Composers Datebook

Puccini victorious

Giacomo Puccini (1858 -1924) Nessun dorma, fr Turandot Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond. EMI 49552


Composers Datebook for April 25, 2021

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April 25, 2021

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1926, Giacomo Puccini’s last opera, “Turandot,” had its belated premiere at the La Scala Opera House in Milan, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. The originally scheduled 1925 premiere had to be postponed, as Puccini had died in November of 1924, leaving “Turandot” unfinished.

Another Italian composer, Franco Alfano, was brought in to complete the opera based on Puccini’s sketches. It’s said that after showing Toscanini his completion, Alfano asked, “What do you have to say, Maestro?”—to which Toscanini replied, “I say I see Puccini’s ghost coming to punch me in the nose.”

On opening night, Toscanini stopped the performance at the point that Puccini had ceased composing and left the podium in tears—a touching act of homage to Puccini, perhaps, but also a vote of “no confidence” regarding Alfano’s completion of the beloved master’s score.

Although well received by critics, the Puccini“ Turandot” with Alfano’s ending remained less popular than other Puccini operas for decades. After a run of performances in the late 1920s when the opera was still new, “Turandot” remained unperformed at the Metropolitan Opera until 1961, when Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli scored a huge success in a lavish Franco Zeffirelli revival production.

Music Played in Today's Program

Giacomo Puccini (1858 -1924) Nessun dorma, fr Turandot Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond. EMI 49552

On This Day

Births

  • 1690 - Baptismal date of German composer and organist Gottlieb Muffat, in Pasau; He was the son of German composer Georg Muffat (1653-1704);

  • 1840 - Russian composer Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Gregorian date: May 5);

Deaths

  • 1906 - American composer John Knowles Paine, age 67, in Cambridge, Mass.; At Harvard, he created the first Music Department of any American university, and was the teacher there of a number of other American composers, including John Alden Carpenter, Arthur Foote, E.B. Hill, F.S. Converse, and D.G. Mason;

Premieres

  • 1881 - Gilbert Sullivan: operetta "Patience," in London;

  • 1918 - Schreker: opera "Die Gezeichneten" (The Branded), in Frankfurt at the Opernhaus;

  • 1926 - Puccini: opera "Turandot," in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala, with Arturo Toscanini conducting; The final scene of this opera, left unfinished at the time of Puccini's death, was completed by Alfano;

  • 1929 - Roussel: "Psalm 80" for tenor, chorus and orchestra, in Paris;

  • 1931 - Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 1 in b, Op. 50, at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, by the Brosa Quartet;

  • 1963 - Hindemith: Organ Concerto, for a jubilee concert of the New York Philharmonic, with the composer conducting and Anton Heiller the soloist;

  • 1980 - Rochberg: "Octet - A Grand Fantasia," at Alice Tully Hall, by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center;

  • 1999 - André Previn: Bassoon Sonata, in New York, with Nancy Goeres and the composer at the piano;

Others

  • 1841 - At a fund-raising concert in Paris for the Beethoven monument to be erected in Bonn, Franz Liszt performs Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with Berlioz conducting; Richard Wagner reviews the concert for the Dresden Abendzeitung; The following day, Chopin gives one of his rare recitals at the Salle Pleyel, and Liszt writes a long and glowing review for the Parisian Gazette Musicale;

  • 1865 - Pope Pius IX confers on composer Franz Liszt the title of "Abbé".