Composers Datebook®

Rameau's "Pygmalion"


Around this time in 1956, the hot ticket on Broadway was for a musical based on the old Greek legend of Pygmalion, a sculptor so good that he fell in love with one of his beautiful female statues. The playwright, George Bernard Shaw, had updated the legend to modern-day London, and in 1956, the Broadway team of Lerner and Loewe had in turn transformed Shaw’s stage play into the smash Broadway musical, “My Fair Lady.”

But 208 years before all that, on today’s date in the year 1748, ANOTHER very successful musical adaptation of the Pygmalion legend opened in Paris. This “Pygmalion” was an opera-ballet by the great French Baroque composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Rameau was born in 1683, two years earlier than Bach and Handel, but unlike them, was something of a late bloomer. He was 50 before he became famous, and his opera-ballet “Pygmalion” opened shortly before his 65th birthday.

Rameau was famous for imitating natural sounds and noises in his music. One of Rameau’s contemporaries, in praising the overture to “Pygmalion,” even suggested the repeated notes of Rameau’s theme represented the chipping of Pygmalion’s chisel as he worked on his lovely creation.

Music Played in Today's Program

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764) Pygmalion La Petite Bande; Gustav Leonhardt, cond. BMG/Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77143

On This Day


  • 1886 - English light music composer, Eric Coates, in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire

  • 1886 - English-born American composer and viola player Rebecca Clarke, in Harrow

  • 1944 - Australian composer Barry Conyngham, in Sydney;


  • 1521 - Flemish composer Josquin Des Prez, age c. 81, in Condé-sur-Escaut

  • 1611 - Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria, age c. 62, in Madrid;


  • 1748 - Rameau: opera-ballet "Pygmalion," in Paris;

  • 1900 - Fauré: Prométhée," in Béziers, France;

  • 1937 - Copland: "El Salon Mexico," in Mexico City, with Carlos Chávez conducting;

  • 1940 - Meredith Wilson: Symphony No. 2 ("The Missions of California") during a San Francisco Symphony concert on Treasure Island conducted by the composer; On the same program was the premiere of Wilson's "Prelude to 'The Great Dictator'" (based on Wilson's film score to the Charlie Chapin film, whose musical themes were provided by Chaplin himself);

  • 1979 - Bernstein: song "Piccola Serenata" (for Karl Böhm's 80th Birthday), at Salzburg Festival, with mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig and pianist James Levine


  • 1734 - Handel and John Rich agree to hold the next opera season of Handel's "Royal Academy" at Rich's Covent Garden Theater in London (Gregorian date: Sept. 7).

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


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®