Composers Datebook

Gould at West Point

Morton Gould (1913-1996) West Point Symphony (Symphony for Band) Eastman Wind Ensemble; Frederick Fennell, cond. Mercury 434 320

Composers Datebook for April 13, 2019


April 13, 2019


In 1952, the West Point Military Band celebrated that famous military academy’s Sesquicentennial by asking prominent composers to write celebratory works to mark the occasion. Among those who responded with a new piece was the American composer Morton Gould, whose “West Point Symphony” received its premiere performance on today’s date in 1952, at a gala concert featuring the West Point Academy Band conducted by Francis E. Resta.

There are two movements in Gould’s “West Point Symphony.” They are titled “Epitaphs” and “Marches,” and the composer himself provided these descriptive comments:

“The first movement is lyrical and dramatic… The general character is elegiac. The second and final movement is lusty… the texture a stylization of marching tunes and parades cast in an array of embellishments and rhythmic variations… At one point,” concludes Gould, “there is a simulation of a Fife and Drum Corp, which, incidentally, was the instrumentation of the original West Point Band.”

Of all the pieces written in honor of West Point’s Sesquicentennial in 1952, Gould’s Symphony is probably the best-known.

The score of the West Point Symphony calls for a “marching machine,” but on this classic 1959 recording under the late Frederick Fennell, the required sound was provided by the very real marching feet of 120 Eastman School of Music students.

Music Played in Today's Program

Morton Gould (1913-1996) West Point Symphony (Symphony for Band) Eastman Wind Ensemble; Frederick Fennell, cond. Mercury 434 320

On This Day


  • 1810 - French composer Felicien David, in Cadenet, Vaucluse;

  • 1816 - English composer Sir William Sterndale Bennett, in Sheffield;

  • 1938 - American composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski, in Westfield, Mass.;


  • 1756 - Burial date of the German composer and keyboard virtuoso Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, age c. 29, in Dresden;

  • 1826 - German composer Franz Danzi, age 62, in Schwetzingen;

  • 1944 - French composer and pianist Cécile Chaminade, age 86, in Monte Carlo;


  • 1742 - Handel: oratorio, "Messiah,"in Dublin (Gregorian date: April 24);

  • 1789 - Mozart: Divertimento in Eb (K. 563) for string trio, in Dresden, by Anton Teiber (violin), Anton Kraft (cello), and the composer (viola);

  • 1943 - Randall Thompson: "A Testament of Freedom" for men's voices and piano, at the University of Virginia; The orchestral version of this work premiered in Boston on April 6, 1945;

  • 1952 - Morton Gould: Symphony No. 4 ("West Point Symphony") for band, during the West Point Military Academy Sesquicentennial Celebration in West Point, N.Y, by the Academy Band, with the composer conducting;

  • 1961 - Luigi Nono: opera "Intolerance 1960," in Venice at the Teatro La Fenice;

  • 1992 - Schnittke: opera "Life with an Idiot," in Amsterdam at the Dutch Opera;

  • 1997 - Morten Lauridsen: "Lux Aeterna"for chorus and chamber orchestra, at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Paul Salamunovich conducting;

  • 2000 - Danielpour: Piano Trio ("A Child's Reliquary"), at Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa, by the Kalichstein-Robinson-Laredo Trio;


  • 1823 - Franz Liszt, age 11, performs at the Imperial Redoutensaal in Vienna; Legend has it that Beethoven attended this performance and planted a kiss on the young performer's forehead, but in fact Beethoven did not attend the concert; According to Liszt, the incident occurred a few days before at Beethoven's home, after Liszt had performed one of Beethoven's works; See Dec. 1, 1822, for Liszt's Vienna debut;

  • 1896 - The American Guild of Organists is founded in New York City;

  • 1958 - American pianist Van Cliburn wins the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the first American to do so.