Shot by a cannon as a child, Heinrich Hammer’s nearly century-long life was anything but typical right from the outset. Beginning with his often troubled childhood in Germany, he had to fight from a young age with a recalcitrant uncle (his guardian) to pursue his musical goals academically. Once an adult though, his path brightened and, over the years, he encountered a seemingly endless parade of noteworthy composers, musicians, painters, and nobility—he even witnessed the infamous Wright Brothers testing their new flying machine as well as other historic “firsts” along the way.
The reader is introduced to these illustrious individuals via detailed sidebars in chronicling the journey of Maestro Hammer as he traverses two continents, multiple countries, and numerous orchestras, providing a truly unique window into a bygone era. Following a key early period of study in Paris, his music-related travels throughout Europe included the founding of the Gothenburg Symphony in Sweden, still going strong today. He also conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, with royalty in attendance at his concerts on various occasions. Migrating across the ocean to America, he performed for President Taft, resurrected the Washington Symphony Orchestra (which he lead for over a dozen years), and became a U.S. citizen, to his extreme delight.
After relocating to Southern California, he conducted the L.A. Philharmonic, and had a life in Hollywood which intersected with the Golden Age of movies—followed by a decided change in his fortunes during WWII.
Although he was passionate about his musical pursuits right up to the end of his days, he also had a host of other interests and was remarkably accomplished at almost everything he set his hand to—from hunting, to farming, to construction. For a house he built single-handedly, he “bought lumber which was used to build the stands for President (Woodrow) Wilson’s inaugural parade.” Ingenious indeed.
In reading this remarkable memoir, penned by him at age 90 (in 1952), you’ll meet the gifted Maestro Heinrich Hammer, an acclaimed musician who could play every instrument in an orchestra, composed 9 symphonies, and spoke 7 languages. The kaleidoscope of his long life was filled with unexpected twists, turns, and arduous struggles throughout…as you’ll soon discover.
Paris Opera House
Meet those he encountered on his journey
….a wide array of musicians, artists, nobility…and be introduced to a bit about their storied lives too.
And see some of the grand venues of his day...
Maison du Peuple, Brussels
Includes over 50 vintage black & white photos along with mini biographies of venerable musicians, composers, conductors, artists, and other high profile individuals Maestro Hammer encountered over the course of his nearly century-long life…
Makes an ideal GIFT!
Especially for music lovers as well as history buffs…
A review of One Maestro’s Journey from one of today’s leading symphony conductors:
“One Maestro’s Journey is a story of a life well lived. From his childhood days in Germany, through his great success as founder and conductor of Sweden’s Gothenberg Symphony, to his numerous disappointments in the New World including the frustration of launching the Washington D.C. Symphony, Heinrich Hammer’s own personal challenges, as well as the dignity with which he overcomes them provide a fascinating setting that is at once the tale of his life’s journey as well as a glimpse into the music world as it existed in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.
The sidebars are wonderful. They serve to put Hammer’s story into context and also turn him into a bit of a Forrest Gump figure, appearing in various places at important moments in history—all just as fascinating as one would think improbable. Was he really the man who planted the idea of conducting without a baton in Leopold Stokowski’s head (something Stokowski became known for)?
Overall, Hammer’s positive outlook carried the day, he played the cards he was dealt and always did so with a smile. His childhood dream to be a musician, and the tremendous discipline with which he pursued it, as a violinist, cellist, trumpeter, and ultimately a composer and conductor is truly inspiring…”
—Piotr Gajewski, Music Director & Conductor
From the Washington Post – Nov. 22, 1911, in an article entitled, “Hear Heinrich Hammer”
“The Washington Symphony Orchestra gave the first concert of this season. The audience seemed fully to appreciate the exquisite beauties of the Symphony . . . As conducted by Heinrich Hammer it was a delight as the themes at times seemed to flow from the tips of his most expressive hands rather than from the instruments . . . in Heinrich Hammer Washington has one of the noted leaders of Europe. . .”
“Heinrich Hammer was instrumental in forming and shaping the Gothenburg Symphony’s first two years in the beginning of the 20th century. With his solid experience as a musician, composer, and conductor, he gathered fine musicians from Sweden and other parts of Europe and created a new orchestra which quickly made an impact in Sweden’s musical life and soon was considered the best in Sweden. He paved the way for his successor Wilhelm Stenhammar who would build upon what Heinrich Hammer had laid out. In this book, eloquent and captivating, the reader is invited to a fascinating life story that reveals many new details about some of the world’s leading artists, musicians and orchestras of their time. RECOMMENDED.“
(The Gothenburg Symphony is the National Orchestra of Sweden.)
“In this expansive posthumous memoir, musician Hammer (1862–1954) tells of his long, productive life as a conductor of numerous orchestras in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Written by Hammer at age 90, the manuscript was revived by his granddaughter Melinda Monaghan, who offers a stirring introduction describing Hammer’s childhood in Erfurt, Germany, where his soldier father died of a horse fall before his birth and his young mother lived in a sanatorium until he was nine. In straightforward prose, Hammer writes of bouncing around between relatives and schools until he began to focus on music at a local conservatory, and—after travels to Italy, France, and Sweden—decided to become a conductor, “developing it step by step, ripening it through experience and study.” Hammer found work throughout Europe and Scandinavia, conducting the Gothenburg Symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic, among others. He moved to L.A. in 1907, where he conducted the L.A. Philharmonic and lived in Hollywood for the next five decades. Throughout, Monaghan contributes sidebars contextualizing Hammer’s life as well as brief biographies of notable musicians. Hammer’s wonderful memoir captures turn-of-the-20th-century music as well as the passion of an artist.“
― Publishers Weekly (known as “the bible of the publishing industry”)
“Critique: An inherently fascinating and surprisingly detailed memoir, “One Maestro’s Journey: A Celebrated Life of Music & Ingenuity” is an extraordinary account that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library American Biography and American Music History collections.”
–MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, Small Press Bookwatch, December 2018 (a resource relied upon by bookstore buyers and librarians nationwide since 1976).
Toasted by the media
EXCERPTS from a few of his dozens of newspaper articles and announcements:
Washington Post – October 31, 1909
“Music and Musicians”
“A ‘Te Deum’ for chorus and orchestra, composed by Heinrich Hammer, conductor of the Choral Society, will be the feature of the program which that organization will give at its first concert in December. The campaign. . .is meeting the approval of Washington music lovers, who feel that the Capital City should be represented by one of the finest choral societies in the country.”
Washington Times – September 25, 1910
“Washington and Heinrich Hammer Symphony Orchestra Organizations Join Hands”
“The announcement made today that the Washington Symphony Orchestra and Heinrich Hammer Symphony Orchestra have consolidated and will, in future, give all their concerts together, comes as a pleasing bit of information . . . Heinrich Hammer, whose work is well known, will be the conductor and Herman Rakemann will be the associate conductor . . thus placing the organization under two of the leading musicians of Washington.”
Washington Post – November 16, 1910
“NEW ORCHESTRA TRIUMPHS: Brilliant Concert by Washington Symphony Under Heinrich Hammer”
“Once more the Capital has a symphony orchestra in which it has reason to take a genuine pride, as was demonstrated at the first concert of the consolidated Washington Symphony Orchestra . . . with Heinrich Hammer occupying the conductor’s rostrum . . . Conductor Hammer manifested his ample qualifications as a director.”
Los Angeles Times – December 21, 1930
“Angelenos Will Hear Composer”
“Heinrich Hammer, for years the conductor of the Washington Symphony Orchestra and of the Washington Saengerbund, will be heard again in Los Angeles this winter in his own compositions. He is known among the musicians of this country as a man of broad education and attainment.”
Los Angeles Times – October 25, 1953
“Lifetime of Triumphs Recalled by Conductor”
“On Tuesday, Heinrich Hammer will have a birthday. His 91st. The once world-famous orchestra conductor has marked time more than time has marked him. Hammer . . . has written his autobiography which he hopes one day to have published. It’s the exciting story of his achievements and his failures, recounting anecdotes about famous figures with whom he was in constant contact or whom he met while traveling about Europe . . . new glory with the symphony orchestras at Geneva, Leipzig and at Lausanne, Switzerland, where he was hailed in the streets as the greatest conductor of the time.”
1910 ad from
(before he founded the Washington Symphony Orchestra)