For over five decades, Nicolas Slonimsky, the Russian-born American composer, conductor, and witty musical lexicographer, compiled a thick reference work titled "Music Since 1900." It's a year-by-year, month-by-month, day-by-day chronicle of musical events that Slonimsky deemed significant, interesting, or simply amusing.
Here, for example, is Slonimsky's entry for July 15, 1942:
"Heitor Villa-Lobos conducts in Rio de Janeiro the first performances of three of his orchestral Choros: No. 6, No. 9 and No. 11, exhaling the rhythms, the perfumes and the colors of the Brazilian scene, with tropical birds exotically chanting in the woodwinds against the measured beats of jungle drums."
Slonimsky did have a way with words, and certainly had fun compiling his mammoth (and highly readable) reference work.
For his part, the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos was equally diligent, so much so that he himself admitted he couldn't always remember everything that he had written or when he wrote it. His Choros No. 11 for piano and orchestra, however, was one work he must have remembered: it's one of his most ambitious compositions and lasts some 65 minutes.
Originally the word "choro" meant improvised music by Brazilian street musicians, but Villa-Lobos always used the word in its plural form, and used it to describe a flexible form for over a dozen of his instrumental works.
Villa-Lobos also wrote a unique series of works he dubbed 'Bachianas Brasileiras", which might be translated as "Tributes to Bach in the Style of Brazil."
Music Played in Today's Program
Heitor Villa Lobos (1887 - 1959) Choros No. 9 Hong Kong Philharmonic; Kenneth Schermerhorn, cond. Naxos 8.555241
On This Day
1921 - American composer Jack Beeson, in Muncie, Indiana
1934 - English composer Harrison Birtwistle, in Accrington, Lancashire
1949 - English composer John Casken, in Barnsley
1789 - French composer and harpsichordist Jacques Duphly, age 74, in Paris
1857 - Austrian composer and piano teacher Carl Czerny, age 66, in Vienna
1959 - Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch, age 78, in Portland, Oregon
1852 - Spohr: opera "Faust" (2nd version in Italian), in London at Covent Garden
1942 - Villa-Lobos: "Chôros" Nos. 6, 9 and 11, in Rio de Janeiro, conducted by the composer
1945 - Antheil: "Heroes of Today," by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting
1965 - Bernstein: "Chichester Psalms" at Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) by the New York Philharmonic conducted by the composer, with The Camerata Singers and boy alto John Bogart; On July 31, 1965, Bernstein attended the U.K. premiere of thiswork (performed by a male-only choir) at Chichester Cathedral in England
1988 - John Harbison: Piano Sonata No. 1 ("In Memoriam Roger Sessions"), at the Dorothy Taubman Piano Institute in Amherst, Mass., by pianist Robert Shannon
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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.