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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

Adams shakes things up

1/17/2018
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On today’s date in 1994, at 4:30 a.m. Pacific Coast time, an earthquake struck Southern California. It was located some 20 miles west-northwest of Los Angeles and centered 1 mile south-southwest of Northridge. It registered 6.7 on the Richter scale and caused 44 billion dollars in damage. The event also generated a rock musical entitled “I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky,” which premiered in Berkley, California, the following year. This was a collaboration between the...

Duration: 00:01:58


The leftist Britten

1/16/2018
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Coming of age in the first half of the 20th century were two exceptionally talented children of wealthy Austrian steel magnate Karl Wittgenstein: Ludwig Wittgenstein became a famous philosopher and Paul Wittgenstein a concert pianist. Paul Wittgenstein served in the Austrian army in World War I, and, for a concert pianist, had suffered a terrible injury: the loss of his right arm. Undaunted, he rebuilt his career by commissioning and performing works for piano left-hand. The family fortune...

Duration: 00:01:58


Danielpour salutes "The Greatest Generation"

1/15/2018
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In the closing months of World War II, a young American lieutenant named Charles von Stade was killed in Germany when his jeep ran over a land mine. Six weeks later, at a hospital back home in New Jersey, his young widow, Sara, gave birth to a daughter, Frederica, who would grow up to become one of the most acclaimed singers of her generation. Frederica von Stade never knew her father, but the love letters he sent his young bride from the front survived. Von Stade recalls that a chance...

Duration: 00:01:58


Ravel reviewed

1/14/2018
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On today’s date in 1932, an all-Ravel concert was given in Paris by the Lamoureux Orchestra at the Salle Erard. Ravel himself was on hand, sharing the podium with Portuguese conductor Pedro de Freitas-Branco. Ravel conducted his own works, including the premiere of his new Piano Concerto in G Major with pianist Marguerite Long the soloist. The critics were enthusiastic about the music, but less so about Ravel’s participation. “Once again,” wrote one, “I wish to protest against the habit,...

Duration: 00:01:58


Stravinsky at the circus

1/13/2018
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Late in 1941, the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky was living in Hollywood—at 1260 North Wetherly Drive, to be precise. Notoriously unflappable, and eminently practical when it came to commissions, Stravinsky apparently did not even bat an eye when he received a phone call from the choreographer Georges Balanchine with an offer from Barnum’s Circus to write a short musical work for a ballet involving elephants. Again, to be precise, for Barnum’s star elephant ballerina named Modoc, who would...

Duration: 00:01:58


Athena on the air

1/12/2018
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Like everyone else, young composers indulge in daydreams from time to time. One can easily imagine a 15-year-old composer wanna-be staring out the window and fantasizing that one day her music will be performed by big-name virtuosos and heard coast-to-coast on a national broadcast. That is exactly what did happen on today’s date in 2002, when the 15-year-old composer Athena Adamopoulos heard Yo-Yo Ma and Christopher O’Riley perform her “Soliloquy” for cello and piano at a taping of “From the...

Duration: 00:01:58


The murderous Mr. Copland

1/11/2018
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It has to rank among the top ten “notorious modern composer anecdotes” and it happened on today’s date in 1925. The occasion was a concert by the New York Symphony at Aeolian Hall. On the program was the Symphony for Organ and Orchestra by the then still-young American composer Aaron Copland. The eminent (and elderly) German-born American composer and conductor Walter Damrosch had just finished conducting the new piece, and, turning to face the auditorium proclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, I...

Duration: 00:01:58


Handel in London

1/10/2018
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Today, we note two anniversaries concerning Handel and his music in London. On today’s date in 1710, the German-born composer’s music was performed in London for the first time when excerpts from his opera “Rodrigo” were performed as incidental music during a revival of Ben Jonson’s play “The Alchemist.” It’s a nice historical touch that the great 18th century composer’s music should be used to grace a play by the great 17th century playwright who was a friend and colleague of Shakespeare....

Duration: 00:01:58


Singleton in Atlanta

1/9/2018
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In the musical world, there are many creative people with many creative ideas, but often just a handful who also have the skill, ability, and persistence to raise the funds necessary to realize their visions. Today, a tip of the hat to the American composer John Duffy, who, in 1982, was President of Meet the Composer, an organization which secured funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and additional foundations for a large-scale residency program that paired rising American...

Duration: 00:01:58


More on Moran

1/8/2018
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Today’s date marks the birthday in 1937 of the American composer Robert Moran. A native of Denver, Moran studied in Berkley with Darius Milhaud and Luciano Berio, and in Vienna with Hans Apostel, a pupil of Schoenberg and Berg. It was in Vienna that Moran overheard an unfamiliar waltz and was surprised to learn that Austrian composers were still writing them. Moran wrote one himself, and asked 24 other contemporary composers to write their own short piano waltzes. Moran’s “Waltz in Memoriam...

Duration: 00:01:58


Some fantastic Martinu

1/7/2018
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Sometimes it’s all very personal: a piece of music is written for a particular orchestra or even a particular conductor. That certainly was the case with this work, the Sixth Symphony of the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, a work he gave the French title, “Fantasies symphoniques.” The work was commissioned as part of the 75th anniversary season of the Boston Symphony, an orchestra for which Martinu must have had warm feelings. The long-time conductor of the Boston Symphony, Serge...

Duration: 00:01:58


Frederick the Great's revenge?

1/6/2018
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On today’s date in 1755, “Montezuma,” a new opera by the German Baroque composer Carl Heinrich Graun, had its premiere performance at the Berlin Court Opera of Frederick II, King of Prussia. Frederick himself supervised the rehearsals, which isn’t all that surprising, since he drafted the opera’s libretto himself. Despite his well-deserved reputation as a military leader, Frederick the Great would probably have been quite content to have gone down in the history books as a talented amateur...

Duration: 00:01:58


Exploding Boulez

1/5/2018
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On today’s date in 1973, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center premiered a new work by Pierre Boulez, a piece for solo flute and seven instruments, plus interaction with an electronic computer program, which generated sounds that reacted to (and interacted with) the solo flute. The piece was titled “explosante-fixe,” which translates as “exploding-fixed.” At the time, however, Boulez was frustrated by the still primitive computer technology. “You still had connections with wires and so...

Duration: 00:01:58


Liszt gets political

1/4/2018
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In the 18th century, there was a distinct “French” style of dance music while the “Italian” style dominated vocal music and opera; in essence the music of that age was an international, cosmopolitan language. But just as a new concept of “nationalism” in language, culture, and politics came to the fore in the 19th century, so did the radical new idea that each nation should develop its own, distinct, “national” style of music. On today’s date in 1840, a dramatic manifestation of this new...

Duration: 00:01:58


Rachmaninoff dances

1/3/2018
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On today’s date in 1941, the final orchestral work of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff received its premiere performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by conductor Eugene Ormandy, to whom the work was dedicated. It was an orchestral suite, entitled “Symphonic Dances,” and was originally planned as a triptych depicting the passage of time, with its three sections to be titled: Midday, Twilight, and Midnight. Rachmaninoff recycled some of the musical themes of the new work from a...

Duration: 00:01:58


Rouse's "Concert de Gaudi"

1/2/2018
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In one of his letters, the German poet Goethe dropped this memorable and frequently quoted line: “I call architecture frozen music.” If that’s the case, then this music might be accurately described as “unfrozen architecture,” since it was music inspired by work of famous Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, whose unfinished Temple of the Holy Family in Barcelona is an internationally famous landmark of that city. This “Concert de Gaudi” for guitar and orchestra premiered in Hamburg, Germany, on...

Duration: 00:01:58


Gabrieli gets the gig

1/1/2018
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On today’s date in 1585, Giovanni Gabrieli got the job. He had been acting as the temporary organist at St. Mark’s in Venice, but his appointment was made permanent when he proved successful in a competition against the other candidates for the post. It was a unanimous vote, in fact. Gabrieli would hold the post until his death in 1612, and would supply for the Doges of Venice a body of ceremonial music still admired for its exceptional power and beauty. Even before Gabrieli’s tenure,...

Duration: 00:01:58


Gilbert and Sullivan take on the pirates

12/31/2017
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These days, “musical piracy” can mean anything from illegal MP3 files downloaded from the internet to bootleg Bruce Springsteen compact discs pressed in China. But back in 1878, the smash success of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “HMS Pinafore” resulted in a flurry of unauthorized “pirate” productions in the United States. The two resourceful Englishmen decided the best way to put a stop to it was to premiere their next collaboration in New York, thereby establishing its copyright under...

Duration: 00:01:58


Handel and Mattheson bury the hatchet

12/30/2017
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Now, 18th century opera is supposed to be a rather staid and stuffy affair. The serious operas of that day—“opera seria”—invariably had happy endings, with all the messy human passion and conflicts amicably resolved by the opera’s finale. But even in the 18th century, opera could arouse some serious emotion off-stage. In 1704, an 18-year-old composer named Georg Friedric Handel was employed as a violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the Hamburg opera house. He made the...

Duration: 00:01:58


The recomposing of Mr. Bruch

12/29/2017
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It might seem odd to think of Max Bruch as a twentieth century composer. After all, his three “Greatest Hits” were all written in the 19th century—his Violin Concerto in G Minor, his “Scottish Fantasy” for violin and orchestra, and his setting of the Hebraic liturgical chant “Kol nidrei” for cello and orchestra. But this archetypal German Romantic composer, who was born in 1838, lived to the ripe old age of 82, and kept producing new works up to the time of his death in 1920. One of these, a...

Duration: 00:01:58

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