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Joseph Carl Breil
Born 29 June 1870
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died 24 January 1926
Los Angeles, California
Education Duquesne University (Class of 1888)
Occupation Composer

Joseph Carl Breil (29 June 1870, Pittsburgh - 24 January 1926, Los Angeles) was an American tenor, stage director, and composer. He was one of the earliest American composers to write music specifically for motion pictures, with his first film being Les amours de la reine Élisabeth (1912) starring Sarah Bernhardt. He went on to compose scores for several other early motion pictures, including such epics as D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). His love theme for "Birth of a Nation" entitled "The Perfect Song" later became the theme for the radio show "Amos and Andy".[1]



Breil graduated from Duquesne University (then the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost) in 1888. He later composed the alma mater for the university, which was first performed in October 1920.[2] He also pursued studies at St Fidelis College (Butler, Pennsylvania) and Curry University before being sent by his family to the University of Leipzig to study law. While in Leipzig he began to study music compostion and singing at the Leipzig Conservatory. These were followed by singing lessons in Milan and Philadelphia (with Giuseppe del Puente).[1]

He toured as principal tenor of the Emma Juch Opera Company (1891–2) before returning to Pittsburgh to teach singing and to direct the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral (1892–7). From 1897 to 1903 he was music director for several theatre companies, and from 1903 to 1910 he worked as a reviser and music editor, also composing many songs. His first critical success as a composer came in 1909 with his incidental music to The Climax. After this he spent the next decade writing mainly film music, in which his legacy rests. He also composed several operas, including The Legend, which premiered in 1919 at the Metropolitan Opera to less than favorable reviews. He died of heart disease in Los Angeles in 1926.[1]


References and notes

  1. ^ a b c M. Marks: Music and the Silent Film (New York, 1997)
  2. ^ "Alma Mater". Duquesne University. Retrieved 2007-09-23.  

External links




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