Composers Datebook®

Larsen's "Lyric" Third

Libby Larsen (b. 1950) Symphony No. 3 (Lyric) London Symphony; Joel Revzen, cond. Koch 7370

Composer's Datebook - May 6, 2022


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May 06, 2022


On today’s date in 1992, Joel Revzen conducted the Albany Symphony in the premiere of the Third Symphony of American composer Libby Larsen.

Larsen subtitled her new work a “Lyric Symphony.” Now, the early 20th century Viennese composer Alexander Zemlinsky had written a “Lyric Symphony,” one that involved vocal soloists. As a composer, Libby Larsen is noted for her songs and choral works, but for her own “Lyric Symphony” she opted for a purely instrumental work that would be somehow quintessentially “American.” In program notes for her new symphony, Larsen wrote:

“As I struggle with the definition of ‘American’ music, it occurs to me that in all of our contemporary American genres, the dominating parameter of the music is rhythm. Rhythm is more important than pitch. This is a fundamental change in the composition of music in the 20th century. Here we speak American English, an inflected, complex, rhythmic language.

“What is lyric in our times?” continued Larsen. “Where is the great American melody? Found, I would say, in the music of Chuck Berry, Robert Lockwood, Buddy Guy, George Gershwin, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, James Brown, Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, and those composers who create melodies that are defined more by the rhythm than their pitch. My Symphony No. 3—the Lyric, is an exploration of American melody.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Libby Larsen (b. 1950) — Symphony No. 3 (Lyric) (London Symphony; Joel Revzen, cond.) Koch 7370

On This Day


  • 1915 - American composer George Perle, in Bayonne, N.J.;

  • 1918 - Canadian composer Godfrey Ridout, in Toronto;


  • 1667 - (on May 6 or 7) German composer and keyboard player Johann Jakob Froberger, age 50, in Hericourt, nearr Montbeliard , France;


  • 1897 - Leoncavallo: opera "La Boheme" in Venice;

  • 1981 - Rautavaara: Double-bass Concerto ("Angel of Dusk"),in Helsinki, with bassist Olli Kosonen and the Finnish Radio Symphony, Leif Segerstam conducting;

  • 1985 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: "Concerto for Trumpet and Five Players," by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble;

  • 1992 - Libby Larsen: Symphony No. 3 ("Lyric"), by the Albany Symphony (NY), Joel Revzen conducting;

  • 1999 - Magnus Lindberg: Cello Concerto, by the Orchestre de Paris, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and Anssi Karttunen the soloist;

  • 1999 - Christopher Rouse: "Seeing" (Piano Concerto), at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Slatkin, with Emanuel Ax the soloist;


  • 1872 - Theodore Thomas conducts the first concert of the Cincinnati Music Festival ("May Festival"); His program includes Beethoven's Fifth, Handel's "Dettingen Te Deum," a Mozart aria, and a chorus from Haydn's "Creation."