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.

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

Brahms debuts in New York City

11/27/2020
At 2 p.m. on today’s date in 1855, the first in a series of afternoon chamber music concerts was given at Dodworth’s Hall in New York City. As a contemporary newspaper put it, “In consequence of the numerous evening engagements of the city, and to enable ladies to be present without escort, it is proposed to give matinees in preference to soirees.” The concert was a great success, and many of the fashionably dressed ladies who attended were forced to stand, as all available seats were...

Duration:00:01:59

"Peanuts Gallery"

11/26/2020
Music—Beethoven’s music in particular—played an important role in the life of Schroeder, a piano-playing character in “Peanuts,” the comic strip created by Charles Schulz, who was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on today’s date in 1922. But new music snuck in the strip on occasion, too. In a 1990 installment, Peppermint Patty is at a young person’s concert and when informed that the American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich had won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, stands up and yells, ''Way to go,...

Duration:00:01:59

Jennifer Higdon's Percussion Concerto

11/25/2020
On today’s date in 2005, the Philadelphia Orchestra gave the premiere performance of a brand-new Percussion Concerto by the American composer Jenifer Higdon. The soloist was Colin Currie, a Scottish virtuoso for whom the work was tailor made. In program notes for her work, Higdon wrote, “When writing a concerto I think of two things: the particular soloist for whom I am writing and the nature of the solo instrument. In the case of percussion, this means a large battery of instruments, from...

Duration:00:01:59

Ruggles at Carnegie Hall

11/24/2020
On today’s date in 1949, at Carnegie Hall, Leopold Stokowski conducted the New York Philharmonic in the first performance of the last major work of the American composer Carl Ruggles. In a letter to his friend Charles Ives, or “Charlie” as he called him, Ruggles hinted that in this piece, he was perhaps, "stumbling on something new.” Another composer-friend, Edgard Varèse, agreed, but wrote: “The use [of intervals of] 5ths and 4ths is very remarkable, because that was done hundreds of years...

Duration:00:01:59

Berlioz gets paid (eventually)

11/23/2020
In 1834, the great violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini acquired a new Stradivarius viola. He approached the 30-year old French composer Hector Berlioz and commissioned him to write a viola concerto. What Berlioz came up with, however, was a Romantic program symphony with a prominent part for solo viola titled “Harold in Italy,” inspired by Byron’s narrative poem “Childe Harold.” Paganini was disappointed. “That is not what I want,” he said. “I am silent a great deal too long. I must be playing...

Duration:00:01:59

Warren Benson's "The Leaves Are Falling"

11/22/2020
If you’re a baby boomer, you probably remember exactly where you were and what you were doing on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. On that day, American composer Warren Benson was just beginning to work on a commission he had received for a new work for wind band. Maybe the trauma of that day unleashed some creative power in Benson, but whatever the reason, the resulting music is both intense and moving. He titled his piece “The Leaves Are...

Duration:00:01:59

Hindemith in E-flat (and in Minneapolis)

11/21/2020
On today’s date in 1941, the famous Greek-born conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos led the Minneapolis Symphony in the premiere performance of a new symphony by German composer Paul Hindemith, who came to Minnesota for the performance. Mitropoulos was an ardent promoter of new music, but few of the contemporary works he programmed were welcomed by audiences or the critics with much enthusiasm. Hindemith’s reputation as an atonal composer had preceded him, but, surprisingly, his new piece for...

Duration:00:01:59

Beethoven, Bonaparte, and "Fidelio" in Vienna

11/20/2020
On today’s date in 1805, Beethoven’s opera “Leonore” had its premiere at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, after many postponements due to getting the opera’s libretto approved by government censors and the orchestral parts copied in time. There was also the little matter of the Austrian capital being occupied by French troops as Napoleon was sweeping across Europe. The cream of Viennese society had fled by the time Napoleon arrived, so the skimpy audience for the premiere performance of...

Duration:00:01:59

Lou Harrison's "some assembly required" Concerto

11/19/2020
The publisher of Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin and Percussion, which received its premiere performance on today’s date in 1961 at New York’s Carnegie Recital Hall, states with refreshing honesty that it is (quote) “not one of Harrison's most frequently performed works” and that “The highly rhythmic violin line is pleasantly contrasted by the exceptionally varied percussion ensemble.” Now, by an “exceptionally varied” percussion ensemble, they mean in addition to conventional...

Duration:00:01:59

Banfield's Symphony No. 6

11/18/2020
We all have our heroes and role models–people we admire and hope to emulate if we can. Composers, of course, are no different. On today’s date in 1995, American composer William C. Banfield’s Symphony No. 6 received its first public performance by the Akron Symphony, the same ensemble who recorded the new work for a Telarc compact disc release that same year. Banfield titled his Symphony “Four Songs for Five American Voices,” and explained his title as follows: “As creators, innovators,...

Duration:00:01:59

Dvorak's Serenade for Winds

11/17/2020
November 17, 1878, marked a milestone in the career of the 37-year old Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. For the first time Dvorak engaged and conducted the orchestra of the Provisional Theater in Prague in a concert entirely of his own works, including the premiere performance of a new Serenade for Winds. Earlier that year, Dvorak heard a performance of a Mozart wind serenade in Vienna, and was so taken by the sound of Mozart’s double-reeds and horns that he wrote a similar work of his own in...

Duration:00:01:59

Coleridge-Taylor in Washington

11/16/2020
On today’s date in 1904, the Washington Post’s headline read, “Hiawatha Tonight: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Masterpiece to be sung at Convention Center.” The 29-year old British composer himself, on his first visit to America, was to conduct the 200 members of the Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society of Washington DC, accompanied by the Marine Band orchestra. So who was this British composer and what had he done to inspire an American chorus to name itself after him? Coleridge-Taylor was born in...

Duration:00:01:59

Shostakovich and his String Quartets

11/15/2020
In 1974, St. Petersburg was still called “Leningrad” and still very much a part of what we now call the “former Soviet Union.” Back then, the most famous living Soviet composer was Dmitri Shostakovich, whose health was rapidly failing from the cancer that would claim his life the following year. On today’s date in 1974, Shostakovich’s final string quartet, his Fifteenth, was given its premiere performance by the Taneyev Quartet. The work was supposed to have been premiered by the Beethoven...

Duration:00:01:59

The Beeb

11/14/2020
On today’s date in 1922, the British Broadcasting Corporation began daily radio transmissions from London, at first offering just news and weather–the latter read twice, in case anyone wanted to take notes. The following month, on December 23rd, 1922, they broadcast their first orchestral concert. Over time, the BBC became affectionately nicknamed “the Beeb,” or, less affectionately “Auntie,” due to the upper-middle class, slightly patronizing tone of its music announcers in the 1940s and...

Duration:00:01:59

Román and the Danza

11/13/2020
While for Puerto Ricans, the Bomba and the Plena are more familiar representatives of their proud dance tradition, the musical form known as Danza holds a special place in their hearts. Danza originated in southern Puerto Rico in the early 19th century, originally similar to the waltz, but over time it absorbed Afro-Cuban influences. Manuel Gregorio Tavárez, a 19th century Puerto Rican composer raised the danza to a cultivated artform, and accordingly Tavárez was dubbed “The Chopin of...

Duration:00:01:59

Tchaikovsky and Brahms in New York

11/12/2020
These days, at symphony concerts when a new piece of music is about to be played, it’s not uncommon to overhear someone mutter, “Why do they have to program this new stuff, when there’s so much Brahms and Tchaikovsky we’d rather hear?” Well, on today’s date in 1881, the 40th season of the New York Philharmonic Society’s concerts opened with a pair of brand-new works: first the New York premiere of the “Tragic” Overture by Johannes Brahms, and after that, the world premiere performance of the...

Duration:00:01:59

The indomitable Dame Ethel

11/11/2020
In his autobiographical sketch, “A Mingled Chime,” the late British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham offered this assessment of the British composer Dame Ethel Smyth: “Ethel Smyth is without question the most remarkable of her sex that I have been privileged to know,” and wrote he admired her “fiery energy and unrelenting fixity of purpose.” Born in 1858, Smyth became a composer against her family’s wishes, and it took dogged determination to get her large-scale choral and operatic works...

Duration:00:01:59

Ennio Morricone

11/10/2020
Today’s date marks the birthdate in 1928 of the Italian composer Ennio Morricone, famous for more than 400 scores he wrote for films and TV. If you’re a fan, you already know that he wrote the music for a series of “Spaghetti Western” movies like the 1964 classic “A Fistful of Dollars,” starring Clint Eastwood as a taciturn, sun-burnt, cigar-chomping gunman. If you’re an oboist, you’ve probably played Morricone’s haunting “Gabriel’s Oboe” at weddings or funerals. It's a melody originally...

Duration:00:01:59

Takemitsu and Tanaka

11/9/2020
On today’s date in 1967, the New York Philharmonic gave the premiere performance of a new piece entitled “November Steps” by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, a work commissioned by the Philharmonic as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations. In addition to the usual instruments of the Western symphony orchestra, Takemitsu included in his score two traditional Japanese instruments: the shakuhachi flute and the biwa, a kind of Japanese lute. Eight years after the Takemitsu premiere, an...

Duration:00:01:59

Schumann and Zaimont

11/8/2020
On today’s date in 1830, an 11-year old piano virtuoso named Clara Wieck took the stage of the Leipzig Gewandhaus for her first solo recital. Her father was a piano teacher, who had groomed Clara for a solo career since infancy. This was the age of the great composer-pianists Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin, and little Clara also wrote original works for her own performances. Clara’s Op. 1, a set of four Polonaises, was published the following year. Clara’s career as a composer and performer...

Duration:00:01:59