Composers Datebook®

Pop music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Michael Daugherty

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) — Song of India, from Sadko (arr Kreisler) (Gil Shaham, vn; Akira Eguchi, p.) DG 447 640 Michael Daugherty (b. 1954) — Candelabra Rhumba, from Le tombeau de Liberace (Paul Crossley, piano; London Sinfonietta; Markus Stenz, cond.) Argo 458 145


Composer's Datebook - January 7, 2022

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January 07, 2022

Synopsis

The fairy-tale opera “Sadko” by the Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov had its first performance in Moscow on today’s date in 1898. This opera is still staged in Russia, but rarely anywhere else – even though some of its wonderful melodies have proven extremely popular. One of the opera’s arias had a tune so catchy that it was set to English words as “Play That Song of India Again” and became a best-selling Paul Whiteman recording in the 1920s. In the big-band era, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Song of India” even made the American “Hit Parade.”

The line between popular culture and classical music has often been blurred – and seldom so wickedly as in the works of the American composer Michael Daugherty. Take his “Le Tombeau de Liberace,” for example. Now, in classical music terminology, a “tombeau” is a memorial tribute to an eminent musician or composer – in this case, it’s Wladziu Valentino Liberace, the flamboyant, rhinestone-encrusted pianist and showman who died in 1993.

Many of Michael Daugherty’s other concert pieces have also been inspired by pop icons, real and imaginary, ranging from Desi Arnaz to Superman.

Music Played in Today's Program

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) — Song of India, from Sadko (arr Kreisler) (Gil Shaham, vn; Akira Eguchi, p.) DG 447 640

Michael Daugherty (b. 1954) — Candelabra Rhumba, from Le tombeau de Liberace (Paul Crossley, piano; London Sinfonietta; Markus Stenz, cond.) Argo 458 145

On This Day

Births

  • 1899 - French composer and pianist Francis Poulenc, in Paris;

  • 1917 - American composer Ulysses Kay, in Tucson, Ariz.;

Deaths

  • 1964 - American composer Colin McPhee, age 62, in Los Angeles;

Premieres

  • 1725 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 124 ("Meinen Hesum lass ich nicht") performed on the 1st Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1857 - Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A, in Weimar, with the composer conducting and his pupil, Hans von Bronsart, the soloist;

  • 1895 - Brahms: Two Sonatas for clarinet and piano (Op. 120, no. 1 in f & No. 2 in Eb), in Vienna at a private performance for members of the Tonkünstler Society, with clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld and the composer at the piano; The first public performances of these pieces took place at the Rosé Quartet's chamber concert series on Jan. 8 (Sonata No. 2) and Jan. 11 (Sonata No. 1); See also Jan. 8 & 11 below for more information on early performances of these two sonatas;

  • 1897 - Loeffler: “The Death of Tintagiles” for orchestra, by the Boston Symphony, Emil Paur conducting;

  • 1898 - Glazunov: ballet "Raymonda" (Gregorian date: Jan. 19);

  • 1898 - Rimsky-Korsakov: "Sadko," in Moscow at the Solodovnikov Theater, Esposito conducting (Julian date: Dec. 26, 1897;

  • 1933 - Gruenberg: opera "Emperor Jones" (after the play by Eugene O'Neill), at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City;

  • 1942 - Copland: "Statements" for Orchestra, at Carnegie Hall by New York Philharmonic conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos;

  • 1952 - Gail Kubik: "Symphonie-Concertante" in New York City; This work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1952;

  • 1955 - Martinu: Symphony No. 6 ("Fantaisies symphoniques"), by the Boston Symphony, with Charles Munch conducting;

  • 2000 - Danielpour: "The Night Rainbow," in Santa Anna, Calif., by the Pacific Symphony, Carl St. Clair conducting;

Others

  • 1955 - Marian Anderson makes her Metropolitan Opera debut as Ulrica in Verdi's "Un Ballo in Mascera" (A Masked Ball); She is the first African-American singer to perform as an opera soloist on the Met stage; Subsequent distinguished African-American singers who performed as members of the Met company included Robert McFerrin, Sr. (Bobby McFerrin Jr.’s father), Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Kahtleen Battle and Jessye Norman.