Composers Datebook®

Ursula Mamlok

Composer's Datebook - May 19, 2023


On today’s date in 2013, a new work by a 90-year old German-born American composer and teacher named Ursula Mamlok received its premiere performance in Switzerland. Five Fantasy Pieces for oboe and strings was given its premiere by the great Swiss oboist Heinz Holliger and colleagues.

Ursula Mamlok was born in Berlin in 1923 and began composing as a child. Her family was Jewish, and once the Nazis placed school music programs off limits to Jews, her family began holding musicales in their home, with Ursula writing the music.

After the Crystal Night pogrom in 1938, her family left Germany, and, via Ecuador, young Ursula came to America after being offered a full scholarship to study at the Mannes School of Music in New York. She became an American citizen and began teaching most notably the Manhattan School of Music.

The bulk of Mamlok’s music is for small chamber ensembles, and only once she tried to create a purely electronic piece. In a 1996 interview, she confessed, “Unfortunately I have no connection to it... I put it together in the studio at Columbia in New York, but it took too long. I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ I’d rather use the pencil.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Ursula Mamlok (1923 – 2016) Five Fantasy Pieces (2012/13) Heinz Holliger, ob; Hanna Weinmeister, vn; Jurg Dahler, vla; Daniel Heaflinger, vcl. Bridge 9457

On This Day


  • 1616 - Baptismal date of German composer and organist Johann Jacob Froberger, in Stuttgart;


  • 1935 - American composer Charles Martin Loeffler, age 74, in Medfield, Mass.;

  • 1954 - American composer and insurance executive Charles Ives, age 79, in New York;

  • 2009 - British composer Nicholas Maw, age 73, in Washington, D.C.;


  • 1842 - Donizetti: opera "Linda di Chamounix," in Vienna;

  • 1886 - Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 ("Organ"), in London;

  • 1911 - Ravel: "L'Heure espagnole" (Spanish Hour), in Paris at the Opèra Comique;

  • 1915 - Stravinsky: Three Pieces for string quartet, in Paris;

  • 1932 - Shostakovich: incidental music for Shakespeare's "Hamlet," in Moscow at the Vakhtangov Theater;

  • 1939 - Cowell: "Return" for 3 percussionists and wailer, at the Cornish School in Seattle, by John Cage and his Percussion Group;

  • 1942 - Cage: music for the radio play "The City Wears a Slouch Hat" (text by poet Kenneth Patchen), broadcast in Chicago;

  • 2000 - Robert X. Rodriguez: "The Last Night of Don Juan" for chorus and orchestra, by the San Antonio Symphony and chorus, Wilkins conducting;

  • 2002 - William Bolcom: "Seventh Symphony (A Symphonic Concerto)," at Carnegie Hall in New York, by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine conducting.


  • 1886 - American premiere of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor (11 selections), during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas; The next documented performance (12 sections) was given in Boston on February 27, 1887, by the Handel and Haydn Society, with Carl Zerrahn conducting a chorus of 432 and an orchestra of 50; In both the 1886 Cincinnati and 1887 Boston performances, the famous 19-century German soprano Lilli Lehmann appeared as one of the soprano soloists; The first complete performance of the work was apparently given either at the Moravian Church in Bethlehem on Mar 17, 1900, by the Bach Choir under J. Fred Wolf, or at Carnegie Hall in new York on April 5, 1900, by the Oratorio Society, Frank Damrosch 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®