Composers Datebook®

John Corigliano's Violin Sonata

Composers Datebook for July 10, 2015


Parents worry. That’s their job. Take the parents of the American composer John Corigliano, Jr., for example. Both were musicians, and both knew that earning a living as a composer would be no easy task.

For many years, Corigliano’s father was the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. Corigliano Junior recalls: “He did everything he could to discourage me. He knew firsthand that the composer was the lowest man in the musical hierarchy. ‘Performers don’t want to bother with your work, and audiences don’t want to hear it. So what are doing it for?’ he would say.”

After her boy graduated from Columbia, Mrs. Corigliano was at the beauty parlor one day and ran into the mother of the chairman of the Lehman College music department, and asked about getting her son a job. The chairman called him in for an interview and eventually hired Corigliano as an adjunct professor. John Jr. also made ends meet by working at classical music radio stations, producing recordings for Columbia Masterworks, and assisting Leonard Bernstein with his Young People’s Concerts.

But on today’s date in 1964, one of Corigliano’s early chamber works, a Sonata for Violin and Piano, was premiered in Italy at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto. It won a chamber music prize, and its success helped establish young Mr. Corigliano as an up-and-coming composer.

Corigliano’s parents probably continued to worry. But they must have been proud as well. And John Corigliano Senior even made a recording of John junior’s new Sonata. But then, maybe dad was just worried somebody else wouldn’t play it right...

Music Played in Today's Program

John Corigliano, Jr. (b. 1938) Violin Sonata John Corigliano, Sr., violin; Ralph Votapek, piano CRI 659

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®