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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.

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

Einstein and Glass on stage

1/17/2022
Synopsis When TIME magazine chose Albert Einstein as their Millennium “Person of the Century” in 1999, their profile catalogued his achievements in physics and philosophy but made no mention of Einstein’s interest in music – or music’s interest in him. That’s where we come in. In addition to being a brilliant thinker, Einstein was a talented amateur violinist. On this day in 1934, he even performed the second violin part of Bach’s Double Concerto at a private recital in New York to raise...

Duration:00:01:59

The birth of "Les Six"

1/16/2022
Synopsis Today marks the anniversary of the creation of a famous classical music nickname, “Les Six” – French for “The Six.” That’s what Parisian music critic Henri Collet dubbed six composers in a magazine article on this day in 1920. Three of the composers Collet named are performed more often these days – Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger and Francis Poulenc – while the other three composers – George Auric, Louis Durey, and the only woman in the group, Germaine Tailleferre – are heard...

Duration:00:01:59

A Messiaen premiere in a German prisoner of war camp

1/15/2022
Synopsis The French composer Olivier Messiaen played the piano part in one of the strangest premiere performances of the 20th century on today’s date in 1941. As the composer himself puts it: “My ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ was conceived and written during my captivity as a prisoner of war and received its premiere at Stalag 8a in Görlitz, Silesia.” One of the four performers was cellist Etienne Pasquier, who offered this recollection: “We were captured at Verdun. Our entire company was...

Duration:00:01:59

Harp concertos by Villa-Lobos and Rautavaara

1/14/2022
Synopsis Some instruments seem to have all the luck – or at least all the concertos! If you play piano or violin, you have hundreds of concertos to choose from. But if your instrument is the harp – and you will forgive the pun – the pluckings are slim. This hardly seems fair to one of mankind’s oldest instruments, depicted on murals from ancient Egypt and traditionally associated with King David in the Bible. In the 18th and early 19th century, there are a handful of great classical harp...

Duration:00:01:59

Prokofiev takes the Fifth in Moscow

1/13/2022
Synopsis On today’s date in 1945, Sergei Prokofiev conducted the Moscow Philharmonic in the premiere performance of his Fifth Symphony. Written when the tide of the Second World War was turning in the favor of the Allies, the premiere came one day after news reached Moscow that Soviet troops had begun a successful counteroffensive against the Germans. The symphony proved to be one of Prokofiev’s strongest works, and in the context of 1945 must have had an incredible emotional impact. It...

Duration:00:01:59

Dahl's "Sinfonietta"

1/12/2022
Synopsis On today’s date in 1961, a new work by the German-born American composer Ingolf Dahl received its premiere performance in Los Angeles. Entitled “Sinfonietta for Concert Band,” it was commissioned by the College Band Directors National Association, who were eager to expand band repertory with major new works of the highest quality. Dahl had emigrated to the United States in 1938 and settled in Los Angeles, where he met and befriended Igor Stravinsky, who gave him some practical...

Duration:00:01:59

A John Adams Christmas oratorio

1/11/2022
Synopsis As 1999 drew to a close it was a matter of debate whether – chronologically speaking – the new Millennium really began in 2000 or 2001. As far as the musical world was concerned, why wait? The shift from 1999 to 2000 occasioned hundreds of celebratory concerts and special commissions worldwide. While not originally intended as a Millennium commission, a major new work of the American composer John Adams had its European premiere in December of 1999 and its American debut in...

Duration:00:01:59

The singular Mr. Berwald

1/10/2022
Synopsis Franz Berwald was a Swede who lived in the early 19th century and who made his living first as an orthopedic surgeon and later as the manager of a sawmill and glass factory. But these days, nobody cares very much about all that. Berwald’s true passion was music, and in addition to operas and concertos, he wrote four symphonies, only one of which was performed during his lifetime, and that to mixed reviews. Berwald spent some years in Vienna, where a few of his works were...

Duration:00:01:59

Opposite-coast bouquets and brickbats for Weill and Sessions

1/9/2022
Synopsis On this day in 1947, Pierre Monteux led the San Francisco Symphony in the premiere performance of the Second Symphony by American composer Roger Sessions. Prior to this work, Sessions had written in a more broadly accessible style, but this new symphony proved more dissonant and challenging. At the time, Sessions cautiously stated: “Tonality is complex and even problematical nowadays.” For their part, the San Francisco audiences found the new work both complex AND problematical....

Duration:00:01:59

A fateful anniversary for Lully

1/8/2022
Synopsis When you were a kid, did your mother warn you about playing with sharp sticks? Well, conductors play with sharp sticks, and it CAN prove dangerous. In 1976, while conducting Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, conductor Sir Georg Solti managed to stab himself in the forehead with his own baton during the third act, causing quite a bloody mess. It’s said that Solti had already broken two batons during Acts I and II but managed not to hurt...

Duration:00:01:59

Pop music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Michael Daugherty

1/7/2022
Synopsis The fairy-tale opera “Sadko” by the Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov had its first performance in Moscow on today’s date in 1898. This opera is still staged in Russia, but rarely anywhere else – even though some of its wonderful melodies have proven extremely popular. One of the opera’s arias had a tune so catchy that it was set to English words as “Play That Song of India Again” and became a best-selling Paul Whiteman recording in the 1920s. In the big-band era,...

Duration:00:01:59

Bach at Starbucks?

1/6/2022
Synopsis On today’s date in 1733, music-loving readers of a Leipzig newspaper called the “Nachricht auch Frag und Anzeiger” would have seen this welcome announcement: “Tonight at 8 o’clock there will be a Bach concert at Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse on Catharine Street.” So, in addition to a Grandé Latté or Double-shot Depth-Charge, Zimmermann’s patrons could treat themselves to a Grand Suite or Double-Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach. As if Bach wasn’t busy enough providing all those sacred...

Duration:00:01:59

Milhaud at West Point

1/5/2022
Synopsis In the opinion of General George Washington, a commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River, about 40 miles north of New York City, was a key strategic position during America’s War for Independence. Washington selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko,* one of the heroes of the Battle of Saratoga, to design fortifications there in 1778, and transferred his headquarters to this “West Point” in 1779. In 1802, after America’s independence had been won, President Thomas Jefferson signed...

Duration:00:01:59

Danielpour's home-town tribute

1/4/2022
Synopsis Now, it may be a hotly-contested statement that New York is the cultural capital of the United States, but few would deny that city’s important role in so much of our musical history. In 1992, to celebrate its 150th anniversary, the New York Philharmonic commissioned many new works by leading composers and spread out their celebratory premieres over several years. On today’s date in 1996, Leonard Slatkin conducted one of these: an orchestral tribute to New York written by a native...

Duration:00:01:59

The productive Mr. Donizetti and Mr. Williams

1/3/2022
Synopsis The comic opera “Don Pasquale” by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti had its first performance in Paris on this date in the year 1843. To this day it remains one of his best-loved and most often-performed works. In all, Donizetti wrote about 70 operas, sometimes turning out four per year. Amazing as this seems today, it wasn’t at all uncommon in the 19th century, especially in Italy, where audience demand for new works was insatiable. Back then, when composers vied with one...

Duration:00:01:59

Wagner's "shaggy dog" story

1/2/2022
Synopsis On today’s date in 1843, Richard Wagner’s opera “The Flying Dutchman” had its premiere performance in Dresden. The opera’s sea-swept overture was supposedly inspired by a stormy voyage Wagner and his wife Minna took from Riga to Paris, their journey interrupted by an emergency stop in a Norwegian fjord due to rough weather, as well as a longer layover in London. As usual, Wagner was fleeing creditors, and made the cramped voyage – as usual – in extravagant style, namely in the...

Duration:00:01:59

On the Mall with Goldman

1/1/2022
Synopsis We’d like to start the new year with some upbeat music to honor the American composer and bandleader Edwin Franko Goldman, who was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on today’s date in 1878. At the tender age of 14, Goldman attended the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, where he studied composition with Antonin Dvorak. At 15, Goldman became a professional trumpet player with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. In 1911, he founded the New York Military Band, later known...

Duration:00:01:59

Martinu and Hanson premieres

12/31/2021
Synopsis In the 1940s, the Boston Symphony gave the premiere of more than 60 new orchestral works – most of them conducted by the very charismatic and very wealthy Serge Koussevitzky, the music director of the Boston Symphony. And why not? It was the Koussevitzky Foundation that commissioned most of those pieces in the first place, and certainly Maestro Koussevitzky had the knack for picking winners and advancing the careers of composers he admired. In the 1940s, for example, Koussevitzky...

Duration:00:01:59

Prokofiev in peace and (cold) war

12/30/2021
Synopsis For fans of old-time radio shows, it’s known as the theme for “The FBI in Peace and War.” But among classical music buffs its title is the “March” from Prokofiev’s opera “The Love of Three Oranges.” This satirical, fairy-tale opera had its premiere performance in Chicago on today’s date in 1921, with Prokofiev himself was on hand to supervise the rehearsals. His opera received a lavish production which cost Chicago $250,000 – a staggering amount back in 1921. The premiere was a...

Duration:00:01:59

The Seattle Symphony

12/29/2021
Synopsis On today’s date in 1903, violinist and conductor Harry West led the very first performance by the Seattle Symphony. At that time, the orchestra comprised just 24 players. For their first program, the aptly named Maestro “West” conducted Schubert and Rossini, two long-dead classical masters, and also programmed works by three living composers: Max Bruch, Jules Massenet, and Pablo Sarasate. More recently, under music director Gerard Schwarz, the Seattle Symphony earned worldwide...

Duration:00:01:59