Composers Datebook®

The Wagners attend a Brahms premiere

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) — Piano Quartet No. 3 in c (Ames Piano Quartet) Dorian 90217

Composer's Datebook - November 18, 2021


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November 18, 2021


Falling in love with someone else’s spouse can result in divorce, emotional turmoil, or (in the case of composers) some very Romantic music.

Take the case of Brahms, who for most of his adult life carried a torch for Mrs. Clara Schumann, the wife of his friend and mentor, Robert Schumann. Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 was conceived during an especially turbulent period in his relationship with the Schumanns. When finished, Brahms wrote to his publisher: “On the cover you must have a picture, namely a head with a pistol to it. I’ll send you my photograph, and since you like color printing, you can use blue coat, yellow breeches, and top-boots.”

That garb was favored by Young Werther, the Romantic hero in a novel by Goethe, who commits suicide after falling in love with a married woman.

Coincidentally, in the audience for the Viennese premiere of Brahms’s Quartet on today’s date in 1875 were Richard and Cosima Wagner. Cosima had run off with Wagner while still married to the famous conductor Hans von Bulow, but her diary entry for November 18th suggests she didn’t find anything Romantic in Brahms or his music. She writes: “[Brahms] a red-faced, crude-looking man, his music dry and stilted.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) — Piano Quartet No. 3 in c (Ames Piano Quartet) Dorian 90217

On This Day


  • 1786 - frequently cited birthdate of German composer Carl Maria Von Weber, in Eutin, Oldenburg (the exact date is not certain);

  • 1836 - British playwright Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, in London; Gilbert provided most of the witty librettos for the famous operettas of Sir Arthur Sullivan;

  • 1895 - Russian composer and pianist Sergei Liapunov (Lyapunov), in Yaroslavl (Gregorian date: Nov. 30);

  • 1860 - Polish composer, piano virtuoso, and statesman, Ignace Jan Paderewski, in Kurylowka, Podolia/Russian Poland(see Julian date: Nov. 6);

  • 1909 - American song writer and lyricist Johnny Mercer, in Savannah, Ga.;


  • 1953 - American composer and American folksong compiler, Ruth Crawford (Seeger), age 52, in Chevy Chase, Md.; She was the step-mother of the famous folk singer Peter Seeger;

  • 1999 - American composer and author Paul Bowles, age 88, in Tangier, Morocco;


  • 1875 - Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 3 in c, Op. 60, in Vienna, by the Hellmesberger Quartet, with the composer at the piano;

  • 1877 - Tchaikovsky: “Variations on a Rococo Theme,” in Moscow (Gregorian date: Nov. 30);

  • 1883 - Dvorak: "Husitska" Overture at the opening of the Czech National Theater in Prague;

  • 1891 - Tchaikovsky: symphonic balled "The Voyevode" in Moscow (Julian date: Nov. 6);

  • 1953 - Peter Mennin: Symphony No. 6, by the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky;

  • 1968 - Paul Creston: Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, in Montevallo, Alabama;


  • 1741 - Handel arrives in Dublin for an extended stay, involving a number of concerts in the Irish capital, including the premiere of his latest oratorio "Messiah" the following Spring (Gregorian date: Nov. 29);

  • 1928 - Mickey Mouse debuts in "Steamboat Willie," in New York; This was the first animated cartoon with synchronized pre-recorded sound effects and music -- the latter provided by organist and composer Carl Stalling of Kansas City; Stalling would later provide memorial music for many classic Warner Brothers cartoons;