Composers Datebook®

Stravinsky's "Ode"

Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) — Ode (London Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.) BMG 68865

Composer's Datebook - October 8, 2021


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October 08, 2021


The Russian Revolution of 1917 wiped out many family fortunes, and many penniless, Russian émigrés who fled the Bolsheviks had to start from scratch in exile.

Natalie Koussevitzky, however, was not one of them. Her family fortune was fairly diversified, which meant that even the loss of her large Russian holdings left her with considerable wealth elsewhere. And since Natalie was married to the Russian émigré music publisher, conductor, and new music impresario Serge Koussevitzky, that meant a number of famous 20th century composers benefited as well. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, culturally speaking, without Natalie’s fortune, the history of 20th century music would have been noticeably poorer.

When Natalie died, Serge Koussevitzky established a Music Foundation in her honor. One of the Foundation’s memorial commissions was premiered on today’s date in 1943 by the Boston Symphony, led by Serge Koussevitzky. This was a three-part symphonic “Ode” written by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, and dedicated to Natalie’s memory.

Curiously, the second movement of Stravinsky’s “Ode” was actually a bit of recycled film music originally intended for the Orson Welles version of the English novel “Jane Eyre.”  In the final cut, Welles opted for a Bernard Herrmann score instead.

Music Played in Today's Program

Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) — Ode (London Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.) BMG 68865

On This Day


  • 1870 - French composer and organist Louis Vierne, in Poitiers;

  • 1930 - Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, in Tokyo;

  • 1953 - English composer Robert Saxon, in London;


  • 1834 - French composer François Boieldieu, age 58, in Jarcy;


  • 1903 - Nielsen: "Helios" Overture, in Copenhagen;

  • 1943 - Stravinsky: "Ode" (in memory of Natalie Koussevitzky), by the Boston Symphony conducted by Serge Koussevitzky;

  • 1960 - Prokofiev: opera "The Story of a Real Man" (posthumously) at the Bolshoi in Moscow; A semi-public performance of this opera was given in Leningrad on Dec. 3, 1948, but the opera was rejected by Soviet authorities for subsequent performances during the composer's lifetime;

  • 1966 - Stravinsky: "Requiem Canticles," in Princeton, with Robert Craft conducting;

  • 1992 - Ligeti: Violin Concerto, in Cologne, by the Ensemble Moderne conducted by Peter Eötvös, and Saschko Gawriloff the soloist;

  • 1993 - Corigliano: "Troubadours (Variations for Guitar and Orchestra)," at the Ordway Music Theater in St. Paul, with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Hugh Wolff, and guitar soloist Sharon Isbin;

  • 1999 - Kernis: "Garden of Light" and Torke: "Four Seasons" (both commissioned by the Disney Company at the urging of its Chief Executive, Michael Eisner), for the Millennium season of the New York Philharmonic, with Kurt Masur conducting the orchestra, vocal soloists, and choirs in both pieces;


  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in a, Op. 6, no. 4 (Gregorian date: Oct. 19);

  • 1898 - The first issue of the magazine "Musical America" is published.