Composers Datebook®

Americans in Paris

George Whitefield Chadwick (1854 – 1931): Melpomene Overture )Detroit Symphony; Neeme Jarvi, cond.) Chandos 9439

Composer's Datebook - July 12, 2021


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July 12, 2021


Among the enduring souvenirs of the Paris World Exposition of 1889 was an impressive steel tower designed by Gustave Eiffel. Originally blasted as a grotesque eyesore by leading French artists – including the opera composer Charles Gounod – it was a smash hit with those attending the 1889 Exposition.

Another great hit with attendees, including the impressionable French composer Claude Debussy, was the chance to hear exotic music from Java, Siam, and Egypt.  Audiences at an orchestra concert at the Exposition’s Trocadero Palace on today’s date in 1889 could have heard – for them – exotic music by several composers from the United States as well. It was something of a milestone in the history of American music.

George Whitefield Chadwick tone poem entitled “Melpomene” was one of the works performed in Paris, along with orchestral pieces by Arthur Foote, Edward MacDowell, Dudley Buck, and John Paine. A perceptive French critic noted at the time there seemed to be a veritable “young American school” of composers, obviously influenced by German models ranging from Mendelssohn to Wagner.

“Except for the lack of originality,” concluded the French critic, “the workmanship is serious, correct, solid, and always practical. And these young Americans appeared blessed with much energy.”

Music Played in Today's Program

George Whitefield Chadwick (1854 – 1931): Melpomene Overture )Detroit Symphony; Neeme Jarvi, cond.) Chandos 9439

On This Day


  • 1861 - Russian composer Anton Arensky, in Novgorod; Under the Julian "Old Style" calendar still in use in Russia in that year, this date would be listed as June 30

  • 1885 - English composer George Butterworth, in London; As a British soldier, he was killed during battle of Pozieres in 1916

  • 1895 - American musical theater lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, in New York; He provided lyrics for Rudolf Friml's "Rose Marie" (1924), Siegmund Romberg's "The Desert Song" (1926), and Jerome Kern's "Show Boat" (1926); He collaborated with Richard Rodgers on several Broadway classics such as "Carousel" (1945), "South Pacific" (1949), and "The King and I" (1951); He was also the principal mentor of American composer Stephen Sondheim


  • 1773 - German composer and flutist, Johann Joachim Quantz, age 76, in Postdam

  • 1953 - Belgian composer Joseph Jongen, age 79, at Sart-lez-Spa


  • 1716 - Handel: Concerto Grosso in F, Op. 3, no. 4a (Julian date: July 1);

  • 1900 - Fauré: "Requiem," (orchestrated version) in Paris, at the Paris World Exhibition

  • 1922 - Hindemith: "Kleine Kammermusik" for winds, Op. 24, no. 2, in Cologne (Germany), by the Frankfurt Chamber Winds

  • 1940 - Ginastera: ballet "Pananbi," in Buenos Aires

  • 1946 - Britten: opera "The Rape of Lucretia" at the Glyndebourne Festival in England

  • 1972 - Peter Maxwell Davies: opera, "Taverner," in London at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

  • 1976 - Henze: opera, "We Come to the River," in London at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

  • 1992 - Christopher Rouse: Violin Concerto, at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the Aspen Festival Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin, with soloist Cho-Liang Lin

  • 1993 - William Bolcom: Violin Sonata No 3, at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin, and the composer at the piano;

  • 1993 - Andrew Lloyd-Webber: musical "Sunset Boulevard," in London; The musical opened in Los Angeles on December 2, 1993, and on Broadway on November 17, 1994


  • 1971 - A touring production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's rock musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" starts a cross-country American run; The musical would open on Broadway on October 12, 1971