Composers Datebook®

Mendelssohn sees double

Composer's Datebook - July 13, 2023


On today’s date in 1829, German composer Felix Mendelssohn was in London, participating in a gala concert to raise funds for the victims of a flood in Silesia. “Everyone who has attracted the slightest attention during the season will take part,” wrote Mendelssohn. “Many offers of good performers have had to be declined, as otherwise the concert will last till the next day!”

Mendelssohn performed his Double Concerto in E Major for two pianos and orchestra, joined by his friend and fellow-composer/pianist Ignaz Moscheles. Mendessohn and Moscheles jointly prepared a special cadenza, and jokingly bet each other how long the audience would applaud it—Mendessohn predicting 10 minutes, and Mosceheles, more modestly, suggesting 5.

In the Baroque age, Double Concertos were very popular, but by Mendelssohn’s day they had become less common. In our time, Concertos for Two Pianos are even rarer. One of the most successful American Double Concertos was written between 1952 and 1953 by the American composer Quincy Porter. Also known as the “Concerto Concertante,” commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra. It proved to be one of the most popular of Porter’s works, and even won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1954.

Music Played in Today's Program

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847) Double Concerto Güher and Süher Pekinel, pianos; Philharmonia Orchestra; Sir Neville Marriner, conductor. Chandos 9711

Quincy Porter (1897 - 1966) Concerto for Two Pianos Joshua Pierce and Dorothy Jonas, duo pianists; Moravian Philharmonic; David Amos, conductor. Helcion 1044

On This Day


  • 1932 - Danish composer Per Norgaard, in Gentofte (near Copenhagen);


  • 1951 - Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, in Los Angeles, on a Friday the 13th; He was superstitiously obsessed with the number 13 and, ironically, was 76 years old at the time of his death (7+6 = 13)


  • 1829 - Mendelssohn: Double Concerto (in e) for two pianos and orchestra, in London at a benefit concert, with the composer and Ignaz Moscheles as the soloists

  • 1995 - Corigliano: "Soliloquy" for clarinet and string quartet, in Portland, Oregon, by Chamber Music Northwest


  • 1937 - The first Pan-American Chamber Music Festival is held in Mexico City

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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.

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