Composers Datebook®

Herrmann delivers a new symphony

Bernard Herrmann (1911 – 1975): Symphony No. 1 (National Philharmonic; Bernard Herrmann, cond.) Unicorn-Kanchana 2063

Composer's Datebook - July 27, 2021


July 27, 2021


On today’s date in 1941, this notice appeared in the “Radio Concerts” section of The New York Times, as the 3pm listing for New York’s WABC: “Bernard Herrmann directs the Columbia Symphony in the world premiere of his Symphony No. 1.” The notice also offered these words from the 30-year-old composer: “My symphony was written in my spare time during radio and motion-picture commitments.”

Herrmann’s First Symphony was a joint commission by the CBS Network and the New York Philharmonic.  Herrmann was a very busy young man much in demand in those days: he had composed and conducted music for Orson Welles’s radio plays, and in 1940 he wrote his first big film score for “Citizen Kane,” directed by Orson Welles. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Herrmann would provide the music for classic Alfred Hitchcock thrillers like “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” and “Psycho.”

But all that was still off in the future back in 1941 – and it’s possible the over-worked Herrmann was a little more distracted than usual when conducted that radio premiere of his new symphony: His wife, Lucille, had gone into labor just prior to the broadcast and gave birth to their daughter two hours after the performance.

Music Played in Today's Program

Bernard Herrmann (1911 – 1975): Symphony No. 1 (National Philharmonic; Bernard Herrmann, cond.) Unicorn-Kanchana 2063

On This Day


  • 1867 - Spanish composer and conductor Enrique Granados, in Lérida; He died at sea in 1916, a victim of the sinking by a German submarine of the S.S. Sussex in the English Channel during World War I)

  • 1877 - Hungarian composer and pianist Ernö (Ernst) von Dohnányi; He was the grandfather of the German-born conductor Christoph von Dohnányi

  • 1899 - American composer Harl McDonald, near Boulder, Colorado; He worked as the business manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra for many years, and that orchestra performed a number of his pieces under both Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy

  • 1912 - Russian-born composer and conductor Igor Markevitch, in Kiev (Julian date: July 14)


  • 1924 - Italian-German composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni, age 58, in Berlin


  • 1941 - Paul Creston: "Prelude and Dance" and "A Rumor," in New York

  • 1941 - Bernard Herrmann: Symphony No. 1, on a radio broadcast by the Columbia Symphony with the composer conducting


  • 1733 - J.S. Bach sends a letter to Frederic Augustus, Elector of Saxony, requesting an official title to bolster his reputation in Leipzig; Accompanying the letter, Bach sends the "Kyrie" and "Gloria" from his Mass in b minor

  • 1966 - Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "Torn Curtain" opens in New York — without the film score that Bernard Herrmann had composed for it (The famous director fired Herrmann during the score's first recording sessions when Hitch discovered Herrmann had composed a "symphonic" score and not the "pop" score that Hitch had specifically requested)