Composers Datebook®

Handel passes the hat

Composer's Datebook - Mar. 20, 2023


Not all composers were nice people, and even some of the more famous ones turn out to have been rather nasty, greedy, vindictive and altogether unpleasant specimens of humanity, despite the enduring beauty of their music.

But we like to showcase the better side of the species. On today's date in 1739, for example, George Frederick Handel premiered this music, his Organ Concerto in A Major, as a special, added attraction at a benefit concert in London. It was organized "for the benefit and increase of a fund established for the support of decay'd musicians and their families."

The previous year Handel had been shocked to learn that the widow and children of one of his favorite performers, the oboist John Christian Kitch, were found wandering impoverished on the streets of London. Handel called a meeting of some of his colleagues at the Crown and Anchor Tavern and started a charitable fund, even enlisting the support of rival composers and musicians who heretofore had not been on very good terms with Herr Handel.

Within a year, a series of benefit concerts were organized to raise money for a continuing fund to assist musicians fallen on hard times, and even Handel's enemies had to admit the gruff and frequently abrasive German must have had a good heart after all.

Music Played in Today's Program

George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1757) Organ Concerto in A Peter Hurford, organ; Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra; Joshua Rifkin, conductor. London 430 569

On This Day


  • 1873 - Russian-born American composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff (Gregorian date: April 1);

  • 1918 - German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann, in Bleisheim;


  • 1812 - Bohemian composer and keyboard virtuoso Jan Ladislav (Johann Ladislaus/Ludwig) Dussek (Dusik), age 51, in Saint Germain-en-Laye or Paris;

  • 2000 - American composer Vivian Fine, age 86, in Bennington, Vt., following an auto accident;


  • 1723 - Handel: Concerto in F (HWV 331), in London at the Drury Lane Theater (Gregorian date: March 31);

  • 1739 - Handel: Organ Concerto in A (HWV 296a) as a novelty at a benefit performance of Handel's cantata "Alexander's Feast"; This concert was organized "for the benefit and increase of a fund established for the support of decay'd musicians and their families" (Gregorian date: March 31);

  • 1748 - Handel: oratorio "Joshua," (see March 9);

  • 1887 - d'Indy: "Symphony on a French Mountain Air" for piano and orchestra, in Paris at a Lamoureux Concert;

  • 1894 - Rachmaninoff: symphonic fantasy "The Rock" (Gregorian date: April 1);

  • 1898 - Dvorák: symphonic poem, "The Wild Dove," Op. 110, in Brno;

  • 1914 - Butterworth: "The Banks of Green Willow" in London;

  • 1929 - Bartók: String Quartet No.4, in Budapest, by the Waldbauer Quartet;

  • 1956 - Barber: "Summer Music," Op. 31, at the Detroit Institute of Arts by the Detroit Chamber Music Society (principal wind players of the Detroit Symphony);


  • 1928 - The New York Symphony and the New York Philharmonic Society unite to form the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York - now known as simply "The New York Philharmonic."

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


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®