Composers Datebook®

Villa-lobos premieres

Composer's Datebook - July 15, 2023


For decades Nicolas Slonimsky, the Russian-born American composer, conductor, and witty musical lexicographer, compiled a reference work titled “Music Since 1900.” It’s a year-by-year, month-by-month, day-by-day chronicle of musical events he deemed significant, interesting, or simply amusing.

Here, for example, is Slonimsky’s entry for July 15, 1942:

“Heitor Villa-Lobos conducts in Rio de Janeiro the first performances of three of his orchestral Choros: No. 6, No. 9 and No. 11, exhaling the rhythms, the perfumes and the colors of the Brazilian scene, with tropical birds exotically chanting in the woodwinds against the measured beats of jungle drums.”

Slonimsky did have a way with words, and certainly had fun compiling his mammoth (and highly readable) reference work.

For his part, Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos was equally diligent, so much so that he claimed he couldn’t always remember everything that he had written. His Choros No. 11 for piano and orchestra lasts some 65 minutes and is one of his most ambitious works. Originally the word “choro” meant improvised music by Brazilian street musicians, but Villa-Lobos always used the word in its plural form to describe over a dozen of his instrumental works.

Music Played in Today's Program

Heitor Villa Lobos (1887 - 1959) Choros No. 9 Hong Kong Philharmonic; Kenneth Schermerhorn, conductor. Naxos 8.555241

On This Day


  • 1921 - American composer Jack Beeson, in Muncie, Indiana

  • 1934 - English composer Harrison Birtwistle, in Accrington, Lancashire

  • 1949 - English composer John Casken, in Barnsley


  • 1789 - French composer and harpsichordist Jacques Duphly, age 74, in Paris

  • 1857 - Austrian composer and piano teacher Carl Czerny, age 66, in Vienna

  • 1959 - Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch, age 78, in Portland, Oregon


  • 1852 - Spohr: opera "Faust" (2nd version in Italian), in London at Covent Garden

  • 1942 - Villa-Lobos: "Chôros" Nos. 6, 9 and 11, in Rio de Janeiro, conducted by the composer

  • 1945 - Antheil: "Heroes of Today," by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting

  • 1965 - Bernstein: "Chichester Psalms" at Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) by the New York Philharmonic conducted by the composer, with The Camerata Singers and boy alto John Bogart; On July 31, 1965, Bernstein attended the U.K. premiere of thiswork (performed by a male-only choir) at Chichester Cathedral in England

  • 1988 - John Harbison: Piano Sonata No. 1 ("In Memoriam Roger Sessions"), at the Dorothy Taubman Piano Institute in Amherst, Mass., by pianist Robert Shannon

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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®