Composers Datebook®

A concerto by Sally Beamish

Composer's Datebook - September 16, 2022


The British composer Sally Beamish was born in London and studied music there and in Germany, but more recently has come to be associated with both Scotland and Sweden due to successful composer residencies in those two countries.

Her saxophone concerto, “The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone,” is a perfect example of this association. “The piece begins with a reference to a Swedish herding call,” she explains, “a special high-pitched song which carries over long distances… after this the music becomes more fragmentary, half-heard glimpses, as if the shaft of light has somehow released sounds stored in stone for millennia, layers of music long forgotten… drawing on psalms and chants from different tradition celebrating the enlightenment of [Pentecost].”

The work was a joint commission of the St. Magnus Festival which takes place at midsummer on the islands of Orkney off the north coast of mainland Scotland, a landscape of wind-swept cliffs, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. The premiere performance took place at the St. Magnus Festival in June of 1999, and on today’s date that same year, the concerto’s Swedish herding call was heard in that country at its Örebro premiere.

Music Played in Today's Program

Sally Beamish (b. 1956) –The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone (John Harle, sax; Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Ola Rudner, cond.) BIS 1161

On This Day


  • 1887 - French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, in Paris; Her pupils included a number of famous American composers from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass;

  • 1844 - French flutist and composer Paul Taffanel, in Bordeaux;


  • 1925 - Broadway premiere of Vincent Youmans' musical, "No, No Nanette," which had opened in Detroit on April 21, 1924, and had successful productions in Chicago and London before reaching New York City;

  • 1965 - Duke Ellington: First Sacred Concert, at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco;

  • 1966 - Barber: opera, "Anthony and Cleopatra" at the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center;

  • 1995 - Harrison Birtwistle: "Panic" for alto sax, drummer, and orchestra, at the "Last Night" of the Centenary Proms at Royal Albert Hall in London, with the BBC Symphony conducted by Andrew Davis, with John Harle (sax) and Oauk Clarvis (dummer);

  • 1999 - Libby Larsen: "Solo Symphony," by the Colorado Symphony, Marin Alsop conducting;


  • 1920 - Italian tenor Enrico Caruso makes his last records (selections by Meyerbeer, Lully, Bartlett, and Rossini) for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey; He would make his last operatic appearance at the old Metropolitan Opera House on Christmas Eve in 1920 (an evening performance of Halevy's "La Juive"), and die the following summer in Naples;

  • 1977 - Opera diva Maria Callas dies of a heart attack, age 53, in Paris.

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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.

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