Composers Datebook®

Carpenter perambulates

Composer's Datebook - Mar. 19, 2023


It's time once again for our "Composer Quiz": Name a famous American composer who was also a successful businessman. If you answered insurance executive "Charles Ives," Jay will show you what's under the box. But if your answer was "John Alden Carpenter," vice president of George B. Carpenter and Co., supplies and equipment dealer, we'll just pull back the curtain and show you all your prizes!

John Alden Carpenter was born in 1876 near Chicago, and, after studies out East, entered his father's business back home, eventually becoming its Vice President. Fortunately for the budding composer, the firm was largely run by his brothers, and Carpenter had enough free time to devote to his music. On today's date in 1915, the Chicago Symphony premiered Carpenter's first big orchestral work, a suite entitled Adventures in a Perambulator. (You get extra points if you knew a perambulator is a baby buggy.)


Carpenter's pram piece was a big success, and he wrote a string of other popular works, including a ballet based on the "Krazy Kat" comic strip of his day, and one entitled Skyscrapers, a jazzy and topical tribute to the transformation of urban America in the 1920s.

Unlike the unconventional Charles Ives, who toiled away in obscurity, the more conventional Carpenter was very famous in his day. Ironically, while Ives' fame only increased after his death in 1954, when Carpenter died in 1951, his music rapidly fell from fashion.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Alden Carpenter (1876 -1951) Adventrues in a Perambulator National Symphony of Ukraine; John McLaughlin Williams, conductor. Naxos 8.559065

On This Day


  • 1872 - Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (Gregorian date: Mar. 31);

  • 1873 - German composer Max Reger, in Brand (near Bayreuth);

  • 1907 - English composer (of Irish descent) Elizabeth Maconchy, in Broxbourne;

  • 1929 - American composer Robert Muczynski, in Chicago;


  • 1859 - Gounod: opera "Faust," in Paris at the Théâtre-Lyrique;

  • 1864 - Gounod: opera "Mireille," in Paris at the Théâtre-Lyrique;

  • 1870 - Gomes: opera "Il Guarany" (The Guarani), in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala;

  • 1892 - Tchaikovsky: "The Nutcracker" Suite, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Mar. 7); The first staged performance of the complete "Nutcracker" Ballet occurred later that same year in St. Petersburg on Dec. 6 (Julian)/Dec. 18 (Gregorian);

  • 1896 - Dvorák: Cello Concerto in b, Op. 104, at London's Queens Hall by the London Philharmonic conducted by the composer, with Leo Stern as soloist;

  • 1910 - Bartók: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 7, in Budapest, by the Waldbauer Quartet;

  • 1915 - John Alden Carpenter: "Adventures in a Perambulator," by the Chicago Symphony, Frederick Stock conducting;

  • 1919 - Gabriel Fauré's "Fantasie" for piano and Orchestra, at a Société Nationale de Musique concert at the Salle Gaveau in Paris, with Alfred Cortot as the soloist,

  • 1944 - Tippett: oratorio, "A Child of Our Time," in London;

  • 1972 - George Perle: "Sonata quasi una fantasia" for clarinet and piano, in Buffalo, N.Y.;

  • 1991 - John Adams: opera "The Death of Klinghoffer," in Brussels at the Théatre Royal de la Monnaie;

  • 1998 - Robert X. Rodriguez: "Sinfonia a la Mariachi," by the San Antonio Symphony, Christopher Wilkins conducting;


  • 1931 - American premiere of Alban Berg's opera "Wozzeck" in Philadelphia, with Leopold Stokowski conducting.

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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®