On today's date in 1992, during the bloody civil wars that shattered the former Yugoslavia, a hand grenade was thrown into the midst of a bread line in Sarajevo. Twenty-two people died. To most around the world it appeared to be just one more senseless act of violence amidst the thousands of such acts took place in that unhappy part of the world.
One Sarajevo resident thought otherwise. At four o'clock every day after the incident, despite the danger, Vedran Smailovic, a cellist with the Sarajevo Opera, went to the site of the bombing in full evening dress and played his cello in memory of the dead. A New York Times reporter wrote of the cellist's moving act of courage and faith in art and humanity – and the world took notice.
The English-born composer David Wilde read about the cellist while riding a train in Germany. “As I sat in the train, deeply moved,” Wilde later recalled, “I listened; and somewhere deep within me a cello began to play a circular melody like a lament without end.” That theme developed into a piece titled The Cellist of Sarajevo, dedicated to Vedran Smailovic, and which cellist Yo-Yo Ma was soon performing around the world.
Music Played in Today's Program
David Wilde (b. 1935) The Cellist of Sarajevo Yo Yo Ma, cello Sony 64114
On This Day
1799 - French opera composer Jacques-François-Fromental-Elie Halévy, in Paris;
1822 - German composer Joseph Joachim Raff, in Lachen, near Zürich;
1888 - French composer and member of "Les Six," Louis Durey, in Paris;
1922 - German-born American composer Margaret Buechner, in Hannover;
1928 - Scottish composer Thea Musgrave, in Edinburgh;
1840 - Italian composer and violinist Nicollo Paganini, age 57, in Nice;
1899 - Ravel: "Sh é h érazade (Fairy Overture)," at a Societe Nationale Concert at the Salle du Nouveau-Thèâtre in Paris;
1906 - Mahler: Symphony No. 6, in Essen, with the composer conducting;
1947 - Martinu: Symphony No. 5, in Prague;
1976 - Dello Joio: "Colonial Variants" for orchestra, in Philadelphia;
1981 - Bernstein: "Halil" for Flute and Orchestra, in Tel Aviv, with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by the composer, with Jean-Pierre Rampal the soloist;
1995 - Libby Larsen: "Ring of Fire" for orchestra, by the Charlotte Symphony (N.C.), Peter McCoppin conducting;
2001 - Saariaho: "Song for Betty," dedicated to the 80-year old music patron, Betty Freeman, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting; See May 25 & 26 as well.
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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.