Composers Datebook®

Gluck sings the blues

Composer's Datebook - Nov. 16, 2022


On today’s date in 1777, the German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck was baffled by Parisian audiences and wrote these lines to a friend:

“I am so much disgusted with music that at present that I would not write one single note for any amount of money… Never has a more keenly-fought battle been waged than by the enemies of my new opera, Armide. The intrigues against my previous operas were no more than little skirmishes in comparison. Admirers tell me, ‘Sir, you are fortunate to be enjoying the honor of persecution’ and ‘every genius has had the same experience’— Bah! To the devil with their fine speeches!

“Still, yesterday, at the eighth performance of Armide, the hall was so tightly packed that when a man was asked to take off his hat, he replied, ‘Come and take it off yourself, I can’t move my arms!’—which caused laughter. I have seen people coming out with their hair bedraggled and their clothes drenched as though they had fallen into a stream. Only the French would pay for such an experience!”

Gluck would ultimately triumph in Paris and could count among his most ardent supporters none other than the French queen, Marie Antoinette—who presumably had a much cooler and certainly less crowded box at the opera.

Music Played in Today's Program

Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787) Act 2 aria, from Armide Rockwell Blake, tenor; Monte Carlo Philharmonic; Patrick Fournillier, cond. EMI 55058

Christoph Willibald von Gluck Don Juan Ballet Music Rhine Chamber Orchestra of Cologne; Jan Corazolla, cond. Christophorus 74507

On This Day


  • 1766 - French composer and violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, in Versailles; Beethoven dedicated his Violin Sonata Op. 47 to Kreutzer, but there is no record he ever performed the work;

  • 1829 - Russian composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein, in Vikhvatinets, Podolia (Gregorian date: Nov. 28);

  • 1870 - Australian composer Alfred Hill, in Melbourne;

  • 1873 - American composer and "father of the blues" William Christopher (W.C.) Handy, in Florence, Ala;

  • 1895 - German composer, violist and conductor Paul Hindemith, in Hanau;


  • 1850 - Verdi: opera "Stifellio," in Trieste at the Teatro Grande;

  • 1861 - Brahms: Piano Quintet No. 1 in g, Op. 25, at a private read-through in Hamburg, with Clara Schumann the pianist; A year later to the day, the work received its official premiere in Vienna, with members of the Hellmesberger Quartet and the composer at the piano;

  • 1904 - Colerdige-Taylor: first American performance in Washington, D.C. of the complete trilogy of oratorios ("The Song of Hiawatha," "The Death of Minnehaha," and "Hiawatha's Departure") based on Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha," with the composer conducting;

  • 1919 - Charles Tomlinson Griffes: "Poem" for flute and orchestra, Walter Damrosch conducting the New York Symphony Society Orchestra;

  • 1934 - William Dawson: "Negro Folk Symphony," by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1940 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 21, at the Moscow Festival of Soviet Music; This work was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony, who gave the American premiere on December 26, 1940;

  • 1948 - Morton Gould: "Philharmonic Waltzes," commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting;

  • 1945 - Milhaud: Suite for Violin and Orchestra, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Eugene Ormandy conducting and Zino Francescatti the soloist;

  • 1981 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical "Merrily We Roll Along";

  • 2001 - Magnus Lindberg: “Parada,” at a three-day recording session (Nov. 16-18) in London with Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducting;


  • 1900 - First concert by The Philadelphia Orchestra, conductor Fritz Scheel, pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch.

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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®