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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

A Silly Symphony Debut

8/22/2019
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We have a silly anniversary to note today – seriously! On today's date in 1929, Walt Disney released his first "Silly Symphonies" cartoon. Entitled "The Skeleton Dance," it depicted four skeletons dancing and making music in a graveyard, employing bizarre instruments, including an unfortunate cat played like a fiddle and the skeletons' own bones, played like a xylophone. While its release on Halloween might have been more appropriate, perhaps "The Skeleton Dance" provided some pleasurable...

Duration:00:01:59

1968 Proms

8/21/2019
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For over 120 years the late summer music festival known as the BBC Proms has been presenting memorable concerts in London, but one of the MOST memorable occurred on today’s date in 1968. The scheduled performers at the Royal Albert Hall were the USSR State Symphony, its conductor Yevgeny Svetlanov, and the virtuoso cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. As the musicians took to the stage, boos and cat-calls were mixed with the applause, and some shouts of “Go home!” and “Russians out!” The reason?...

Duration:00:01:59

A famous -- and a not-quite-as-famous -- overture

8/20/2019
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Two concert overtures —one very famous and one not so famous — had their premiere performances on today's date. In 1956, this music by British composer Sir Arthur Bliss provided a festive opening to that year's Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama. The Edinburgh Festival Overture is a salute to Scotland's premiere arts festival, presented annually in late summer and early fall since 1947. Also premiered on today's date was Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," commissioned for an international...

Duration:00:01:59

Bernstein's air-conditioned urban jungle

8/19/2019
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If you were in Washington, D.C. on today's date in 1957, and wanted to escape the summer heat, tickets for a new musical at the air-conditioned National Theater would run you between $1.10 and $5.50 — and you could boast for years afterwards that you attended the world premiere performance of Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story." Actually, the three-week trial run of "West Side Story" at DC's National Theater was a hot ticket. The premiere attracted a fashionable crowd of Washington elite...

Duration:00:01:59

Salieri Slandered?

8/18/2019
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Today is the birthday of Antonio Salieri, one of the most unjustly maligned composers in history. The successful stage play and movie "Amadeus" have helped to repeat the notorious charge that the jealous 18th-century Italian composer Antonio Salieri was directly or indirectly responsible for Mozart's early death. Historians have acquitted Salieri of this crime, but more people are familiar with the fiction than the facts. The truth is that Salieri was often quite friendly to Mozart during...

Duration:00:01:59

Atterberg's "$10,000" Symphony

8/17/2019
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On today's date in 1928, the Columbia Phonograph Company of New York announced that the Symphony No. 6 by the Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg was the winner of its $10,000 Schubert Memorial Prize. The Competition was intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Schubert's death, and originally, Columbia wanted the prize to go to the composer who most successfully "finished" Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony." After protests that this was an insult to Schubert's memory, Columbia expanded...

Duration:00:01:59

The King is Dead

8/16/2019
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On today's date, Elvis left the building — permanently. On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died in Memphis, Tennessee. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935, Elvis first earned his living as a mechanic and furniture repairman who occasionally played cowboy ballads on the guitar at parties. But somehow Elvis reinvented himself and became the archetypal rock 'n' roll superstar, revered more as the modern day reincarnation of the Greek god Dionysius than a mere mortal. His funeral caused such an...

Duration:00:01:59

A Mass for Machaut

8/15/2019
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In the Catholic Liturgical calendar, today is celebrated as the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. In the Middle Ages, when the veneration of Mary as Notre Dame – French for "Our Lady" – was at its peak, a "Lady Mass" would be sung on a day like this. And it's quite likely that one of the earliest-known settings of the Latin mass, the "Notre Dame Mass" by Guillaume de Machaut, was performed as a Lady Mass at one particular chapel in the Cathedral of Reims for...

Duration:00:01:59

Hot new operas by Saariaho and Wagner

8/14/2019
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The fact that a new opera might debut at the Salzburg Festival in Austria is not in itself an unusual occurrence. But in August of the year 2000, the new opera in question was "L'Amour de Loin" or "Distant Love" by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho — making it the first opera by a female composer ever to be staged at the prestigious international Festival, and one that opened to rave reviews. Born in Helsinki in 1952, Saariaho now lives with her husband and children in Paris. She has said...

Duration:00:01:59

Martinu in California

8/13/2019
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On today's date in 1950, the orchestra of the Musical Arts Society of La Jolla, California gave the premiere performance of this music by the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu. The "Sinfonietta La Jolla" was Martinu's response to the Society's call for a tuneful and approachable piece of new music for their chamber orchestra. Martinu modeled his 20th century work on the 18th century symphonies of Haydn, a composer he very much admired. In fact, in 1890, when Martinu was born, his native...

Duration:00:01:59

"Twilight Butterfly" by Thomas

8/12/2019
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Each summer, music lovers congregate about 25 miles north of downtown Chicago for the annual Ravinia Festival, the oldest outdoor music festival in America, and since 1936 the summer home of the Chicago Symphony. But on today’s date in 2013, Ravinia was the venue for world-premiere performances of several new art songs, including “Twilight Butterfly,” by the American composer Augusta Read Thomas, a setting of a poetic text written by the composer herself. “The poetic is always in my music”,...

Duration:00:01:59

Bernstein in Hollywood

8/11/2019
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Elia Kazan's film, "On the Waterfront," a 1954 black and white classic starring Marlon Brando, won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was also nominated for — but didn't win — that year's Oscar for best original score. It was Leonard Bernstein's first film score, and his last. He didn't enjoy the experience: "I had become so involved in each detail of the score," Bernstein recalled, "that it seemed to me the most important part of the picture. I had to keep reminding myself...

Duration:00:01:59

Two by Mozart

8/10/2019
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On today's date, Wolfgang Mozart completed two of his most famous works: on August 10th, 1787, the Serenade known as "Eine kleine Nachtmusik," and, on the same day exactly one year later, the "Jupiter Symphony" — Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C Major. Despite the fame of "Eine kleine Nachtmusik"—which translates as "A Little Night Music" — nothing is known for certain about the circumstances of its composition. Since a Serenade is a suite of orchestral movements normally written as background...

Duration:00:01:59

Berlioz, Beatrice, and Benedict

8/9/2019
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In the 19th century, the German spa town of Baden-Baden was the place to be in the summer. Wealthy international tourists could bathe in artesian wells by day and by night gamble at the casino or attend performances at a splendid theater modeled on the Paris Opera. That theater opened on today’s date in 1862 with the premiere of a new comic opera by the French composer Hector Berlioz, based closely on Shakespeare's comedy ‘Much Ado About Nothing', and titled “Beatrice and Benedict” after the...

Duration:00:01:59

Chaminade in America

8/8/2019
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The French composer and concert pianist Cecile Chaminade was born in Paris on this date in 1857. She wrote symphonic works and even operas, but it was her piano pieces and songs that became enormously popular with amateur musicians around the turn of the century, especially in America. In the decade before World War I, over a hundred "Chaminade Clubs" sprouted up in America, where Chaminade's music was performed by and for her fans. So imagine the excitement when it was announced that Madame...

Duration:00:01:59

Mendelssohn gets wet and wild

8/7/2019
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On today’s date in 1829, the German composer Felix Mendelssohn and his friend, Karl Klingemann, were on the North Sea bound for Glasgow. Klingemann was not impressed with Scotland and wrote home that the rough North Sea passage had made most of the passengers sick — with one remarkable exception. “An 82-year old woman,” he wrote, “sat calmly by the smoke stack, warming herself in the cold wind. She was determined to see Staffa before she died. Staffa, with its silly basalt columns and caves,...

Duration:00:01:59

An opera debut for Britten and Bernstein

8/6/2019
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On today's date in 1946, Leonard Bernstein conducted the American premiere of Benjamin Britten's opera, "Peter Grimes," at the Tanglewood Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts. "Peter Grimes" had received its very first performance in London the previous year, and had already been staged elsewhere in Europe before reaching America. In fact, this quintessentially British opera was originally an American commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation run by the famous conductor and music patron Serge...

Duration:00:01:59

Of Mountains and Messiaen

8/5/2019
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The gourmet composer Gioachino Rossini had a beef dish, Tournedos Rossini, named after him, and over the centuries countless towns have honored their native composers by naming streets after them — but few can top the honor bestowed on the late Olivier Messiaen by the citizens of Parowan, Utah. They named a mountain after him. On today's date in 1978, the citizens of Parowan resolved to name a local mountain Mt. Messiaen in honor of the French composer, who had spent a month in Utah five...

Duration:00:01:59

David Raksin goes "noir"

8/4/2019
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Today marks the birthday of American composer David Raksin, born in 1912 in Philadelphia. He studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, was friends with Igor Stravinsky, and has written a wide range of concert music. Yet Raksin is best known for one haunting tune — the theme he wrote for a classic 1944 film noir entitled "Laura." David Raksin said the true story behind this music sounds like something out of a Grade-B movie. The very weekend he faced a deadline and simply had to come up...

Duration:00:01:59

Rossini asks "Who was that masked man?"

8/3/2019
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A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty “Hi-yo, Silver!” Generations of American baby boomers first heard Rossini’s “William Tell” Overture as the opening credits of the old Lone Ranger TV western, but we suspect only a few of them ever realized the overture by an Italian composer was written for a French opera about a Swiss archer, which was adapted from a German play by Friedrich Schiller. Like a Facebook relationship, “It’s complicated.” Anyway, Rossini’s...

Duration:00:01:59