Composers Datebook®

The Philadelphia Sound

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) — Act I Prelude, from Die Meistersinger (Philadelphia Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, cond.) CBS 38914 Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) — Symphonic Dances (Philadelphia Orchestra; Charles Dutoit, cond.) London 433 181


Composer's Datebook - November 16, 2021

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November 16, 2021

Synopsis

In the year 1900, a German-born conductor named Fritz Scheel arranged for two orchestral programs in Philadelphia billed as the “Philippines Concerts.” These were benefits, as contemporary ads put it: “for the relief of families of the nation’s heroes killed in the Philippines.” The previous year U.S. troops had fought a guerrilla army in the Philippines and had suffered heavy casualties.  

The concerts proved so successful that Philadelphians decided that Scheel’s pick-up orchestra should become instead a permanent ensemble, similar to the orchestras of New York and Boston. And so, on today’s date in 1900, the first official concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra took place at the Academy of Music, offering a program of Goldmark, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Weber, and Wagner.

During the century that followed, the fame of the Philadelphia Orchestra spread worldwide via recordings made by the orchestra’s famous maestros Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy,  who gave many U.S. and world premiere performances of new works by both European and American composers.

In 1940, the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, on the occasion of the premiere of his “Symphonic Dances” by the Philadelphians, paid the orchestra this compliment: “Today, when I think of composing, my thoughts turn to you, the greatest orchestra in the world.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) — Act I Prelude, from Die Meistersinger (Philadelphia Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, cond.) CBS 38914

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) — Symphonic Dances (Philadelphia Orchestra; Charles Dutoit, cond.) London 433 181

On This Day

Births

  • 1766 - French composer and violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, in Versailles; Beethoven dedicated his Violin Sonata Op. 47 to Kreutzer, but there is no record he ever performed the work;

  • 1829 - Russian composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein, in Vikhvatinets, Podolia (Gregorian date: Nov. 28);

  • 1870 - Australian composer Alfred Hill, in Melbourne;

  • 1873 - American composer and "father of the blues" William Christopher (W.C.) Handy, in Florence, Ala;

  • 1895 - German composer, violist and conductor Paul Hindemith, in Hanau;

Premieres

  • 1850 - Verdi: opera "Stifellio," in Trieste at the Teatro Grande;

  • 1861 - Brahms: Piano Quintet No. 1 in g, Op. 25, at a private read-through in Hamburg, with Clara Schumann the pianist; A year later to the day, the work received its official premiere in Vienna, with members of the Hellmesberger Quartet and the composer at the piano;

  • 1904 - Colerdige-Taylor: first American performance in Washington, D.C. of the complete trilogy of oratorios ("The Song of Hiawatha," "The Death of Minnehaha," and "Hiawatha's Departure") based on Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha," with the composer conducting;

  • 1919 - Charles Tomlinson Griffes: "Poem" for flute and orchestra, Walter Damrosch conducting the New York Symphony Society Orchestra;

  • 1934 - William Dawson: "Negro Folk Symphony," by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1940 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 21, at the Moscow Festival of Soviet Music; This work was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony, who gave the American premiere on December 26, 1940;

  • 1948 - Morton Gould: "Philharmonic Waltzes," commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting;

  • 1945 - Milhaud: Suite for Violin and Orchestra, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Eugene Ormandy conducting and Zino Francescatti the soloist;

  • 1981 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical "Merrily We Roll Along";

  • 2001 - Magnus Lindberg: “Parada,” at a three-day recording session (Nov. 16-18) in London with Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducting;

Others

  • 1900 - First concert by The Philadelphia Orchestra, conductor Fritz Scheel, pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch.