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Composers Datebook

American Public Media

Composers Datebook is a daily two-minute program designed to inform, engage, and entertain listeners with timely information about composers of the past and present. Each program notes significant or intriguing musical events involving composers of the past and present—with appropriate and accessible music related to each.

Composers Datebook is a daily two-minute program designed to inform, engage, and entertain listeners with timely information about composers of the past and present. Each program notes significant or intriguing musical events involving composers of the past and present—with appropriate and accessible music related to each.
More Information

Location:

Saint Paul, MN

Description:

Composers Datebook is a daily two-minute program designed to inform, engage, and entertain listeners with timely information about composers of the past and present. Each program notes significant or intriguing musical events involving composers of the past and present—with appropriate and accessible music related to each.

Language:

English

Contact:

480 Cedar Street St. Paul, MN 55101 1-800-228-7123


Episodes

Hanson's "futile efforts"

10/20/2018
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On today’s date in 1950, the famous oboist Marcel Tabuteau gave the premiere performance of this “Pastorale” for solo oboe, harp, and strings, with his colleagues from the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy conducting. The music was by Howard Hanson, who dedicated the piece to his wife Peggy. Hanson was born in Wahoo, Nebraska in 1896. As a talented teenager, Hanson recalls a German-born musician in New York asking him: “Well, now, Hanson, why do you waste your time at futile efforts...

Duration:00:01:58

Chadwick wins a prize

10/19/2018
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Every composer who enters a competition hopes to get a letter like this one, which showed up in the Boston mailbox of George Whitefield Chadwick in 1894: “I take pleasure in announcing that your symphony offered for the second annual competition of the National Conservatory of Music has obtained the prize. In view of your desire to produce it without delay, we have decided to waive our right [to the symphony’s first performance].” Signed: Antonin Dvorak, Director. And so it was the Boston...

Duration:00:01:58

Saeverud's "Minnesota Symphony"

10/18/2018
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In 1958, the state of Minnesota was celebrating its centennial, and decided to commission a symphony in honor of the occasion. Now, thanks to Garrison Keillor, just about everyone these days knows there are a lot of Norwegians in Minnesota, but even back in 1958, that was still fairly obvious, and so it seemed a good idea to ask a Norwegian composer to write a “Minnesota Symphony.” And who better than Harald Saeverud, one of the most distinguished composers of that day, and a composer who...

Duration:00:01:58

Copland's "Letter from Home"

10/17/2018
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By the mid-1940s, the famous American bandleader Paul Whiteman was not as popular as he once was during the 20s and 30s. Even so, his name and orchestra were still a draw, and Whiteman was ever hopeful of introducing new pieces that might prove as popular as Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite,” both commissioned by Whiteman in those earlier decades. In 1944, Whiteman commissioned a number of short chamber orchestra works, or “symphonettes” as he dubbed them, for...

Duration:00:01:58

Kodaly's obscure and popular opera

10/16/2018
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There are some operas which are rarely—if ever—staged, but whose music becomes famous—even wildly popular—in the concert hall. Everyone has heard the overture to Rossini’s “William Tell,” for example, but only a few fortunate (or very determined) opera fans ever get to see the whole opera staged. Zoltán Kodály’s opera “Háry János” falls into this strange class of works both popular and obscure. This comic opera debuted at the Royal Hungarian Opera House in Budapest on today’s date in 1926,...

Duration:00:01:58

Nancarrow's Quartet No. 3

10/15/2018
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The expatriate American composer Conlon Nancarrow is famous for writing pieces for player pianos. Nancarrow apparently came to the conclusion that the rhythmically complex, intricate contrapuntal music he wanted to write would prove just too difficult for mere mortals to tackle. Despite its complexity, Nancarrow’s music drew some of its deep and lasting influences from the human, all-too-human jazz stylings of Art Tatum and Earl Hines, and the complex rhythmic patterns of music from...

Duration:00:01:58

An all-star Gershwin premiere

10/14/2018
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Imagine the cocktail party bragging rights you’d have if you had attended the first night of “Girl Crazy,” a new musical that opened in New York on today’s date in 1930. That show marked the Broadway debut of Ethel Merman, and co-stared Ginger Rogers. But that’s just for starters… “Why,” you could say, “in the pit orchestra that night was the Red Nichols ensemble, which included among its players Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, and Jack Teagarden—gentlemen who would...

Duration:00:01:58

Diamond's Second

10/13/2018
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On today’s date in 1944, a 29-year-old American composer named David Diamond had his Second Symphony premiered by the Boston Symphony under the famous Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky. Diamond says he had actually written this music for the charismatic Greek maestro Dimitri Mitropoulos, who was then music director of the Minneapolis Symphony. “Mitropoulos had given a fine performance of my First Symphony,” said Diamond. “When I showed him the score of the Second he said, ‘you must have...

Duration:00:01:58

Martinu's Third

10/12/2018
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On today’s date in 1945, the Third Symphony of the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu had its premiere performance at Symphony Hall in Boston. The new symphony’s dedication read: “To Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony,” and the new score was presented on the occasion of Koussevitzky’s 20th anniversary as conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Martinu had finished the first two movements of his symphony that summer, as the Second World War was rushing to a close. Martinu later...

Duration:00:01:58

Vivaldi and Messiaen for the birds

10/11/2018
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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then composers must really have a thing about birds. For centuries, composers have imitated bird song in their music: Vivaldi’s “Goldfinch” concerto for flute is one of the best-known examples from the18th century, and there are hundreds of other examples throughout music history. On today’s date in 1953, at the Donaueschingen Music Festival in Germany, one of the most famous 20th century examples of “music for the birds” had its premiere...

Duration:00:01:58

Mr. Dukelsky and Mr. Duke

10/10/2018
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On today’s date in 1903, a baby boy was born in the Russian railroad station of Parfianovka. The proud parents of little Vladimir Dukelsky were both musical, and so lulled the little boy to sleep with Italian opera arias—presumably the slow ones! Not surprisingly, little Vladimir eventually studied music at the Conservatory in Kiev. After Russian Revolution, the budding composer ended up playing the piano at movie theaters and cabarets in Constantinople. It was there that he first heard the...

Duration:00:01:58

Bolcom's "View" on choral matters

10/9/2018
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On today’s date in 1999, the Lyric Opera of Chicago premiered a new opera by the American composer William Bolcom, based on “A View from the Bridge,” a powerful and very famous play by Arthur Miller. Now, not all stage plays “translate” well into opera, as Bolcom was well aware: “In theater, you have the text and then below it you have the subtext,” said Bolcom. “In opera it is pretty much the opposite, the subtext is what you are really dealing with first and foremost: big, raw emotions,...

Duration:00:01:58

Stravinsky's "Ode"

10/8/2018
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The Russian Revolution of 1917 wiped out many family fortunes, and many penniless, Russian émigrés who fled the Bolsheviks had to start from scratch in exile. Natalie Koussevitzky, however, was not one of them. Her family fortune was fairly diversified, which meant that even the loss of her large Russian holdings left her with considerable wealth elsewhere in Europe. And since Natalie was married to the Russian émigré music publisher, conductor, and new music impresario Serge Koussevitzky,...

Duration:00:01:58

The buzz about Part

10/7/2018
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From 1976 to 1984, the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt kept revising and adjusting a chamber piece he had composed, a piece he had titled: “If Bach had kept bees…” On today’s date in 1983 one version of this piece—for harpsichord, electric bass guitar, tape and small chamber ensemble—received its premiere performance at a new music festival in Graz, Austria. Pärt’s chamber work opens like a minimalist piece, with repeated notes perhaps imitating the buzzing of the bees mentioned in the title....

Duration:00:01:58

Hovhaness reaches No. 65

10/6/2018
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On today’s date in 1991, the American Composers Orchestra gave a concert at Carnegie Hall, intended as an 80th birthday celebration of the Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness. Hovhaness himself was on hand, and conducted the world premiere performance of his Symphony No. 65. By the time of this death in the year 2000, Hovhaness had composed 67 symphonies, and certainly ranks as one of the most prolific composers of orchestral music in the 20th century. “I write too much, far too much,”...

Duration:00:01:58

The New York Philharmonic on the air

10/5/2018
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If, on today’s date in the year 1930, you happened to be flipping through the pages of the New York Times, you would have seen several ads for radios, including one that argued that purchasing a radio was a good investment. Just one year after the infamous 1929 stock market crash, New Yorkers might have been a little leery of investing in anything, and disposable income for most Americans was severely limited during the Great Depression that followed. Still, that same October 5th edition of...

Duration:00:01:58

Korngold makes a Snowman

10/4/2018
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On today’s date in 1910, a young Austrian composer had his first major work staged as a ballet-pantomime at the Vienna Court Opera. It was quite a prestigious affair, all in all, with the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit and none other than Franz Josef, the Austrian Emperor, in the audience. All that was enough to go to any young composer’s head—and the composer in question, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, was very young indeed. He was just 13 when his ballet-pantomime entitled “The Snowman”...

Duration:00:01:58

Copland's "Duo"

10/3/2018
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One of the last chamber works of the American composer Aaron Copland received its first performance on today’s date in 1971. This took place in Philadelphia as a benefit for that city’s Settlement Music School, with Copland himself present for the premiere of his “Duo” for flute and piano. The work was commissioned by friends and students of the late William Kincaid, for many years the principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. By 1971, thorny, complex, and atonal music was the fashion...

Duration:00:01:58

Laurel and Hardy and Shield

10/2/2018
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Today we celebrate the birthday of an American composer whose name might not ring a bell, but whose music you might instantly recognize—and with a smile. Leroy Shield’s name rarely appeared on the credits for the classic “Our Gang” and “Laurel & Hardy” comedies from the 1930s, but his music was used in most of them. Leroy Shield was born in Waseca, Minnesota, on today’s date in 1893. At five he was already an accomplished pianist and organist, and by 15 a professional arranger, composer, and...

Duration:00:01:58

Curtis celebrates with a Higdon commission

10/1/2018
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One of the finest music schools in the world opened its doors in Philadelphia on today’s date in 1924. The Curtis Institute of Music was founded with a $12 million dollar grant from Mary Louise Curtis Bok. For many decades that initial grant provided full scholarships for all Curtis students. According to Mrs. Bok, “The aim is for quality of work rather than quick, showy results." From the start, Mrs. Bok assembled a stellar faculty for the new school, including the conductor Leopold...

Duration:00:01:58