Guiseppe Creatore: Colourful Genius of the Concert Stage December 22 2010, 11 Comments

Contributed by Jack Kopstein

Born in Naples, Italy, 1871-Died in New York City, 1952 Giuseppe Creatore's fame rivaled that of his contemporary, John Philip Sousa, during the first two decades of the twentieth century. By combining showmanship with musicianship, he and his concert band performed to huge and enthusiastic audiences in the United States, Canada, and England. Creatore was born in Naples, Italy, in 1871. He studied with Nicola d'Arienzo and Camillo de Nardis at the Conservatory of San Piestro a Majella in Naples and became an excellent trombonist and conductor. He reportedly became conductor of the Naples Municipal Band in 1887 when he was seventeen--some researchers believe that Creatore conducted a less well known band.

Creatore immigrated to the United States in 1899, playing trombone in Ellery's Royal Italian Band for a time and becoming an overnight celebrity when he replaced the conductor Minoliti, who had become ill. By taking the members of the Italian Band who were dissatisfied with their conductor and hiring several more musicians, Creatore formed his own band early in 1901, performed at the Atlantic City Steel Pier from February through July, and concluded the season with a 5,000 mile tour. In spite of the rave reviews during the tour, Creatore was not satisfied with the quality of his musicians.

Returning to Italy in the fall of 1901, Creatore recruited sixty outstanding musicians who accompanied him back to the United States in 1902 for a series of triumphant concert tours. His cornet soloist from 1903 to 1906 was Michael Cupero, brother of the composer-conductor Edward V. Cupero. Creatore's success encouraged the immigration of other Italian bandmasters, such as Marco Vessella, AIfredo Tommasino, and Don Philippini, but none had the phenomenal success enjoyed by Creatore.

In his book Bands of America, H. W. Schwartz devotes several pages to the controversial Italian whose conducting mannerisms hypnotized some concert-goers and insulted others. In 1983 Leonard Falcone, a famous euphonium soloist and former conductor of bands at Michigan State University and Wayne University, wrote a letter which included the following personal description of a Creatore Band concert:

The one and only time I saw and heard Creatore and his band play was in Detroit some fifty or so years ago. The band stood up in a circle around the conductor--like the old way in Italy. Creatore was an imposing figure--tall and well built. He wore a white uniform and white gloves. His conducting style was still flamboyant. Occasionally he would walk over and conduct an individual player or section--in other words a great showman. Nevertheless, the band played beautifully--very artistic and with a very expressive style.(the Detroit Free Press was not as kind calling Creatore’s performance ‘Comic Relief”  for Detroit autoworkers)

There is no doubt that Creatore had an animated style of conducting with contortions, leaps, darts into the middle of the band, flailing arms, jerky head motions, pleading gestures while he knelt down, cajoling his players with all manner of finger and arm movements while circling the baton, and all kinds of gymnastic techniques-exciting audiences to a frenzy of clapping, bravos, and other signs of approval. (Swartz p. 214)

During his heyday Creatore's Band was booked solidly; his fee reportedly reached $5,000 for each performance. Although he made many successful tours on the Chataqua circuits between 1910 and 1916, the unstable wartime conditions and the competition from other business bands gradually reduced the number of concert opportunities. In 1917 Creatore formed an opera company which opened with a ten-week tour and continued for five years with longer seasons. The twenty-week 1918 tour opened in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and included the cities of Philadelphia, Chicago, Montreal, Quebec, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Toledo, Toronto, and Detroit.

The company's repertory included such favorites as Rigoletto, Barber of Seville,Carmen; Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Martha, Faust, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Gioconda: and Aida. In 1931 Creatore began conducting a symphony orchestra in a series of open-air concerts and by 1937 he was conducting both the New York State Symphonic Band and the New York City Symphonic Orchestra in a succession of programs sponsored by the government Works Progress Administration. However, Creatore resigned his music post in 1940 after a disagreement with officials of the WPA Music Project. The rift developed when the officials refused to pay the conductor while he was guest conducting in other cities, and also because they felt he was not spending enough time on an arrangement for a combined band and orchestra concert. Creatore was quoted as saying, "I am a musician, not a bridge-building project. So I resign."

After a seven-year retirement, Creatore made his final public appearance in 1947 as guest conductor of the New York State Symphonic Band in a "pop" concert at the Tri-Boro Stadium on Randalls Island. He died in 1952 at the age of eighty-two, leaving his wife, Rosina, and children: Tommaso and Peter (of an earlier marriage), Ezio, Carlo, Luigi, and Alba.

Creatore arranged numerous Italian operatic selections for band, most of which are still in manuscript form. Some of his original march titles were changed by the publisher Di Bella. Examples include: Maresciallo Cadorna, Marshall (Luigi) Cadorna, which became Marcia Sinfonica in Fa Maggiore, Symphonic March in Fa MajorLa Sincope-Syncopation, changed to Marcia Sinfonica in Do Minore, and Symphonic March in C Minor. Two of these, plus American Aviation, Columbia, March No. 2, and March No. 3, were recorded by the U.S. Coast Guard Band for the Heritage of the March series. Others include: American Navy, Columbus, Royal Purple, and Electric. Now available on NAXOS Norman Smith march Notes ARSC Journal

(Information from Jeri Anne Cupero, Leonard Falcone, James W. Herbert, Robert Hoe, New York Times, Franz Pazdirek, Carlo Schmidl, H. W. Schwartz, Nicolas Slonimsky, and Frederick P. Williams)


- Jack Kopstein