Composers Datebook®

A "well-Krafted" concerto?

Composer's Datebook - September 6, 2023


Consider, if you will, the poor timpanist. At most symphony concerts, they sit quietly—waiting for the moment when a dramatic exclamation point is required from the kettledrums. While the violinists rarely get a break, the timpanist must sit patiently for most of the evening, biding their time, waiting for the precise moments to strike.

On rare occasions, however, the timpanist is the CENTER of attention as soloist in a timpani concerto. One such concerto was written by an American composer, William Kraft, who was born on this day in 1923. Kraft was a timpanist himself. In fact, Kraft served as a percussionist and timpanist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years, from 1955-1981. He was that orchestra’s first composer-in-residence, and founded the LA Philharmonic’s first New Music Group.

William Kraft’s Timpani Concerto was written in 1983 for timpanist Thomas Akins of the Indianapolis Symphony, who premiered the work with that orchestra in 1984.

Kraft’s own description of his Timpani Concerto is as follows, "The first movement is very jazzy … the second movement is very beautiful, with two string orchestras and a lot of glissandi, and the third is hell-bent for leather."

Music Played in Today's Program

William Kraft (b. 1923) Timpani Concerto Thomas Akins, timpani; Alabama Symphony; Paul Polivnick, cond. Albany 302

On This Day


  • 1644 - Baptismal date of Spanish organist and composer Juan Bautista José Cabanilles, in Algemesi, province of Valencia;

  • 1781 - Austrian composer and music publisher Anton Diabelli, sometime on Sept 5/6, in Mattsee (near Salzburg);

  • 1912 - American composer Wayne Barlow, in Elyria, Ohio; One of his best-known works, "The Winter's Past," was recorded by the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra under Howard Hanson, Barlow's former teacher;

  • 1923 - American percussionist, composer and conductor William Kraft, in Chicago;

  • 1938 - American composer Joan Tower in New Rochelle, N.Y.;


  • 1937 - American composer and conductor Henry Hadley, age 65, in New York;

  • 1962 - German composer Hans Eisler, age 64, in East Berlin;


  • 1791 - Mozart: opera, "La Clemenza di Tito," in Prague at the National Theater. Written for and performed on the eve of the coronation of Leopold II of Prague;

  • 1910 - Vaughan William: "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis," at the Glouchester Festival, with the composer conducting;

  • 1961 - Elliott Carter: Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras, in New York during the Eight Congress of the International Musicological Society, with Gustav Meier conducting and harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick and pianist Charles Rosen as the soloists;

  • 1977 - Thea Musgrave: opera "Mary, Queen of Scots" at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, conducted by the composer;

  • 1979 - Knussen: Symphony No. 3, by the BBC Symphony in London;

  • 1995 - Lou Harrison: "A Parade for M.T.T.," by the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas 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®