Composers Datebook®

Lee Hoiby

Lee Hoiby (1926 - 2011) Act II intro, fr Summer and Smoke Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre; Steve Osgood, cond. Albany TROY-122

Composers Datebook for February 17, 2018


February 17, 2018


Today’s date marks the birthday of the American composer and pianist Lee Hoiby, who was born in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1926.

Hoiby was just six when he made his debut as a composer in the parlor of his Madison home for his grandmother’s Daughters of Norway Club. He played a piano piece he wrote himself entitled “The Storm,” and insisted, before playing it, that all the lights in the parlor be turned off to set a proper mood for the music.

With that early sense of dramatic staging in mind, it’s not surprising that Hoiby eventually would write successful operas, ranging from “Bon Appetit!,” a monolog based on cook books of Julia Child, to a full-blown, three-act setting of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” His best-known known opera is a 1971 setting of the Tennessee Williams play “Summer and Smoke,” which premiered at the St. Paul Opera in Minnesota.

Hoiby studied with two virtuoso pianists, Gunnar Johansen and Egon Petri, both famous interpreters of the modern Romantic composer Feruccio Busoni, and Hoiby’s own music seems rooted in the later Romantic/early Modern tradition.

“For me, composing music bears some likeness to archeology,” said Hoiby. “It requires patient digging, searching for the treasure; the ability to distinguish between a treasure and the rock next to it—and recognizing when you're digging in the wrong place.”

Hoiby died on March 28, 2011, aged 85, in New York City.

Music Played in Today's Program

Lee Hoiby (1926 - 2011) Act II intro, fr Summer and Smoke Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre; Steve Osgood, cond. Albany TROY-122

On This Day


  • 1653 - Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli, in Fusignano (near Imola);

  • 1820 - Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps, in Verviers;

  • 1862 - English composer Edward German (Jones) in Whitechurch;

  • 1887 - Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja, in Oulu (Uleaborg);

  • 1920 - American composer Paul Fetler, in Philadelphia;

  • 1926 - Austrian composer Friedrich Cerha, in Vienna;

  • 1926 - American composer Lee Hoiby, in Madison, Wis.;


  • 1732 - French composer and organist Louis Marchand, age 63, in Paris;

  • 1841 - Italian composer and guitarist Ferdinando Carulli, age 70, in Paris;

  • 1924 - Finnish composer Oskar Merikanto, age 55, in Hausjärvi-Oiti;

  • 1970 - American composer and conductor Alfred Newman, age 69, in Los Angeles;

  • 1982 - American Jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk, age 64, in Englewood, N.J.;


  • 1728 - Handel: opera “Siroe, re di Persia” (Cyrus, King of Persia), in London at the King’s Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: Feb. 28); This was the first Handel opera with a libretto by Metastasio;

  • 1792 - Haydn: Symphony No. 93, conducted by the composer, at the Hanover-Square Concert Rooms in London;

  • 1855 - Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb, in Weimar, with the composer as soloist and Hector Berlioz conducting;

  • 1859 - Verdi: opera "Un Ballo in Maschera" (A Masked Ball), in Rome at the Teatro Apollo;

  • 1889 - Franck: Symphony in d, in Paris;

  • 1901 - Mahler: oratorio "Das Klagende Lied" (Song of Lamentation), in Vienna, with composer conducting;

  • 1904 - Puccini: opera “Madama Butterfly,”in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala;

  • 1914 - Ernst von Dohnányi: "Variations on a Nursery Song" for piano and orchestra, in Berlin, with the composer as soloist;

  • 1927 - Deems Taylor: opera "The King's Henchmen," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York;

  • 1943 - Copland: "Music for Movies," at a Town Hall Forum concert in New York City;

  • 1947 - Copland: "Danzón Cubano" (orchestral version), by the Baltimore Symphony;

  • 1948 - David Diamond: Violin Sonata No. 1, at Carnegie Hall in New York, by Joseph Szigeti (violin) and Josef Lhevinne (piano);

  • 1952 - Henze: opera "Boulevard Solitude," in Hanover at the Landestheater;

  • 1961 - Elie Siegmeister: Flute Concerto, in Oklahoma City;

  • 1977 - Elliott Carter: "A Symphony of Three Orchestra," by the New York Philharmonic, Pierre Boulez conducting;

  • 1982 - George Perle: "Ballade" for piano, at Alice Tully Hall in New York, by Richard Goode.