Composers Datebook®

New York "novelties" by Liszt et. al.

Schubert arr. Franz Liszt — Wanderer Fantasy (Leslie Howard, piano; Budapest Symphony; Karl Anton Rickenbacher, cond.) Hyperion 67403

Composer's Datebook - May 13, 2022


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May 13, 2022


On today’s date in 1862, the front page of The New York Times offered some encouraging news to the Northern side in the American Civil War: Union troops had captured Norfolk, Virginia, and there were other advances being made by General McClellan’s troops.

Under “Amusements” on the inner pages of that same edition could be found an announcement of a “Grand Vocal and Orchestral Concert” at Irving Hall to be conducted by a 27-year-old musician named Theodore Thomas.

Thomas had been a major figure on the New York music scene since 1855, performing as the principal violinist in that city’s first ensemble giving a regular series of chamber concerts. That chamber group presented hot-off-the-press works by Brahms and other ultra-modern composers of the day. This big orchestral concert, which marked Thomas’s debut as a conductor, was no different.

The Times noted, “We have never before had so much musical novelty presented to us. Such plentiful instrumental music equally new to our musical world, under the capable conductorship of the young musician, must insure a crowded audience of the more critical as well as the more fashionable portion of our public.”

Tickets were $1 each—quite a lot of money in 1862—and the program offered the American premieres of orchestral pieces by Wagner, Meyerbeer, and Liszt’s flashy orchestration of Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasy.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Schubert arr. Franz Liszt — Wanderer Fantasy (Leslie Howard, piano; Budapest Symphony; Karl Anton Rickenbacher, cond.) Hyperion 67403

On This Day


  • 1842 - English composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, in Lambeth (London);

  • 1913 - American organist and record retailer, William Schwann, in Salem Ill.; In 1949 he began publication of the Schwann Record Catalog, a guide to phonograph records in print;


  • 1833 - Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 ("Italian"), in London, by the Philharmonic Society, with the composer conducting;

  • 1877 - Franck: "Les Eolides," in Paris at a Lamoureux Concert;

  • 1949 - Panufnik: "Sinfonia Rustica," in Warsaw;

  • 1987 - Harbison: Symphony No. 2, by the San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt conducting;

  • 1993 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Bassoon Concerto, by the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Lorin Maazel, with Nancy Goeres the soloist;

  • 1995 - first professional production of Any Beach: opera "Cabildo," at Alice Tully Hall in New York City as a "Great Performances" telecast conducted by Ransom Wilson; The world premiere performance was given on Feb. 27, 1945 (two months after Beach's death), by the Opera Workshop at the University of Georgia in Athens, directed by Hugh Hodgson;

  • 2001 - Harbison: "North and South (Elizabeth Bishop Cycle)," by the Chicago Chamber Musicians;


  • 1862 - First concert by the Theodore Thomas Orchestra in New York City; His program includes the American premieres of Wagner's "Flying Dutchman" Overture and Liszt's arrangement for piano and orchestra of Schubert's "Wanderer Fantasy."

  • 1875 - American premiere of J.S. Bach's "Magnificat," during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas; The Cincinnati Commercial review of May 14 was not favorable: "The work is difficult in the extreme and most of the chorus abounds with rambling sub-divisions. We considering the ‘Magnifcat' the weakest thing the chorus has undertaken . . . possessing no dramatic character and incapable of conveying the magnitude of the labor that has been expended upon its inconsequential intricacies. If mediocrity is a mistake, the ‘Magnifcat' is the one error of the Festival"; Thomas also conducted the next documented performance in Boston on Mar. 1, 1876 (for which composer John Knowles Paine performed as organ accompanist to a chorus of 300).