Composers Datebook®

Bernstein's stamp of approval


It might seem a little odd that any work of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, famous for both his Viennese operas and Hollywood film scores, should languish unperformed for decades, but it seems that on today's date in 2007, this music of Korngold's received its first public performance.

The work in question is entitled "Dance in the Old Style," scored for chamber orchestra and composed in 1919 when Korngold was 22 years old, and just about to score a big international success with his 1920 opera "Die tote Stadt." Just why this little chamber score was never published or performed is anybody's guess. In 1938, Korngold settled in Hollywood, forced out of his native Austria by the Nazis. In the postwar musical world, dominated by "modernist" composers like Schoenberg and Stravinsky, and after his death in 1957, Korngold's oh-so Romantic scores slipped out of fashion for a time.

It was Korngold's son George who helped revive interest in his father's music. George Korngold became successful in the recording industry, and in the 1970's, some of the LPs he produced of his father's music introduced the Korngold sound to a new generation of music lovers in the last decades of the 20th century.

Fast-forward to the 2007 Jyväskylä Arts Festival in Finland. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Korngold, conductor John Storgards and the Helsinki Philharmonic premiered the aptly named "Dance in the Old Style," and subsequently made a CD recording of it, to the delight of the increasing number of Korngold fans in the 21st century.

Music Played in Today's Program

Leonard Bernstein (1917 - 1990) arr. Brohn West Side Story Suite Joshua Bell, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra; David Zinman, cond. Sony 89358

On This Day


  • 1835 - Polish composer and violinist Henryk Wieniawski, in Lubin

  • 1895 - German composer and music educator, Carl Orff, in Munich

  • 1933 - Broadway composer Jerry Herman, in New York City


  • 1940 - British composer and conductor Sir Donald Tovey, age 64, in Edinburgh

  • 1941 - Jazz pianist and composer Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, age 55, in Los Angeles

  • 1979 - American conductor of the Boston Pops, Arthur Fiedler, age 84; He started the first outdoor "Esplanade Concerts" in Boston in 1929 and the famous "Boston Pops" series in 1930; In 1979, Fiedler was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

  • 1983 - German composer Werner Egk, age 82, in Inning (near Munich)


  • 1733 - Handel: oratorio "Athalia," in Oxford at the Sheldonian Theater, with Handel conducting from keyboard (Gregorian date: July 21)

  • 2001 - Bernstein (arr. William David Brohn): "West Side Story" Suite for violin and orchestra, in New York's Central Park, with soloist Joshua Bell and the New York Philharmonic, William Eddins, conducting


  • 1741 - Charles Jennens, the librettist for Handel's oratorio "Saul," writes to a friend: "Handel says he will do nothing next Winter, but I hope I shall persuade him to set another Scripture collection I have made for him, and perform it for his own benefit in passion week. I hope he will lay out his whole genius and skill upon it, that the composition may excel as his former compositions, as the subject excels every other subject. The subject is Messiah." (Gregorian date: July 21)

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®