Composers Datebook

Warren Benson's "The Leaves Are Falling"

Warren Benson The Leaves Are Falling Eastman Wind Ensemble; Donald Hunsberger, cond. Centaur 2014

Composers Datebook for November 22, 2020


November 22, 2020


If you’re a baby boomer, you probably remember exactly where you were and what you were doing on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

On that day, American composer Warren Benson was just beginning to work on a commission he had received for a new work for wind band. Maybe the trauma of that day unleashed some creative power in Benson, but whatever the reason, the resulting music is both intense and moving. He titled his piece “The Leaves Are Falling,” a line from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Autumn," a poem that evokes a sense of a passing season and a passing life. “The Leaves Are Falling” became Benson’s best-known work, and a landmark score in the wind band repertory.

Born in 1924, Benson grew up in Detroit, studied at the University of Michigan, and landed a job playing timpani in the Detroit Symphony. He served as a professor of percussion and composition at Ithaca College, and from 1967 until 1993, he taught composition at the Eastman School in Rochester, New York.

Music Played in Today's Program

Warren Benson The Leaves Are Falling Eastman Wind Ensemble; Donald Hunsberger, cond. Centaur 2014

On This Day


  • 1709 - Baptism of Bohemian composer Frantisek Benda, in Staré Benátky; In 1763 Benda wrote his autobiography, an important source of information on music and musicians of the period;

  • 1710 - German composer Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (eldest son of J. S.), in Weimar;

  • 1780 - German composer Conradin Kreutzer, in Messkirch, Baden;

  • 1899 - American pianist and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, in Bloomington, Ind.;

  • 1901 - Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, in Sagunto;

  • 1913 - English composer Benjamin Britten, in Lowestoft, Suffolk;

  • 1925 - American composer, conductor, professional French horn player, and author Gunther Schuller, in New York;

  • 1936 - German composer and conductor Hans Zender, in Wiesbaden;


  • 1900 - English composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, in London, age 58;

  • 1955 - French composer Guy Ropartz, age 91, in Lanloup;


  • 1712 - Handel: opera “Il pastor fido,” at the Queen’s Theater in London (Gregorian date: Dec. 3);

  • 1727 - Handel: opera “Riccardo Primo” in London (see Julian date: Nov. 11);

  • 1739 - Handel: “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day,” in London at Lincoln’s Inn Field (Gregorian date: Dec. 3);

  • 1740 - Handel: opera “Imeneo” in London at Lincoln’s Inn Fields (Gregorian date: Dec. 3) ; This work was billed as an “operetta”;

  • 1872 - Dvořák: Piano Quintet in A, Op. 5 (original version), at the Konvikt Hall in Prague; Dvořák revised this early chamber work in 1887;

  • 1895 - Rachmaninoff: “Caprice bohémien” (Capriccio on Gypsy Themes) (Gregorian date: Dec. 4);

  • 1907 - Charles Martin Loeffler: "A Pagan Poem," Karl Muck conducting Boston Symphony Orchestra;

  • 1928 - Ravel: ballet "Bolero," danced by Ida Rubinstein, at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1931 - Ferde Grofé: "Grand Canyon" Suite, in Chicago, by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra;