Composers Datebook

Tchaikovsky and Brahms in New York

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) Tragic Overture Chicago Symphony; Daniel Barenboim, cond. Erato 95192 Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 Barry Douglas, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, cond. RCA/BMG 61633


Composers Datebook for November 12, 2020

2:00


November 12, 2020

Synopsis

These days, at symphony concerts when a new piece of music is about to be played, it’s not uncommon to overhear someone mutter, “Why do they have to program this new stuff, when there’s so much Brahms and Tchaikovsky we’d rather hear?”

Well, on today’s date in 1881, the 40th season of the New York Philharmonic Society’s concerts opened with a pair of brand-new works: first the New York premiere of the “Tragic” Overture by Johannes Brahms, and after that, the world premiere performance of the Second Piano Concerto by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The soloist in the Tchaikovsky was a certain Madame Madeleine Schiller.

Here’s what The New York Times had to say the following morning: “The return of Madame Schiller to the stage is a welcome event... the only regret being that her efforts had not been devoted to a more interesting work, for, apart from the novelty, it cannot be said that the Tchaikovsky concerto possessed any great merit. There are older works, of which one never tires and which, interpreted by Madame Schiller ... would always be welcomed.”

Ah, some things never change!

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) Tragic Overture Chicago Symphony; Daniel Barenboim, cond. Erato 95192

Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 Barry Douglas, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, cond. RCA/BMG 61633

On This Day

Births

  • 1833 - Russian composer Alexander Borodin, in St. Petersburg (see Julian date: Oct 31);

Deaths

  • 1948 - Italian opera composer Umberto Giordano, age 81, in Milan;

  • 1966 - American composer Quincy Porter, age 69, in Bethany, Conn.;

  • 1972 - Czech-born American composer Rudolph Friml, age 92, in Los Angeles;

  • 1976 - American composer Walter Piston, age 82, in Belmont, Mass.;

  • 2013 - British composer Sir John Tavener, age 69, in in Child Okeford, Dorset;

Premieres

  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 139 ("Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott") performed on the 23rd Sunday after Trinity as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1866 - Delibes: ballet "La Source,'" at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1881 - Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 2, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Theodore Thomas, with Madeleine Schiller the soloist;

  • 1888 - Tchaikovsky: symphonic fantasy overture “Hamlet,” in Moscow (Gregorian date: Nov. 24);

  • 1931 - Rachmaninoff: “Oriental Sketch” for solo piano, in New York City, by the composer;

  • 1943 - William Schumann: Symphony No. 5 ("Symphony for Strings"), in Boston;

  • 1973 - Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 14, in Leningrad, by the Beethoven Quartet;

  • 1974 - Crumb: "Makrokosmos II" for amplified piano, in New York;

  • 2002 - David Del Tredici: “Grand Trio” in New York City at the 92nd Street Y by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio;

Others

  • 1738 - Handel completes Part II (“Moses’ Song”) of his oratorio “Israel in Egypt” (see Julian date: November 1);