Composers Datebook®

Bach is back

J.S. Bach (1685 – 1750): Harpsichord Concerto in A, S. 1055 (Gustav Leonhardt, hc; Leonhardt Consort) Telefunken 97452

Composer's Datebook - June 17, 2021


June 17, 2021


As Leipzig’s chief provider of both sacred and secular music Johann Sebastian Bach probably gave a huge sigh of relief on today’s date in 1733.

The death of the Imperial Elector Friedrich Augustus the First of Saxony earlier that year had resulted in a four-month period of official mourning, which meant NO elaborate sacred music at Bach’s Leipzig churches, and certainly no frivolous secular concerts with the Collegium Musicum, an orchestra of professionals and amateurs that Bach assembled periodically at Zimmermann’s coffee house in that city.

Finally, Frederich’s successor said, “Enough was enough,” and this notice appeared in a Leipzig paper:

“His Royal Highness and Electorial Grace, having given kind permission for the [resumption of] music, tomorrow, on June 17, a beginning will be made by Bach’s Collegium Musicum at Zimmermann’s Garden, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, with a fine concert. The concerts will be weekly, with a new harpsichord, such as had not been heard there before, and lovers of music are expected to be present.”

So it’s not hard to imagine Bach at Zimmermann’s giving the downbeat to put the new instrument through its paces in one of his own harpsichord concertos.

Music Played in Today's Program

J.S. Bach (1685 – 1750): Harpsichord Concerto in A, S. 1055 (Gustav Leonhardt, hc; Leonhardt Consort) Telefunken 97452

On This Day


  • 1818 - French opera composer Charles Gounod, in Paris;

  • 1882 - Russian-born American composer Igor Stravinsky, in Oranienbaum (now Lomonosov), near St. Petersburg (Julian date: June 5); In the 19th century, the Julian calendar lagged behind the Gregorian by 12 days, and in the 20th by 13 days; For most of his life in Europe and America, Stravinsky chose to observe his birthday on June 18, but "officially" it was celebrated on June 17;

  • 1916 - Finnish composer Einar (Sven) Englund, in Ljugard, Gotland (Sweden);


  • 1983 - American composer Peter Mennin, age 60, in New York;


  • 1903 - Victor Herbert: operetta, "Babes In Toyland," in Chicago;

  • 1908 - Stravinsky: "Fireworks," for the marriage of Rimsky-Korsakov's daughter to Maxmillian Steinberg (Julian date: June 4);

  • 1944 - Prokofiev: Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 94a (transcription of the Flute Sonata, Op. 94), in Moscow, by violinist David Oistrakh and pianist Lev Oborin;

  • 1957 - Stravinsky: ballet score "Agon," at a 75th birthday concert for Stravinsky in Los Angeles conducted by Robert Craft; The first ballet performance of "Agon" occurred at the New York City Ballet on December 1, 1957, choreographed by Georges Balanchine;

  • 1959 - Barber: "A Hand of Bridge," at Festival of Two Worlds in Spoletto, Italy;

  • 1983 - Bernstein: opera "A Quiet Place" (first version), by Houston Grand Opera, John DeMain conducting; A revised version of this opera premiered at La Scala in Milan, Italy, on June 19, 1984, conducted by John Mauceri;

  • 1988 - Elliott Carter: Oboe Concerto, in Zurich, by the Zurich Collegium Musicum conducted by John Carewe, with Heinz Holliger as soloist;


  • 1733 - Performances by J.S. Bach's "Collegium Musicum" in Leipzig resume after a period of mourning for Elector Friedrich August I;

  • 1914 - Finnish composer Jean Sibelius awarded honorary degree by Yale University.