Composers Datebook®

Weill's "September Song"

Composer's Datebook - September 26, 2022


The haunting melody “September Song” by Kurt Weill was first heard by the public on today’s date in the year 1938, during a trial run in Hartford, Connecticut, of a new musical titled “Knickerbocker Holiday.”

Kurt Weill was 38 at the time and had been in America just three years. In Europe, he had been a successful composer of both concert and stage works, most notably the enormously popular “Three-Penny Opera” from 1928, a collaboration with the Marxist poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht. He had left his native Germany after being warned that he was under danger of imminent arrest by the Gestapo.

In America, Weill set out to establish himself on Broadway, but to remain faithful to the philosophical thrust of his European work. The text for his “Knickerbocker Holiday,” for example, was by Maxwell Anderson, inspired by Washington Irving’s fanciful “Father Knickerbocker’s History of New York.” But in the Anderson-Weill treatment, the historical Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant comes off as a proto-Fascist dictator, a comic but pointed reference in the year 1938, when both Hitler and Mussolini were at the height of their power.

Until his untimely death in 1950, for his Broadway musicals Weill continued to set serious subjects – ranging from psychoanalysis to South African apartheid – in a distinctive yet accessible style.

Music Played in Today's Program

Kurt Weill (1900-1950): September Song (arr. Morton Gould) –Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; John Mauceri, cond. (Philips 446 404)

On This Day


  • 1898 - American pianist and composer George Gershwin in Brooklyn;


  • 1800 - Early American composer William Billings, age 53, in Boston; He died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave in Boston Common;

  • 1945 - Hungarian pianist and composer Béla Bartók, age 64, in New York City;


  • 1835 - Donizetti: opera "Lucia di Lammermoor," at the Teatro San Carlos in Naples;

  • 1898 - Victor Herbert: operetta, "The Fortune Teller," in Toronto;

  • 1907 - Sibelius: Symphony No. 3, by the Helsinki Philharmonic, with the composer conducting;

  • 1915 - Schillings: opera "Mona Lisa," in Stuttgart at the Hoftheater;

  • 1938 - Kurt Weill: musical, "Knickerbocker Holiday," during trial run in Hartford, Conn.; The musical opened in New York on October 19, 1938;

  • 1957 - Bernstein: musical "West Side Story," at the Winter Garden in New York City; A trial run of the musical had premiered during a trial run in Washington, D.C. at the National Theater on August 19, 1957;

  • 1967 - Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 2 by the Moscow Philharmonic, Kirill Kondrashin conducting, with soloist David Oistrakh;

  • 1991 - Wuorinen: cantata "Genesis," in San Francisco, Herbert Blomstedt conducting;

  • 1997 - Kirchner: "Of Things Exactly As They Are," with vocalists Roberta Alexander and William Stone, with the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood Chorus conducted by Seiji Ozawa;

  • 1998 - Philip Glass: opera "The White Raven," by the San Carlos National Theater at the World Expo in Lisbon, Portugal, with Dennis Russell Davies conducting;


  • 1962 - Igor Stravinsky concert by the Moscow State Symphony during the composer's first visit to Russia in 48 years; Stravinsky conducts his "Ode" and "Orpheus" Ballet, Stravinsky's assistant Robert Craft conducts "The Rite of Spring," with the composer returning to conduct his 1917 arrangement of the "Volga Boatmen's Song" as an encore.

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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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