Composers Datebook

Danny Elfman at Carnegie Hall

Danny Elfman Serenada Schizophrana orch; John Maurceri, cond. Sony 89780

Composers Datebook for February 23, 2021


February 23, 2021


The American composer Daniel Robert "Danny" Elfman is best known for writing the opening theme of The Simpsons and for scoring movies directed by his friend Tim Burton.

But on today’s date in 2005, Elfman had, for him, a rather unusual experience—namely, hearing some of his music played live at Carnegie Hall when the American Composers Orchestra gave the premiere of “Serenada Schizophrana,” his first-ever foray into composing a symphonic concert work.

In notes for a subsequent recording of the piece, Elfman said:

“I’ve always had visuals to drive my orchestral music… As I’d never done anything like this before, figuring out how to begin was daunting. I began several dozen short improvisational compositions… Slowly, some of them began to develop themselves until finally I had six separate movements … I more or less let the movements take themselves wherever they wanted to go in a kind of musical stream of consciousness (which, with the way my brain works, was not a very smooth stream).”

Hearing the work at Carnegie Hall, Elfman concluded, was (quote), “a thrilling and surreal experience.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Danny Elfman Serenada Schizophrana orch; John Maurceri, cond. Sony 89780

On This Day


  • 1648 - (or possibly 1649) Baptismal date of English composer and organist John Blow, in Newark, Nottinghamshire;

  • 1685 - German-born British composer George Frideric Handel, as "Georg Friedrich Händel," in Halle (Saxony);

  • 1900 - American composer Elinor Remick Warren, in Los Angeles;

  • 1920 - American composer Hall Overton, in Bangor, Michigan;


  • 1704 - Austrian composer and organist Georg Muffat, age 50, in Passau, Germany;

  • 1934 - English composer Sir Edward Elgar, age 76, in Worcester;

  • 1983 - English composer Henry Howells, age 90, in London;


  • 1732 - Handel: oratorio “Esther” in London at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, by an ensemble including the Children of the Chapel Royal, on the occasion (in England) of Handel’s 47th birthday (Gregorian date: Mar. 5);

  • 1835 - Halévy: opera "La Juive" (The Jewess), at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1854 - Liszt: symphonic poem, "Les Préludes," in Weimar, conducted by the composer;

  • 1882 - Chadwick: Symphony No. 1, by the Boston Symphony;

  • 1903 - Rachmaninoff: Piano Preludes Nos. 1, 2, and 5, from Op. 23 and “Variations on a Theme of Chopin,” Op. 22, in Moscow, by the composer (Julian date: Feb. 10);

  • 1913 - Schoenberg: "Gurre-Lieder," in Vienna;

  • 1916 - Griffes: "White Peacock" for piano, by Winifred Christie in New York City;

  • 1923 - Ernest Schelling: "A Victory Ball," by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1945 - Villa-Lobos: Choros No. 12 for orchestra, by the Boston Symphony with the composer conducting;

  • 1956 - Leon Kirchner: Piano Concerto No. 1, in New York City, composer at the piano;

  • 1962 - Stravinsky: "A Sermon, A Narrative and A Prayer," in Basle(Switzerland), conducted by Paul Sacher (to whom the work is dedicated).