Today’s date is the birthday of the Italian composer Alfredo Casella—or “Alfred Casella” as he was known during his tenure as conductor of the Boston Pops in the later 1920s.
Casella was born in Turin in 1883, and died in Rome in 1947. He studied at the Paris Conservatory, attended Fauré’s composition classes, and counted Ravel as a friend. His enthusiasms included much of the “new” music of his day, including the works of Debussy, Richard Strauss, and Mahler in the early years of the 20th century… and Bartók, Schoenberg and Stravinsky as those composers came on the scene. As a composer, conductor, and festival organizer, Casella became one of the most important figures on the Italian music scene between the wars, composing symphonies, concertos, chamber music songs and operas.
This little march from Casella’s “Serenata” for chamber orchestra was composed in 1927, the same year he came to America as the newly-appointed director of the Boston Pops. According to the Boston Symphony historian Richard Dyer, Casella “made the only great mistake in the Pops' history: He sought to elevate the audiences.” Although he programmed popular pieces such as Gershwin's brand-new "An American in Paris," Casella also included entire Beethoven symphonies on his Pops programs and even works by contemporary avant-garde composers such as Arthur Honegger.
Casella's contract was not renewed, and the Bostonians turned to one of their own, a 35-year-old viola player in the Boston Symphony named Arthur Fiedler, as Casella’s successor.
Music Played in Today's Program
Alfredo Casella (1883 – 1947) Serenata per Piccola Orchestra, Op. 46a Haydn Orchestra Bolzano e Trento; Alun Francis, cond. CPO 999 195
On This Day
1883 - Italian composer, pianist and conductor Alfredo Casella, in Turin; He was the conductor of the Boston Pops from 1927-29
1969 - American opera composer, Douglas Moore, age 75, in Greenport (Long Island), N.Y.
1937 - Copland: "Music for Radio"(or "Saga of the Prairies") on CBS radio network, performed by CBS Symphony
1970 - Dutilleux: "Tout un monde lointain" for Cello and Orchestra, in Aix-en-Provence
1976 - Glass: opera, "Einstein on the Beach," in Avignon, France, at the Théatre Municipale; The American premiere took place as a non-season event at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on November 21, 1976)
1788 - Mozart finishes his Symphony No. 40 in g. K. 550
1937 - Barber's Symphony No. 1 is performed at the Salzburg Music Festival is Austria, by the Vienna Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinsky, conducting; This was the first American symphonic work to be performed at this prestigious international festival; The symphony had received its world premiere performance in Rome on Dec. 13, 1935, during Barber's Rome Prize residency
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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.