• Summary

  • 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.
    Copyright 2022 Minnesota Public Radio
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Episodes
  • Oct 4 2022
    Synopsis

    In 1939, Dale Carnegie published a self-help book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People, suggesting you could change people's behavior to you by changing YOUR behavior toward them. We’re not sure if Carnegie’s book was ever translated into Russian, but we’d like to cite the case of the famous Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich as an example of one way to influence a particular composer.

    In Rostropovich’s day, the greatest living Soviet composers were Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. In 1949 Prokofiev wrote a Cello Sonata for the 22-year old Rostropovich, and also dedicated his 1952 Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra to him.

    Not surprisingly, Rostropovich hoped Shostakovich might write something for him, too, and so asked that composer’s wife, Nina, how to ask him. She replied the best way was NEVER to mention the idea in the presence of her husband. She knew Shostakovich was following the cellist’s career with interest, and if the idea of writing something for Rostropovich was his own, rather than somebody else’s, it stood a better chance of becoming reality.

    Rostropovich followed her advice, and – surprise surprise – on today’s date in 1959, gave the premiere performance with the Leningrad Philharmonic of a brand-new cello concerto specially-written for him by Dmitri Shostakovich.

    Music Played in Today's Program

    Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): Cello Concerto No. 1 in Eb, Op. 107 –Philadelphia Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, cond. (Sony 7858322)

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    2 mins
  • Oct 3 2022
    Synopsis

    If you had arrived early for the gala reopening celebration of Vienna’s Josephstadt Theater on today’s date in 1822, you might have heard the theater orchestra frantically rehearing a new overture by Beethoven. They had just received the score, and so at the last minute were getting their first look at the new piece they would perform that evening.

    Beethoven’s “Consecration of the House” Overture was a last-minute commission and interrupted Beethoven’s work on two bigger projects: his “Missa Solemnis” and the Ninth Symphony. This overture begins with a series of solemn chords, continues with a stately march, and closes with a fugue – a tribute to Handel, whose music was much on Beethoven’s mind at the time.

    One hundred forty-six years later to the day, another festive occasion was observed with new music, when, on October 3rd, 1968, the New York Philharmonic, as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations, premiered a new orchestral work by the American composer William Schuman. Leonard Bernstein conducted.

    Schuman’s piece was entitled “To Thee Old Cause,” and was scored for solo oboe and orchestra. Originally, Schumann planned an upbeat, celebratory work, but the 1968 assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy changed all that and more somber music, dedicated to their memory, was the result.

    Music Played in Today's Program

    Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Consecration of the House Overture –Berlin Philharmonic; Bernhard Klee, cond. (DG 453 713)

    Willliam Schuman (1910-1992): To Thee Old Cause –New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. (Sony 63088)

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    2 mins
  • Oct 2 2022
    Synopsis

    These days the cost of commissioning a major American composer to write a major orchestral work requires… well, a major amount of money.

    Back in 2001, a group of smaller-budget symphonies around the country decided to pool their resources and commission the American composer Joan Tower to write a new orchestral piece for them. What would have been cost-prohibitive individually proved very do-able when they all chipped in, aided by foundation grant or two. 65 orchestras from all 50 states participated, with the idea being each of them would get first performing rights to Tower's new work.

    "When they asked me to do this," Tower said, "they called the project ‘Made in America,’ and that became the work’s title. [Since] it was going across the U.S., this word 'America' kept popping up in my brain. Also, the tune 'America the Beautiful' started to come in, and I thought, 'I really love this tune. It's a beautiful tune, and I think I'll start with this.”

    Joan Tower’s “Made in America” received its first performance by the Glen Falls Symphony Orchestra in New York State on today’s date in 2005, then premiered in each of the remaining 49 states over the next two years, ending up in Alaska with the Juneau Symphony in June of 2007.

    Music Played in Today's Program

    Joan Tower (b. 1938): Made in America –Nashville Symphony/Leonard Slatkin (Naxos 8559328)

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    2 mins

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