Composers Datebook

Purcell's "really big show"

Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) The Fairy Queen Le Concert des Nations; Jordi Savall, cond. Auvidis 8583


Composer's Datebook - May 2, 2021

2:00


May 02, 2021

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1692, London audiences were treated to a lavish theatrical entertainment entitled “The Fairy Queen.”

This show was loosely based on Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a play already 100 years old in 1692. To make it more in line with contemporary taste, characters were added or cut, and scenes shifted around to such an extent that Shakespeare, were he alive to see it, would be hard put to recognize much of his original concept. Musical sequences were also expanded, and the producers hired the leading British composer of the day to write them.

His name was Henry Purcell, and “The Fairy Queen” would turn out to be the biggest success of his career. In addition to writing the show’s songs and dances, Purcell provided music to entertain the audience as they entered and exited the theater or stretched their legs during the intermission.

The good news is that no expense was spared in the show’s production. The bad news was the show’s producers barely recovered their expenses. Subsequent productions, they decided, would be less flashy, but, recognizing the quality of Purcell’s music, they signed him on once again for their next extravaganza.

Music Played in Today's Program

Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) The Fairy Queen Le Concert des Nations; Jordi Savall, cond. Auvidis 8583

On This Day

Births

  • 1660 - Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti, in Palermo; founder of the "Neopolitan School" of music and father of the composer, Dominico Scarlatti;

  • 1752 - Baptismal date of German oboist and composer Ludwig August Lebrun, in Mannheim;

  • 1810 - Danish conductor and composer Hans Christian Lumbye, in Copenhagen;

  • 1843 - Austrian conductor and operetta composer Carl Michael Ziehrer, in Vienna;

  • 1905 - English composer Alan Rawsthorne, in Haslingden;

Deaths

  • 1864 - German composer Giacomo Meyerbeer (Jakob Liebmann Beer), age 72,in Paris;

  • 1990 - American composer William Levi Dawson, age 90, in Montgomery, Ala.;

Premieres

  • 1692 - Purcell: opera "The Fairy Queen," in London at the Queen's Theater, Dorset Garden;

  • 1935 - Ibert: "Concertino da Camera" for saxophone and chamber orchestra, in Paris;

  • 1936 - Prokofiev: "Peter and the Wolf" at a children's concert by the Moscow Philharmonic, conducted by the composer;

  • 1947 - Copland: "In the Beginning" for mezzo-soprano and chorus, at Harvard University;

  • 1947 - Schoenberg: String Trio, Op. 45, at Harvard University;

  • 1951 - Cage: "Imaginary Landscape No. 4" for 12 radios, in New York;

  • 1951 - Ulysses Kay: "Sinfonia" for orchestra, in Rochester, N.Y.;

  • 1965 - Bolcom: "Oracle" for orchestra, in Seattle;

  • 1965 - Grofé: "Trick or Treat: Halloween," by the Philadelphia Orchestra, André Kostelanetz conducting;

  • 1981 - David Amram: Violin Concerto, by the St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin conducting, with Charles Castleman the soloist;

  • 1984 - Ezra Laderman: String Quartet No. 7, in New York City, by the Colorado Quartet;

  • 1984 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical "Sunday in the Park with George";

  • 1990 - Elliott Carter: Violin Concerto, by the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Herbert Blomstedt, with Ole Böhn as soloist;

Others

  • 1855 - American premiere of Verdi's opera "Il Trovatore" (The Troubadour) at the Academy of Music in New York.

  • 1872 - First documented American performance of Beethoven's "Missa solemnis" in D (Op. 123), at Steinway Hall in New York , by the Church Music Association, Dr. James Pech conducting; Subsequent regional premieres of this work occurred in Cincinnati (May 19, 1880) and Boston (Mar. 12, 1897).