auxiliary committee was the wife of the chairman of the

board of the Metropolitan Opera. The League was able to

rent the theater at minimum price and have the privilege of

extra house rehearsals. Since Les Noces would not fill an

entire evening, the League decided to contrast it with a

performance of Claudio Monteverdi's (1567-1643) II

Combattimente di Tancredi e di Clorinda. Although the

intention of the League was to promote contemporary music,

they did on occasion provide performances of older music.

In the 1927-1928 season, a performance was given of the

music of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century 'radical'

composers contrasted with the music of twentieth-century

'radicals.' The League believed "it was not modifying its

policies, but strengthening and broadening them [because]

that old music [was] as little known to the present

generation as the new."15 Of the Stravinsky/Monteverdi








62

concert, Reis wrote "this seventeenth century opera followed

by a contemporary composition, afforded a happy contrast,

dramatically and musically, and added great distinction to

the evening."16

The following season (1929-1930), Stokowski again

wanted to conduct a program with the League. The program

was to be Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps and

Schoenberg's (1874-1951) Die Glickliche Hand. Stokowski

expected to use the entire Philadelphia Orchestra (of which

he was director). Claire Reis had to obtain permission to

use the orchestra from the board of directors of the

Philadelphia Orchestra Association; she then planned three

performances in Philadelphia and two in New York at the

Metropolitan Opera House. Reis again managed to gather some

of the greatest artists and performers in New York to work

on these productions. Robert Edmund Jones designed the sets

for Die GlUckliche Hand and Rouben Mamoulian (1897) was the

stage director. Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947), who designed

the original sets and costumes for the premiere of Le Sacre

du Printemps in Paris (1913), recreated them for the

League's production. Leonide Massine (1896-1979), who had

helped create the original choreography, was on hand to

recreate the dance, and the solo dancer was Martha Graham

(1894-1991), just beginning her own career. As usual, all

of these artists volunteered their talent and time. One

artist, however, let Reis know he expected to be paid. Reis











had organized one of her famous tea parties where she

gathered all the people involved to discuss the coming

production and build enthusiasm.

Before the meeting had been held I had received a
letter from Roerich saying, 'Of course I must be
paid for this work,' and it was rather a large
sum, and I didn't know how to handle this, so I
decided that I'd just wait 'till he saw the
enthusiasm of all the others, and I had the right
instinct, and everyone of them said, 'You can use
me. I would like to take part in this movement to
create new contemporary works on the stage,' and
of course to be at the Metropolitan Opera House
itself was a great event, and we had this group of
patrons, with Mrs. Kahn and Mrs. Henry Alexander
and all these people enormously interested. Mrs.
Kahn [vice-chair of the League's Auxiliary
Committee] was insisting for instance that every
bill must be shown to her, because she wouldn't
have any union charging us as much as they charged
for a regular performance. These were benefits.
Well, that day at the tea party the enthusiasm
grew, and before Roerich left my home he came up
to me and he said, 'I want to change my mind. I
want to give my services.' This was the spirit
that really carried us forward.17

The following season, Stokowski once more conducted

stage works for the League. The program, again performed in

both Philadelphia and New York, included Stravinsky's

Oedipus Rex with puppets designed by Robert Edmund Jones and

operated by Remo Bufano, and Sergey Prokofieff's (1891-1953)

ballet Pas d'Acier with stage designs and costumes created

by Lee Simonson (1888-1967).

In 1933, the League of Composers repeated a performance

of Pierrot Lunaire at Town Hall and preceded it with a film,

Odna, with music by Shostakovich (1906-1975) who was not yet

well known in the United States. Most of these stage










productions were American premieres of the works, and were

considered to be a great success for the League of

Composers. They have been called "a milestone in the

history of the lyric stage in America."18

Due to the Great Depression, the League of Composers

was unable to continue producing stage works of the quality

of those of previous years. However, in cooperation with

other groups, they were able to sponsor and produce operas

by American, and, on occasion, European, and Soviet

composers. The first opportunity came in the 1934-1935

season. Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958) had created a

production of Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth of Mzensk,

with the Cleveland orchestra (of which he was director).

Rodzinski sent the orchestra manager to Claire Reis to

convince her to have the League sponsor a performance of the

opera in New York. Using Rodzinski as director, the

Cleveland orchestra and soloists, and a local chorus, the

League sponsored in February, 1935, the only New York

performance of this opera, the first to come out of the

Soviet Union in several decades.

In 1939, the American Lyric Theater asked the League of

Composers to join them in sponsoring a series of operas and

ballets by American composers. The first series of concerts

included the opera The Devil and Daniel Webster by Douglas

Moore (1893-1969) and the ballets Billy the Kid by Aaron

Copland, Pocahontas by Elliott Carter (1908) and Filling










Station by Virgil Thomson (1896-1989). Although these works

have since had frequent performances, the opening week was

one of the Leagues only "failures," due to errors in

planning rather than in the performances. The opening week

of the American Lyric Theater coincided with the opening of

the New York World's Fair (April 30, 1939) and the

competition was too great to overcome.

In searching for other opportunities for composers of

opera and ballet, the League of Composers began a new

project, called The Composer's Theater, in cooperation with

universities and music schools. The purpose of the project

was to bring together the resources of music and drama

departments at colleges, universities, conservatories, and

museums to create a new type of American Lyric Theater for

small operas. The League hoped to offer frequent

performances of works through collaboration with these

groups. Each group could use its own orchestral and/or

dramatic group, chorus, and soloists. The League would rent

out to the group all the stage designs, decor, and costumes

needed for the production. The Composer's Theater was

endorsed by many colleges and universities including

Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Smith, Vassar, Princeton,

Bennington, Bard, Western Reserve, Duke, Juilliard, Eastman,

and the Curtis Institute.

The first production of this project was a performance,

in 1942, of an opera commissioned by the League, Ernst










Bacon's (1898) A Tree on the Plains. The opera premiered at

the Spartanburg Festival at Converse College and was

repeated at the Brandon Matthews Theater at Columbia

University. Columbia also performed Benjamin Britten's

(1913-1976) opera, Paul Bunyan.

Although the Composer's Theater Project had a good

beginning with much support from the necessary educational

establishments, it was interrupted by World War II. A

similar project was begun by the Columbia University

Department of Music (with Douglas Moore as chair) after the

war, but the League of Composers did not become involved.

In November of 1924, the League began a series of

"young composers concerts," a precedent that was observed

for many years. The first announcement of this series

stated, "the younger generation in music will present two

programs devoted to 'the musical youngsters' of America,

England, and the Continent."19 These programs were

usually given in a room in the New York Public Library

(which held about 250 people), or a museum, rather than Town

Hall or one of the other larger concert halls usually used

by the League. The first concert was presented at the

Anderson Galleries, with the music critic Olin Downes (1886-

1955) as speaker. The music performed was by George

Antheil, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1965), Alois Haba

(1893-1973), Richard Hammond (1896), Ernst Krenek (1900),

Daniel Lazarus (1898-1964), Bernard Rogers (1873-1968),










Alexander Lang Steinert (1900-1982), and Aaron Copland.

This was Copland's first presentation of his music (the

Passacaalia and The Cat and the Mouse for piano) since his

return from Paris. He later wrote of this experience,

It was my first public presentation in New York--
not a very impressive debut, but the pieces were
well received, and when Paul Rosenfeld called me
the next day to tell me he liked my music, I could
not have been more surprised than if the President
of the United States had called. To me, an okay
from the critic of The Dial seemed better than
approval from The New York Times.20 The Young
Composers Concerts grew to be an important phase
of the League's activities, and the programs
frequently were devoted only to American
compositions. Many composers before the public
today made their professional bow on these
occasions. Through these programs a center
developed that afforded necessary contacts between
young composers and a sympathetic audience, and
gave recognition to unknown talent.21

Besides young composers, the League gave concerts

dedicated to the music of composers from certain countries

or regions. The first of these was held March 6, 1932, and

featured composers from Latin America. This concert was

considered to be the first (of any group) ever held in New

York which presented the works of living Latin American

composers. The concert featured the works of Pedr6 Humberto

Allende y Saron (1885-1959), Alejandro Garcia Caturla (1906-

1940), Carlos Ch&vez (1899-1978), Manuel Ponce (1882-1948),

and Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). Later concerts included

the music of Juan Jos4 Castro (1895-1968), Francisco Mignone

(1897), Luis Gianneo (1897-1968), Honorio Siccardi (1897),

Camargo Mozart Guarnieri (1907), Hector Tosar (1923),









68

Alberto Williams (1862-1952), Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983),

and Pedro San Juan (1886-1976). Due to its continuous

interest in the music of Latin America, the League of

Composers was chosen by Nelson Rockefeller, then Coordinator

of Cultural Relations, to sponsor a quintet of composer-

instrumentalists to tour Latin America, thus giving the

League an opportunity to offer contemporary music outside of

New York.

In January 1942, the League gave the first New York

program of works by contemporary Canadian composers. The

program was devoted to younger composers (the oldest was in

his early thirties); it featured the works of John J.

Weinzweig (1913), Godfrey Ridout (1918), Louis Applebaum

(1918), Hector Gratton (1900-1970), Andr6 Mathieu (1929-

1968), and Barbara Pentland (1912). Prior to the concert,

Claire Reis introduced James P. Manion, Assistant Canadian

Trade Commissioner in New York, who read a message from

Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King:

It is very gratifying to know that such a splendid
opportunity is being given to our young artists,
and that their talents should receive this
recognition. To the sponsors of the program and
to the performers themselves I extend my very best
wishes that the concert may be an unqualified
success.22

When, beginning in the 1930's, contemporary composers

began composing music for film, Claire Reis felt it was part

of the League of Composer's responsibility to focus some

attention on this music. The precedent had been set by the










League when it showed the film Odna with music by

Shostakovich in 1933. The first concert dedicated solely to

film music was in 1941, and consisted of excerpts from

documentaries. These included Roots of the Earth, music by

Paul Bowles (1910); Valley Town, music by Marc Blitzstein

(1905-1964); Power and the Land, music by Douglas Moore; One

Tenth of a Nation, music by Roy Harris (1898-1979); The

River, music by Virgil Thomson; and The City, music by Aaron

Copland. Each of the composers added commentary on their

scores. Since the evening was a success, the League offered

a second evening of film music in February 1942. This

concert consisted of excerpts from Hollywood "feature"

films. These included Once in a Blue Moon, music by George

Antheil; Of Mice and Men, music by Aaron Copland; So Ends

Our Night, music by Louis Gruenberg; Citizen Kane, music by

Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975); The General Died at Dawn,

music by Werner Janssen (1899) and Ernst Toch (1887-1964);

and Juarez, music by Erich Korngold (1897-1957). The League

distributed a questionnaire to the patrons at this second

concert, and discovered that of the 400 people in the

audience, only 120 could fill in the titles of three film

scores by composers whom they knew by name, but 384

preferred original music in films rather than arrangements

of the 'classics.' Reis later wrote, "(I was] amazed at a

total ignorance about music for film which came to

light."23










As the most important group in the avant-garde of

contemporary music, the League of Composers felt the need to

occasionally present concerts of experimental music with

newly invented instruments. The first of these, held in

Town Hall in 1926, presented the Mexican inventor and

composer, Julian Carillo (1875-1965). The program was

performed on an ensemble of instruments capable of sounding

quarter-, eighth-, and sixteenth-tones. Besides the works

planned for the program, each instrument was individually

demonstrated so the audience could understand what was

heard.

The next program for recently invented instruments was

held in 1938. Claire Reis had heard about a number of new

electric instruments and "felt the time was ripe for the

League to gather together some of these recent inventions

and give a demonstration for our subscribers."24 The

program, called "Music and Electricity," demonstrated the

Theremin (on which were performed works by Ravel and

Korngold), and the new electric Hammond organ. The program

included the inventor Benjamin Meissner's electric piano,

electric violin, and various other of his electric

instruments. The evening also contained a short lecture

about electric instruments and a separate demonstration of

each.

In 1943, a program of percussion music for a "multitude

of more or less fantastic instruments"25 was conducted for










the League by John Cage (1912). The composers represented

included Cage, Lou Harrison (1917), Henry Cowell (1897-

1965), Jos6 Ardeval (1911-1931), and Amadeo Roldan (1900-

1939). Another composer-inventor given his first public

performance in New York by the League was Harry Partch

(1901-1976). This concert, given in the 1940's, allowed

Partch to demonstrate his own instruments and the music he

had written for them.

Claire Reis believed that it was important for those

composer-inventors to be given a fair chance to be heard.

She stated,

I always felt that the League of Composers
represented an open mind on any form of good
music, and we felt when these inventors had good
instruments where you could play good music it was
very important to have good performers, as it was
with all of the music that we performed. In fact
I sometimes think it's more important to have good
performers for contemporary music to give it a
fair chance to be understood. But if you take an
inventor, or if you take an exceedingly difficult
music to understand and you don't give it what I
call a fair performance--I don't mean just fairly
good, I mean fair to the composer--you are not
doing justice to the inventor or to the composer,
and this has been a principle that I think we did
carry out almost always.26

In an effort to be of service in the war effort, Claire

Reis and the League of Composers took on a variety of

projects. Since Reis was in touch with many composers who

were in the armed services, she soon discovered from their

letters that many were frustrated because they were not able

to use their abilities to contribute to the war effort.

Many spent their time on KP duty. Reis wrote Dr. Harold










Spivacke, chair of the sub-committee on music of the Joint

Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation and

volunteered the League to send out a questionnaire to all

composers of draft age to discover their background,

training, and special abilities. Dr. Spivacke agreed, and

the League sent out 1500 questionnaires. Reis later

received a letter from Dr. Spivacke stating, "We have made

use of the answers to the questionnaire you sent out and

have found them very helpful."27

As the war continued, Reis realized there was more the

League could do. "It seemed clear that our organization had

a double job: to help the morale of our colleagues still in

civilian life as well as those taken into service and

already in the fighting ranks."28 The League became a

kind of 'clearing house' for requests for music from service

men. They received letters requesting copies of the

League's journal, Modern Music, for information on any radio

broadcasts of contemporary music, and requests for scores of

American contemporary music to be performed by groups around

the world. Reis stated, "We made every effort to meet such

requests, to pursue every means of fitting our activities

into the war effort."29

The League of Composers continued its regular season of

concerts throughout the war, and in these concerts

programmed many works of composers who were in the armed

service. Reis mailed copies of the printed programs to the










composers involved so they would know their works were being

performed. The League also offered thirty (or more if

needed) free tickets to each League concert to the New York

Defense Recreation Committee to be used by service men on

leave in New York. During the Christmas holidays, the

number of free tickets offered was doubled.

With so many servicemen on leave in New York, the

League of Composers decided to add to their regular season

concerts by giving free concerts in the city parks. Reis

met with the New York City Commissioner of Parks and

received permission for the League to produce these concerts

on the Mall in Central Park and in Prospect Park in

Brooklyn. Called "Wartime Concerts for Soldiers and

Sailors," these concerts presented at least one contemporary

work on each program, plus various folk music and dance

performed by numerous foreign music groups in New York. The

League was able to find a wide variety of folk groups,

including a Russian chorus and dancers, an African group

from Nigeria, a Puerto Rican chorus, a chorus of Chinese lay

people, and groups who presented music and dance from

Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Scotland, and Czechoslovakia. The

National Orchestra Association volunteered its services for

concerts. Bands and orchestras organized by workers in some

of the armament factories around New York were also invited

to perform. These concerts, offered in the summers of 1942










and 1943, were so popular that the audience often reached a

size of eight to ten thousand people.

In another service to the war effort, the League

decided to commission a series of short works (not to exceed

five minutes) from composers born or resident in America.

Each work was to be composed on a war-associated theme, to

be chosen by the composer. Reis asked Artur Rodzinski,

conductor of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra,

to perform one of these works at the beginning of each

program during the regular concert season. Rodzinski

agreed, stating,

.. in my opinion this series of commissions
will serve three excellent purposes; it will serve
as a strong and moving reminder to our country
that the preservation and furtherance of our
cultural resources is a duty and privilege of the
first importance in times as critical as our own.
It will create a living musical record of various
aspects of this war with its accompanying social
manifestations. It will continue to encourage and
stimulate composers resident in America, who are
given all too rarely the opportunity to be
heard.30

Not only were these works performed in New York, they were

recorded (live during the premiere performance) by the

Office of War Information (OWI) and broadcast over short

wave radio. The recordings were shipped overseas to be

broadcast over various outpost stations. Mackin Morrow,

music director of the OWI stated, "They will be heard by the

troops, by the civilian populations of allied and neutral

nations, and also in some of the occupied countries. We

expect to find them of value both in our propaganda and










entertainment programs."31 The composers commissioned and

their works follow:

Nicolai Berezowky (1900-1953) "Soldiers on the Town"

John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951) "The Anxious Bugler"

Henry Cowell (1897-1965) "American Pipers" (dedicated

to the A.E.F.

Norman Dello Joio (1913) "To a Lone Sentry"

Howard Hanson (1896-1981) "Fantasy for String

Orchestra"

Roy Harris (1898-1979) "March in Time of War"

Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) "For the Fallen" (an

elegy)

Charles Ives (1874-1954) "War Song March" (They Are

There)

Werner Josten (1885-1963) "Before the Battle"

Bohuslav MartinA (1890-1959) "Memorial to Lidice"

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) "Introduction et Marche

Funebre"

Douglas Moore (1893-1969) "Destroyer Song" (dedicated

to the U.S. Navy

Walter Piston (1894-1976) "Fugue on a Victory Tune"

Quincy Porter (1897-1966) "The Moving Tide"

Bernard Rogers (1893-1968) "Invasion"

Roger Sessions (1896-1985) "Dirge"

William Grant Still (1895-1978) "In Memoriam: The

Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy"










The broadcasts of wartime music were not the first in which

the League of Composers had been involved. In 1935, the

League began a series of broadcasts over the NBC radio

featuring a half-hour of contemporary music. The program

included three to four minutes of discussion of the music

performed and this duty was divided between the members of

the League's Executive Board. Reis later remarked,

I remember feeling I was very glad if they wanted
me to talk because I wasn't going into the depths
of new musicality. I was trying to explain what
the purpose was and something about the composer
himself. But they seemed very glad if I would
take the burden of some of this. We would
introduce the artist, the composer--the artist
perhaps saying a little about the composer, and
sometimes the composer would want to say something
about his work and that also was very agreeable
to all of us.32

After a season, the League moved its programs to CBS

radio. CBS commissioned, through the League of Composers, a

series of works to be performed on these broadcasts. These

commissions included such works as Concertino for Oboe.

Clarinet and String Quartet by Marion Bauer (1887-1955),

Suite for Seven Brass Instruments by Nicolai Berezowsky

(1900-1953), Music for Brass By Alvin Etler (1913-1973),

Worlds Fair Fanfare by Edwin Gerschefski (1909), Concerto

for Small Orchestra by Robert Palmer (1915), The Plains by

Bernard Rogers (1893-1968), Suite for Oboe, and Solomon and

Balkis, an opera composed specifically for radio, by Randall

Thompson (1899-1984).










For the League's twentieth anniversary, WQXR (the New

York Times's radio station) ran a series of four programs

that presented works either commissioned, premiered, or

sponsored in a recording by the League. These programs also

included a composer who was a member of a college faculty

who introduced the music. In addition, each of these

composers had composed a special anniversary piece for the

League which was performed. The composers were Walter

Piston (Harvard University), Darius Milhaud (Mills College),

Douglas Moore (Columbia University), and William Schumann

(Sarah Lawrence College). The League continued its radio

broadcasts through the 1940s. A list of broadcasts for the

1947-1948 season (the League's twenty-fifth anniversary) can

be found in Appendix C.

In 1936, the first National Conference on Educational

Broadcasting, in cooperation with the United States Office

of Education and the Federal Communications Commission, was

held in Washington D.C. Olga Samaroff (1882-1948), chair of

the music committee, invited Claire Reis to speak on

contemporary music and broadcasting. In her presentation,

Reis stated,

The first requisite for appraising and therefore
understanding new music is the opportunity to hear
a work repeated. for serious new works which
need to be repeated in order to be understood,
what an asset this can be. The improvements in
the mechanics of recorded music, film music, and
radio have given us today a scaffold on which to
build towards a better appreciation of music.33









78

The League of Composers did attempt to record some

contemporary works. The resulting records were sold through

the League office, but this project lasted for only a series

of five recordings. Claire Reis explained, "It meant a good

deal of extra work for which we were really not very well

suited."34

In its first season, the League gave a program of works

by Arthur Bliss, visiting from England and newly appointed

to the Executive Board of the League of Composers.

Following the program, a reception was held honoring Bliss

during which he gave a short talk about his music. This

evening of tribute to one composer proved to be so popular

that the practice became a League tradition. Claire Reis

recognized the importance of honoring a composer, and, in

particular, the significance of a composer being recognized

by his colleagues. She stated,

One of the fortunate phases of the League of
Composers has been the fact that we did not just
do a single thing--give concerts or publish a
magazine. We tried to add other facets to the
life of the composer, and that to me seemed very
important from the earliest years that we began a
special evening to honor a composer. And as these
special events were given by a group of composers
to a composer, this has often been made a great
point when a composer in recent years has been
honored by any organization. It is the fact that
his colleagues appreciate and honor him, and this
means more than the public can possibly
imagine.35

The evening of tribute would offer a selection of works

only by the composer being honored. Sometimes the composer

himself would be involved in the performance, and other










times he listened from the audience. At the reception,

composers would usually speak for a short time about their

works, and some would perform or demonstrate some aspect of

his music. "We had many different results I would say from

those evenings, and in every sense," Reis recalled. "I mean

by that the artist in question responded according to his

temperament. They were always, I considered, highly

successful."36 Reis remembered Benjamin Britten (1913-

1976), Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), and Bela Bart6k as "very

shy," while Darius Milhaud and Sergey Prokofieff were "very

affable and chatty." Beside the seven previously mentioned

composers, others who received evenings of tribute included

Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Ernst Krenek (1900),

Kurt Weill (1900-1950), Carlos Chavez, Florent Schmitt

(1870-1958), Albert Roussel, Georges Enesco (1881-1955),

Juan Jos6 Castro (1895-1968), Camargo Mozart Guarnieri,

George Ebert Mignone (1897), Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959),

Zolthn Koddly (1882-1967), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), and

Gottfried von Einem (1918). Two evenings of tribute were

given to non-composers as well. Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)

was honored in 1938, and she gave a talk on "The Relation of

Old Music to Modern Music." Serge Koussevitzky was honored

by the League on the fifth anniversary of the Koussevitzky

Music Foundation, which he had created as a means to

commission composers.










During the first year of its existence, the Board of

the League of Composers decided to publish a League bulletin

or review. In February 1924, the League of Composers Review

was published with Minna Lederman (1898) as editor. The

following year the name was changed to Modern Music and this

journal became an important source of information about

contemporary music and composers. Minna Lederman remained

the editor of Modern Music throughout its existence. Except

for assistance in raising funds, Claire Reis did not involve

herself in the League's journal, nor did she contribute

articles to it. Both Reis and Lederman felt that the League

and the journal should be as "independent of each other as

possible."37 During its lifetime, the League struggled to

meet the budget for Modern Music, and, finally, in 1946,

when costs became too high, it was forced to stop

publication.

In 1947, Claire Reis's husband, Arthur, died

unexpectedly; it was at this time that Reis decided to

resign as executive chair of the League of Composers. While

the death of her husband seemed to be the catalyst for her

decision, there were indications that things had not been

going well with the League. Reis wrote of her decision to

resign to Aaron Copland. In his reply to her, dated March

7, 1948, he wrote "Your letter came as a bombshell," and he

questioned her reasons for resigning, "[it was] too negative











a note to conclude on what destructive undercurrents

and discouraging rumors are you referring to?"38

Copland later wrote of this episode in his

autobiography,

The loss of Modern Music was a serious blow to the
League's prestige, and by 1947-1948 the board was
rife with internal friction and personal
differences. During the war, Claire had done her
best to keep the League alive, but the freshness
of spirit and enthusiasm that had characterized
the organization's early years had faded. At one
time, I even suggested to Claire that we change
the League's name to give it a new start, but that
idea was voted down by the board. Claire had been
the strength of the League of Composers since its
inception in 1923. After her husband's sudden
death in 1947, she felt the need to resign and she
wrote this to me in confidence with the hope that
we might find some new direction before her
resignation became known. I wondered how the
League could exist without Claire! We composers
owed her an enormous debt of gratitude.

On a personal note, Claire and Arthur Reis'
friendship had meant a great deal to me. I was
away when Arthur died, but when I returned, I was
determined to do as much as I could to help Claire
during the difficult period following Arthur's
death. When Claire's resignation became official
(1948), I accepted the position of director of the
League of Composers with the idea of supervising a
restructuring of the organization (I held the
position until 1951). It was important to act
quickly so as not to lose our membership and past
support. A notice went out announcing the changes
and the events planned for the 1948-1949 season,
the League's twenty-fifth anniversary.39

Reis seemed to have followed Copland's advice. Her

official letter of resignation, dated May 14, 1948, and

submitted to the League's Annual Report, read, in part,

There has been a certain continuity throughout
these years in the first aim for which the League
was founded which stated that the organization
would encourage and give support to the production









82

of new and significant works and effect
cooperation between composers of all nations. We
have also had a diversified program of activities
according to the times and we have cooperated with
organizations in many parts of this country and
established contacts with composers all over the
world. The League is perhaps the only society for
contemporary music in America, or perhaps the
world, to have continual activity during 25 years
[probably because] we have maintained a policy of
flexibility from year to year in order to meet
changing conditions. In the early years, the
League brought European composers to the attention
of the New York public and later encouraged
American composers. In the 1920's, the League
presented important stage works. .. and was
also among the pioneers to present contemporary
programs over major networks and specially
commissioned works for radio. [The League] gave
evenings of films with music, sponsored records of
contemporary must and above all [published] Modern
Music.40


Summary


Under Claire Reis's leadership, the League of Composers

quickly became a force in the musical world. Because of her

influence, the League of Composers was more flexible than

some of the other organizations for contemporary music, and

was able to adapt their programs to what was needed to help

the composer and to attract audiences to their concerts.

One of the most important accomplishments of the League

under Reis's direction was getting commissions for

composers. Reis was able to convince individuals and groups

to offer commissions in the name of the League of Composers

and she spread the idea of commissions rather than

competitions to other groups as well. The League gave

American or world premieres of many important contemporary










stage works early in its career. The League also gave

performances of operas by American composers and convinced

other groups, such as the New York City Opera and the

Metropolitan Opera, to also present American operas. Young

composers, and in particular, young American composers, were

given an opportunity to have their works performed. This

give them a boost in their career they might not have had if

they had had to wait for a major orchestra to perform their

works. Foreign composers, with particular emphasis on Latin

American composers, were given the opportunity to have their

music performed in New York as well. The League recognized

early the importance of music for film composed by many

important contemporary composers, and presented these works

to the public, emphasizing the music over the film. The

League was also willing to recognize the importance of

electric instruments, new inventions and the music composed

for them. In concerts dedicated to new instruments, not

only were compositions played, but each instrument was

demonstrated so the audience could understand these new

developments.

During World War II, the League did all it could to

help in the war effort. Reis and Lederman corresponded with

composers and servicemen around the world and tried to

answer all their requests. Extra copies of Modern Music

were sent out, as were scores of American music to be

performed by groups around the world. The League kept to









84

its regular season of concerts in addition to the free

concerts it sponsored in New York City parks. The League

commissioned composers to compose music on a war-related

theme, and Reis convinced Rodzinski to premiere them. Reis

recognized early the value of the radio, and used that

medium to achieve an even wider audience for contemporary

music. She was able to get broadcasting corporations to

commission works specifically for radio. Evenings of

tribute, organized by Reis, offered the opportunity for

composers to receive encouragement from their peers, as well

as from patrons of the arts.

Although the League of Composers was based primarily in

New York, its influence was felt around the United States

and in various parts of the world. Orchestras in such

cities as Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago,

Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los

Angeles, Minneapolis, and St. Louis all cooperated with the

League, and performed works commissioned by the League.

Orchestras and other groups such as the Koussevitzky Music

Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund, Dumbarton Oaks, Lado,

Inc., the National Federation of Music Clubs and the

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation followed the League's

example and began offering commissions to composers.

The League remained in contact with musicians around

the world through its own board members who traveled to

foreign countries, and through Modern Music which had a











worldwide readership. As executive chair, Claire Reis

received correspondence from many composers groups. There

were composer's groups in Poland, Palestine, South Africa,

Italy, and Japan who wrote to her to ask about forming their

own League, and requesting copies of the League of Composers

bylaws and constitution, and inquiring about music exchange

programs. Reis met in Paris with the executive committee of

the Triton Society (in the early 1930s), a group dedicated

to contemporary composers in Europe, and she corresponded

with the Union of Soviet Composers. Each of these groups

were inspired in their efforts to assist contemporary

composers by the success of the League of Composers.

As the executive chair of the League of Composers,

Claire Reis was able not only to influence the purpose and

philosophy of the League, but to play an active part in all

League productions. In her unique position, she knew many

people who could help in her work. Through her work in the

People's Music League, the International Composer's Guild,

and the League of Composers, she knew many composers,

conductors, performers, choreographers, and artists.

Through her family connections, she was acquainted with many

patrons of the arts to whom she could turn for financial

help for the League. Because of her personal contacts with

a variety of groups, she was able to acquire the artists

needed for each League production, the theater in which the










performance would take place, and the financial backing and

patron support to see the project reach fruition.

Through Reis's influence, most major artists donated

their services. While union fees had to be met, some

artists would even return those fees to the League. Reis

stated,

All union fees had to be paid, so if a singer
wanted to return to the League her fee that was
her privilege, but we thoroughly understood that
all the union fees were met. Now when Rodzinski
wanted to bring the Cleveland Orchestra here, he
found Cleveland patrons were so eager to have
their great orchestra in the Metropolitan for a
very great gala occasion that they underwrote the
orchestra. Then we found a Russian chorus here,
and the soloists came and were paid their fee, and
sometimes they would return it out of interest in
helping composers. I think we had done a pretty
solid job in making artists realize that the
composer needed the artist's support.41

Reis also held her "famous tea parties" at her home

where she gathered many artists together to discuss League

performances. She assembled many who might not have

ordinarily worked together such as Broadway stage designers,

choreographers, conductors, composers, and the patrons.

For each production, the League policy was that one of

the members of the Executive Board would be in charge.

However, whenever there was a problem, Claire Reis would be

the one called in to solve the crisis. When asked about

this, she answered, "Well, somebody had to feel the

responsibility and of course I felt it because I had helped

to put together many of these productions."42











As executive chair of the League of Composers, Claire

Reis was an effective administrator: it is, after all,

through her efforts that the League was able to accomplish

as much as it did on behalf of the contemporary composer.

Before her retirement as executive chair, during the

League's 25th anniversary year, she gathered the following

statistics pursuant to the League's accomplishments during

her administration:

Concert works performed 1068

Stage productions 16

Composers presented 678

American composers presented 361

League of Composers commissions 110

Modern Music journals 92

Series of recordings 5

Evenings of Tribute 25

Works broadcast by the League 93

Composer's News Record 7

Modern Music Index and other publications 6

At the announcement of her retirement, Olin Downes,

music critic of The New York Times wrote,

Mrs. Reis has been one of its [the League's] most
active and productive minds. One does not think
of the League in its whole character and of the
artistic initiative which has made it such a vital
agency for musical progress without her, close to
the helm.43

Aaron Copland also wrote about Reis, stating,











Claire Reis proved to be the right woman in the
right place. Her energy, devotion to the
composers's cause, her stick-to-it-ness through
all sorts of musical weather, were what the new
movement needed. She soon learned how to gather
forces together to energize them, and to see
things through.4

The success and accomplishments of the League of Composers

during its first twenty-five years must be attributed, to a

large degree, to the tireless efforts of Claire Reis.



Notes

1. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. Claire Reis Collection. Box la, folder 3.

2. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. Claire Reis Collection. Box la, folder 3.

3. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 33.

4. "The League of Composers," The New York Times, April
18, 1923, Sec. 8, p. 5.

5. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 73.

6. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 89-90.

7. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 68.

8. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 72-73.

9. Robert Bagar, "Mrs. Reis Discusses Composer's League
Work for Music," The New York World-Telegram, February
27, 1937.











10. Olin Downes, "The Avant-Garde," The New York Times,
November 29, 1936, sec. 12, p. 7.

11. Olin Downes, "The Avant-Garde," The New York Times,
November 29, 1936, sec. 12, p. 7.

12. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 86.

13. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 85.

14. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 87.

15. Olin Downes, "Old and Modern Revolutionaries," The New
York Times, May 29, 1927, sec. 7, p. 6.

16. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 91.

17. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 102-103.

18. Claire R. Reis and Marion Bauer, "Twenty-Five Years
with the League of Composers," The Musical Quarterly 34
(January 1948):8.

19. Claire R. Reis and Marion Bauer, "Twenty-Five Years
with the League of Composers," The Musical Quarterly 34
(January 1948):2.

20. Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland: 1900-1942
(New York, NY: St. Martin's/Marek, 1984):101.

21. Claire R. Reis and Marion Bauer, "Twenty-Five Years
with the League of Composers, The Musical Quarterly 34
(January 1948):3.

22. Noel Strauss, "Canadian Concert," The New York Times,
January 12, 1942, p. 22.

23. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 127.









90

24. Claire R. Reis, Composers, Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 118.

25. Claire R. Reis and Marion Bauer, "Twenty-Five Years
with the League of Composers," The Musical Quarterly 34
(January 1948):12.

26. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 179.

27. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors, and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 156.

28. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 157.

29. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. 158.

30. Olin Downes, "Composers on War," The New York Times,
October 10, 1943, sec. 2, p. 7.

31. Olin Downes, "Composers on War," The New York Times,
October 10, 1943, sec. 2, p. 7.

32. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 140-141

33. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. Claire Reis Collection, Box la, folder 3.

34. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 142.

35. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 143.

36. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis, January 1976-January











1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 148.

37. Vivian Perlis, "Minna Lederman: The Life and Death of a
Small Music Magazine (Modern Music)," Journal of the
American Musicological Society 38 (Fall 1985):644.

38. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. League of Composers Letters file. Box 4, folder
C.

39. Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943
(New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1989), p. 86.

40. New York Public Library and Museum of the Performing
Arts. Claire Reis Collection, Box la, folder 3.

41. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 153.

42. Claire R. Reis, Unpublished transcript of a recorded
interview with Vivian Perlis. January 1976-January
1977. Oral History, American Music. School of Music,
Yale University, p. 153.

43. Olin Downes, "Changes in Composer's League," The New
York Times, May 16, 1948, sec. 2, p. 7.

44. Claire R. Reis, Composers. Conductors. and Critics
(Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Reprints in Music, 1974),
p. V.














CHAPTER V
WORK IN OTHER ORGANIZATIONS


While her main commitment was to the League of

Composers, Claire Reis also worked with various other

organizations in New York, although in each of these groups

she continued her campaign to help contemporary composers.

After she retired as chair of the League of Composers

(1948), Reis continued as an active member of several

committees in the League of Composers, as well as in other

groups. Reis held the post of advisory chair of the Dimitri

Mitropoulos International Competition for Conductors (1962-

1972) and president of the Hunter College Opera Association

(1968); in addition, she was appointed a member of the music

advisory committee to the Board of Trustees of Yale

University (1970-1973). Reis was also a member of the

Advisory Music Committee of the American Music Center (1964)

and assisted the New York Public Library and Museum of

Performing Arts to organize exhibits of the League of

Composers materials she had donated to the Library. For her

lifelong commitment to the contemporary composer, Reis

received numerous awards.

After her retirement as chair of the League of

Composers, Reis continued to be active in the organization









93

by remaining on the Board of Directors and assuming the

chair of projects. Reis began her work on projects by

chairing, in 1948, an international committee. This

committee concentrated on the presentation of works by

contemporary composers in the United States and abroad using

a system of interchange.

In 1950, Reis began a project to bring together the

composer, the performer, and the publisher, "the three

parties whose cooperation is essential to the promotion of

new works."1 The plan was to encourage publishers to

publish new music and for performers to schedule a

contemporary work on each of their performances. Reis was

quoted as saying,

All three have a stake in a new work. If a
composition is published and not played, it dies
on the music shelf. If a manuscript is played and
not published it has few chances of being
performed by many artists.2

For this project, four publishers each presented a program

of recently published, or soon-to-be published works to an

invited audience of interpretive artists.

For the 30th anniversary of the League of Composers

during the 1953-1954 season, Reis arranged a series of

commissions. As chair of projects, she arranged for

composers to receive commissions to celebrate the League's

30th season. Among the commissioned works were Aaron

Copland's opera The Tender Land, Mademoiselle by Robert

Russell Bennett, and works by Elliott Carter and William










Flanegan. Donors of the funds for these commissions

included the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, Lado,

Inc., and Edwin Franko Goldman.

In 1953, Reis began a project to convince performers to

program at least one contemporary work on each of their

programs. For this project, the League approached the music

faculties of 150 colleges and universities to ask them to

support the project. Reis and other members of the League

made personal visits to some of the principal concert

managers in New York. From these visits, they received

letters promising full support for the plan. Finally, the

League contacted nine music publishing firms. Each of these

firms agreed to select twenty pieces for voice, violin, and

piano from its catalogue, thus making 180 pieces available

to the performers.3

Another project of Reis's, in 1953, was one to bring

together composers and librettists. In cooperation with the

City Center of Music and Drama and the Metropolitan Opera

Company, a group of composers, dramatists and poets were

gathered together for a conference called "Opera 1953: The

Music and the Libretto." The composers who attended were

Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Aaron Copland, Douglas

Moore, William Schuman, and Virgil Thomson. The dramatists

and poets were W. H. Auden, Russel Crouse, Howard Dietz,

Chester Kallman, Arthur Miller, and Arnold Sundgaard. Reis

wrote, "Although nothing was solved, considerable light was




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