Composers Datebook®

Plucky music with Landowska and Harbach

Composers Datebook for July 3, 2016


The piano became the dominant keyboard instrument in Mozart’s lifetime in the late 18th century. Before that, the harpsichord had ruled. But for more than a hundred years after Mozart’s day, the harpsichord seemed as dead as the dodo, and even the great harpsichord works of Bach and other early 18th century masters were always played on the piano—that is, until Wanda Landowska came on the scene.

This indomitable woman was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1879, and single-handedly brought the harpsichord back to life. It was on today’s date in 1927 that she inaugurated an historic series of harpsichord concerts at her summer home near Paris—and, two years later, in 1929, Landowska premiered the “Concert champêtre,” by Francis Poulenc, a brand new harpsichord concerto written specially for her.

Very much in the spirit of Wanda Landowska, the contemporary composer and performer Barbara Harbach is in the vanguard of today’s advocates for the harpsichord.

A passionate advocate for new music, she has recorded several compact discs of “20th Century Harpsichord Music” for the Gasparo label, featuring works by American composers from Samuel Adler to Ellen Taafe Zwillich.

Music Played in Today's Program

J.S. Bach (1685-1750) Little Prelude in C, S. 934 Wanda Landowska, harpsichord Pearl 9489

Barbara Harbach (b. 1946) Cante Flamenco, from Tres Danzas para Clavecin Barbara Harbach, harpsichord Gasparo 290

On This Day


  • 1854 - Czech composer Leo Janácek, in Hukvaldy, Moravia

  • 1878 - American song composer George M. Cohan, in Providence, R.I.; He mistakenly believed he was "born on the Fourth of July" as his popular song "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" states; In 1978 the centennial of his birth was honored with a U.S. postage stamp issued on this date

  • 1879 - French composer and conductor Philippe Gaubert, in Cahors

  • 1901 - American composer and American folksong compiler, Ruth Crawford (Seeger), in East Liverpool, Ohio; She was the second wife of the eminent American composer and ethnomusicologist, Charles Seeger (1886-1979); Charles Seeger's son by his first marriage became the famous American folksinger, Pete Seeger

  • 1926 - American composer Meyer Kupferman, in New York City


  • 1966 - American composer, writer, and broadcaster, Deems Taylor, age 80, in New York City; For many years he was a broadcast commentator for the national broadcasts of both the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera (Two of his operas were staged at the Met); In 1967, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) established the Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in the fields of music criticism, journalism, and broadcasting; Composers Datebook won a Deems Taylor Award in 2000

  • 1998 - English romantic composer George Lloyd, age 85


  • 1944 - Robert Wright & George Forest: musical "The Song of Norway" (based on the music of Norwegian composer Edward Grieg), during trial run in San Francisco; The musical opened in New York on August 21, 1944

  • 1964 - Robert Ward: opera, "The Lady From Colorado," in Central City, Colorado;

  • 1967 - Havergal Brian: Symphony No. 4 ("Das Siegeslied") in London; This symphony was composed in 1929

  • 1976 - Hovhaness: Violin Concerto ("Ode to Freedom") at Wolf Trap, with André Kostelanetz conducting and Yehudi Menuhin the soloist.


  • 1848 - American music publisher Theodore Presser is born in Pittsburgh; In 1883 he founded in Philadelphia the famous music monthly, "The Etude" (which discontinued publication in 1957), and shortly thereafter the Philadelphia-based Presser music publishing firm; He was also a co-founder of the Music Teachers National Association

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®