Composers Datebook-logo

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

Harbison's "Flight into Egypt"

11/21/2018
More
On today’s date in 1986, at the New England Conservatory of Music’s Jordan Hall, a new choral work by the American composer John Harbison received its premiere performance. This work, for soprano, baritone, chorus, and chamber orchestra, was entitled “The Flight into Egypt,” and would win the Pulitzer Prize for Music the following year. The text for Harbison’s cantata is taken from the Gospel of Matthew -- Chapter 2, verses 13-23 in the King James Version -- and describes the Holy Family’s...

Duration:00:01:58

Meredith Monk

11/20/2018
More
Today is the birthday of the American composer, singer, dancer and choreographer Meredith Monk, who was born in New York City on today’s date in 1942. Monk attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied theatre, dance and music. On graduation in 1964, she began performing pieces that combined gesture and movement with vocal and visual elements, in the company of like-minded artists based in New York. Around that time, a number of contemporary composers had begun stretching the boundaries...

Duration:00:01:58

Gershwin's last film score

11/19/2018
More
In the summer of 1936, the songwriting team of George and Ira Geshwin settled their affairs in New York, put their furniture in storage, and flew off to Hollywood to fulfill a contract with the RKO Studios. The Gershwins were to supply music for a series of new movies, some starring an old friend of theirs, dancer Fred Astaire. In those days the big movie studios moved quickly, and so did the Gershwins. The first film in the contracted series, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as the...

Duration:00:01:58

The Wagners attend a Brahms premiere

11/18/2018
More
Falling in love with someone else’s spouse can result in divorce, emotional turmoil, or (in the case of composers) some very Romantic music. Take the case of Brahms, who for most of his adult life carried a torch for Mrs. Clara Schumann, the wife of his friend and mentor, Robert Schumann. Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 was a work he began around 1854-5, an especially turbulent period in his relationship with the Schumanns. Twenty years later, when it was finally finished, Brahms wrote to his...

Duration:00:01:58

Hoover for flute and guitar

11/17/2018
More
The intimate combination of flute and guitar has proven to be an attractive one for a number of composers -- and if the composer herself plays the flute, so much the better. This music is from a four-movement suite for flute and guitar, entitled “Canyon Echoes,” written by the American composer and flutist Katherine Hoover. This music was premiered on today’s date in 1991 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis by flutist Susan Morris De Jong and guitarist Jeffrey Van. Katherine Hoover gave...

Duration:00:01:58

The Philadelphia Sound

11/16/2018
More
In the year 1900, a German-born conductor named Fritz Scheel conducted two orchestral programs in Philadelphia billed as the “Philippines Concerts.” These were benefits, as contemporary ads put it: “for the relief of families of the nation’s heroes killed in the Philippines.” The previous year U.S. troops had fought a guerrilla army in the Philippines and had suffered heavy casualties. These concerts were so successful that residents of Philadelphia decided the impressive ad-hoc symphony...

Duration:00:01:58

Herschel Looks Up

11/15/2018
More
Today is the birthday of a quite remarkable 18th century British composer, Sir William Herschel, who was born in Hannover, Germany, on this date in 1738. Herschel’s father was a regimental oboist, and young William himself eventually joined papa’s regimental band… also as an oboist. In his early 20s he settled in England, originally entrusted with improving performing standards of the Durham Militia Band, he soon was teaching music to some of the wealthy British families in that area. As a...

Duration:00:01:58

Waggoner's Second

11/14/2018
More
In the fall of 1995, the American composer Andrew Waggoner received a commission from the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic of the Czech Republic for a new orchestral work to be premiered the following year. “I had a symphony in my mind for some time,” writes Waggoner, “and decided that this was the chance I needed to see it through.” The resulting work, Waggoner’s Symphony No. 2, opens with a solo for the cello, an elegy, perhaps, for cellist Anna Cholakian, the founding member of the Cassatt...

Duration:00:01:58

Disney's "Fantasia"

11/13/2018
More
On today’s date in 1940, Disney's animated film Fantasia opened at New York's Broadway Theater. It proved to be a landmark film on a number of fronts: first, it was a milestone in cultural “cross-over”, in which classical music (in the person of conductor Leopold Stokowski) shook hands (literally and figuratively) with pop culture (in the person of Mickey Mouse). In “Fantasia,” Disney set selections of classical music from Bach to Stravinsky to animated stories created by his studio artists....

Duration:00:01:58

Crumb goes Macro

11/12/2018
More
For the ideal performance of “Makrokosmos II: Twelve fantasy pieces after the Zodiac,” by the American composer George Crumb, one should perhaps be outdoors in a remote clearing under a crystalline canopy of stars. For the record, the premiere performance of Crumb’s suite for amplified piano took place indoors at Alice Tully Hall in New York City on today’s date in 1974, as part of a recital of new American works given by pianist Robert Miller. In his program notes, Miller offered these...

Duration:00:01:58

Bloch's Quintet

11/11/2018
More
On today’s date in 1923, the League of Composers presented its first chamber concert in New York City. Their stated mission was to present music by living composers whose works represented new trends in music. Actually, the League was founded as a splinter group, seceding from a more radical International Composers Guild founded two years earlier by Edgard Varese. The Guild’s concerts were restricted to previously unheard works, and favored what was then called the ‘ultra-modern’ school,...

Duration:00:01:58

The "historically informed" Mahler

11/10/2018
More
On today’s date in 1910, Gustav Mahler conducted the “First Historical Concert” of the New York Philharmonic, an event billed as “the first of a series arranged in chronological sequence, comprising the most famous composers from the period of Bach to the present day.” Mahler’s program included works of Handel, Rameau, Gretry and Haydn, and opened with his own arrangement of music from Bach’s Orchestral Suites. Now, Bach’s music had been appearing on Philharmonic programs for decades, but...

Duration:00:01:58

Corigliano tunes up

11/9/2018
More
If you’ve ever attended a live symphony orchestra concert, you’re probably familiar with the routine: before anyone starts playing, before the conductor even steps on stage, the principal oboist sounds an “A” – and the other musicians tune their instruments to that pitch. On today’s date in 1975, a few people in the audience at Carnegie Hall might have been surprised to hear this familiar ritual segue directly into the opening of John Corigliano’s new Oboe Concerto, which was receiving its...

Duration:00:01:58

Stomping with David Schiff

11/8/2018
More
OK, here’s a cocktail party question for music mavens: “What do James Brown, the master of funk, and the Soviet symphonic composer Dimitri Shostakovich have in common?” One answer is this piece of music, which premiered on today’s date in 1990 at Alice Tully Hall in New York City at a concert by Marin Alsop’s Concordia orchestra. The piece is entitled “Stomp,” written by the Seattle-based composer David Schiff. For starters, on the score of “Stomp,” Schiff includes a reference to James...

Duration:00:01:58

Stravinsky in C Major

11/7/2018
More
On today’s date in 1940, the Chicago Symphony helped to celebrate their 50th anniversary with the premiere performance of a specially commissioned symphony from the famous Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky himself was on hand to conduct his “Symphony in C” – a work that attracted a great deal of attention at the time. For starters, writing a symphony in the key of C Major seemed a definitely anti-modern gesture at a time when Arnold Schoenberg’s “twelve tone” method of composition...

Duration:00:01:58

Beethoven and Brusa take it slow

11/6/2018
More
For later Romantic composers like Richard Wagner, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was “the apotheosis of the dance,” and certainly sitting still during the Symphony’s dizzying finale is not always easy… …But for those in the audience at its premiere in 1813, as part of a benefit concert for wounded Bavarian and Austrian soldiers, it was the somber slow movement that proved most attractive. Maybe audiences read more into it that Beethoven intended, given the occasion, but over time, the slow...

Duration:00:01:58

The Minneapolis Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra

11/5/2018
More
At the dawn of the 20th century Teddy Roosevelt was president and America was in an upbeat, prosperous mood. Cultural affairs were not forgotten, either. To the already established American symphony orchestras in cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati and San Francisco, new ensembles would spring up in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Seattle. On today’s date in 1903, it was Minneapolis’ turn. On November 5th that year, a German-born musician named Emil Oberhoffer led the...

Duration:00:01:58

Schoenberg and Sheng

11/4/2018
More
Today’s date marks the anniversary of the premiere performance of two musical works written by émigré composers: one Austrian, the other Chinese. On Nov 4, 1948, the Albuquerque Civic Symphony gave the first performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s powerful piece for narrator, chorus and orchestra entitled “A Survivor from Warsaw.” Because of his Jewish heritage, Schoenberg resettled in America in 1933 when the Nazis took over Germany. After the end of World War II, Schoenberg met some survivors...

Duration:00:01:58

Rimsky-Korsakov's bee takes flight

11/3/2018
More
The Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov might be described as an operatic dynamo: not only did he compose fifteen of them himself, but he also had a hand in editing, orchestrating and promoting four important Russian operas written by others: Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” and “Khovantschina,” Borodin’s “Prince Igor,” and Dargomïzhsky’s “The Stone Guest.” Of Rimsky-Korsakov’s fifteen operas, however, only his last, “The Golden Cockerel,” is staged with any regularity outside Russia,...

Duration:00:01:58

Verdi and Bach on wine

11/2/2018
More
Today we dip into the “Composers’ Mailbag” for two letters, neither of them dealing with any significant musical matters, but both (coincidentally) with wine. In a note dated November 2, 1894, Giuseppe Verdi writes (in his typically blunt style), “Dear Sig. Melani, I received yesterday the cases of wine. Now what is left is to pay for them. Please send me the bill for what I owe you minus the empty cases and returned bottles. Do it as soon as possible as I am going to the country and want to...

Duration:00:01:58