Composers Datebook®

A fateful anniversary for Lully

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) — Galliarde, from Trios pour le coucher du Roi (Chicago Baroque Ensemble) Cedille 043

Composer's Datebook - January 8, 2022


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January 08, 2022


When you were a kid, did your mother warn you about playing with sharp sticks?

Well, conductors play with sharp sticks, and it CAN prove dangerous. In 1976, while conducting Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, conductor Sir Georg Solti managed to stab himself in the forehead with his own baton during the third act, causing quite a bloody mess. It’s said that Solti had already broken two batons during Acts I and II but managed not to hurt anyone.

Before batons came into common use in the early 19th century, musicians just used their hands or a rolled-up piece of music paper to keep time.

Unfortunately for him, the famous Italian-born French Baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully chose to employ a long, heavy staff when he was conducting.  He was thumping out the beat during a performance of his own “Te Deum” on today’s date in 1687, and, like Solti, must have gotten carried away and accidentally smashed the staff into his toe. He continued conducting, but an abscess soon developed in the self-inflicted wound, followed by gangrene which spread through his lower leg and Lully died a few weeks later.

Music Played in Today's Program

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) — Galliarde, from Trios pour le coucher du Roi (Chicago Baroque Ensemble) Cedille 043

On This Day


  • 1792 - American composer and educator Lowell Mason, in Medford, Massachusetts;

  • 1812 - Swiss composer and pianist Sigismond Thalberg, in Pâquis, near Geneva;

  • 1896 - Czech composer Jaromir Weinberger, in Prague;

  • 1899 - Russian-born American composer Alexander Tcherepnin (Gregorian date: Jan. 21);

  • 1905 - Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, in La Spezia;

  • 1924 - Russian-American composer Benjamin Lees (née Lysniansky), in Harbin, Manchuria;

  • 1924 - Austrian-born American composer Robert Starer, in Vienna;

  • 1935 - The charismatic rock 'n' roll performer Elvis Presley is born in Tupelo, Miss.;

  • 1937 - American composer Robert Moran, in Denver;


  • 1713 - Italian composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli, age 59, in Rome;

  • 1831 - Moravian-born composer and violinist Franz Krommer, age 71, in Vienna;

  • 1998 - British composer Sir Michael Tippett, age 93, in London;


  • 1705 - Handel: opera "Almira" in Hamburg; This was Handel's first opera (see also Dec. 5 & 30 for related contemporary incidents);

  • 1720 - Handel: opera "Radamisto" (2nd version), in London (Julian date: Dec. 28, 1720);

  • 1735 - Handel: opera "Ariodante" in London at the Covent Garden Theater (Gregorian date: Jan. 19);

  • 1843 - Schumann: Piano Quintet in Eb, Op. 44, at Leipzig Gewandhaus with pianist Clara Schumann;

  • 1895 - Brahms: Clarinet Sonata, Op. 120, no. 1 (first public performance), in Vienna, by clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, with the composer at the piano, as part of the Rosé Quartet's chamber music series; The first performance ever of this work occurred on September 19, 1894, at a private performance in the home of the sister of the Duke of Meiningen at Berchtesgaden, with the same performers; Brahms and Mühlfeld also gave private performances of both sonatas in Frankfurt (for Clara Schumann and others) on November 10-13, 1894; at Castle Altenstein (for the Duke of Meiningen) on Nov. 14, 1894; and on Jan. 7, 1895 (for members of the Vienna Tonkünstler Society);

  • 1911 - Florent Schmitt: "La tragédie de Salomé" for orchestra, in Paris;

  • 1927 - Berg: "Lyric Suite" for string quartet, in Vienna, by the Kolisch Quartet;

  • 1928 - Hindemith: "Kammermusik" No. 7, Op. 46, no. 2, in Frankfurt, with Ludwig Rottenberg conducting and Reinhold Merten the organist;

  • 1940 - Roger Sessions: Violin Concerto, by the Illinois Symphony conducted by Izler Solomon, with Robert Gross as soloist; The work was to have been premiered by Albert Spalding with the Boston Symphony under Koussevitzky in January of 1937, but did not take place);

  • 1963 - Shostakovich: opera "Katerina Izmailova" (2nd version of "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District"), in Moscow at the Stanislavsky-Nemirovich-Dachenko Music Theater;

  • 1971 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15, in Moscow, by the All-Union Radio and Television Symphony, with the composer's son, Maxim, conducting;

  • 1987 - Christopher Rouse: "Phaethon" for orchestra, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti conducting;

  • 1988 - Schwantner: "From Afar . . . " (A Fantasy for Guitar and Orchestra), by guitarist Sharon Isbin with the St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin conducting;


  • 1923 - First broadcast in England of an opera direct from a concert hall, Mozart's "The Magic Flute" via the BBC from London;