Composers Datebook®

A belated Webern premiere

Composer's Datebook - May 25, 2023


This lush, late-Romantic score, composed in 1904, had to wait until 1962 for its premiere performance, when, on today's date that year, the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Eugene Ormandy performed it in Seattle during an international festival devoted to its composer, Anton Webern.

For most music lovers, the Austrian composer is a shadowy, vaguely mysterious figure. If they know anything at all about him, it is that he was a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, that he wrote a small body of very short and very condensed atonal scores, and that in 1945 he was shot by accident by an American soldier in the tense days following the end of World War II.

The early orchestral score that received its belated premiere on today's date in 1962 was titled In the Summer Wind, completed when Webern was just 19 years old. It's very much in the style of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and early Schoenberg.

To earn a living, Webern worked as a conductor of everything from Viennese operettas to worker's choral unions. His conducting career came to a halt when the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, and until his untimely death in 1945, Webern lived by doing routine work for a Viennese music publisher.

Music Played in Today's Program

Anton von Webern (1883 - 1945) Im Sommerwind Cleveland Orchestra; Christoph von Dohnanyi, conductor. London 436 240

On This Day


  • 1926 - American composer and jazz trumpet Miles Davis, in Alton, Ill.;


  • 1934 - English composer Gustav Holst, age 59, in London;


  • 1715 - Handel: opera "Amadigi di Gauli" at the King's Theater in London (Gregorian date: June 5);

  • 1723 - Handel: opera "Flavio, re de' Langobardi" (Julian date: May 14);

  • 1870 - Delibes: ballet "Coppelia" at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1878 - Gilbert and Sullivan: "H.M.S. Pinafore," at the Opera Comique Theatre in London; This production ran for 700 consecutive performances;

  • 1953 - Marc Blitzstein: musical "The Harpies," at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City;

  • 1961 - Castelnuovo-Tedesco: opera "Il Mercante di Venzia" (The Merchant of Venice), at the Maggio Musicale Festival in Florence, Italy;

  • 1962 - Webern: "Im Sommerwind" (composed in 1904), at the First International Anton von Webern Festival at the University of Washington in Seattle;

  • 1984 - Stockhausen: opera "Samstag von Licht" (Saturday from Light), in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala;

  • 2001 - Philip Glass: "Voices" for pipe organ, two didgeridoos, clap sticks and narrator performed by didgeridoo virtuoso Mark Atkins, Calvin Bowman (organ), Ron Murray (second didgeridoo and clapsticks) and Wurundjeri elder Joy Murphy Wandin (narrator) at City of Melbourne Town Hall to celebrate the refurbishment of the Melbourne (Australia) Town Hall Grand Organ;

  • 2001 - Salonen: "Fanfare for Betty," dedicated to the 80-year old music patron, Betty Freeman, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with the composer conducting; See May 26-27 as well;

  • 2001 - David Ward-Steinman: "Millennium Dances," for percussion and orchestra, by soloist John Flood and the San Diego Symphony, Jung-Ho Pak conducting;


  • 1869 - The newly completed Vienna Opera on the Ringstrasse opens with a production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (sung in German);

  • 1944 - Arturo Toscanini conducts the combined NBC Symphony and New York Philharmonic in a benefit concert of music by Wagner, Verdi, and Sousa at the old Madison Square Garden; The concert raised $100,000 for the Red Cross; During an intermission auction, New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia auctioned off Toscanini's baton for $10,000.

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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®