Composers Datebook®

Ellington honored -- finally!

Composer's Datebook - July 30, 2022


On today’s date in 1965, the New York Philharmonic gave the premiere performance of an orchestral work by Duke Ellington, titled “The Golden Broom and the Golden Apples,” with the composer conducting. On the same program, Lukas Foss conducted the very belated, posthumous premiere of “From the Steeples and the Mountains,” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Charles Ives.

In 1965, Duke Ellington, too, had been nominated for the Pulitzer, but didn’t get it. The Pulitzer jury did, however, recommend that Ellington receive a Special Citation in honor of “the vitality and originality of his total productivity.” That recommendation was rejected, and when word leaked out, a scandal ensued. The 66-year old Ellington remained unflappable, and said, with just a tiny hint of irony, “Fate doesn’t want me to be too famous too young.”

“I work and I write,” said Ellington. “My reward is hearing what I’ve done. I’m hardly surprised that my kind of music is still without official honor at home. Most Americans will take it for granted that European music – classical music, if you will – is the only really respectable kind. Jazz is like the kind of man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with.”

In 1999, the Pulitzer Committee made amends, and Ellington was awarded a Special Citation – belatedly and posthumously – to commemorate the centennial year of his birth.

Music Played in Today's Program

Edward Kennedy ("Duke") Ellington (1899-1974) – The Golden Broom and the Green Apple (Duke Ellington, piano; Cincinnati Symphony; Erich Kunzel, cond.) MCA 42318

On This Day


  • 1968 - Icelandic composer Jon Leifs, age 68, in Reykjavik


  • 1965 - Duke Ellington: "The Golden Broom and the Golden Apples," by the New York Philharmonic, with the composer conducting, on the same concert as the belated premiere of Ives: "From the Steeples and the Mountains," with Lukas Foss conducting

  • 1983 - Michael Torke: "Ceremony of Innocence," for chamber quintet, at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass., by fellows of the Tanglewood Center, Gunther Schuller conducting


  • 1829 - On a visit to Edinburgh, Mendelssohn visits Holyrood Palace and writes down the first measures of his "Scottish" Symphony

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®