On today’s date in 1962, Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky returned to his homeland for the first time in nearly half a century. When he left in 1914, Czar Nicholas was still on the throne. By 1962, a lot had changed. For starters, Stravinsky’s music had been severely criticized in the Soviet Union. Tikhon Khrennikov, first secretary of the Soviet Composers’ Union, branded Stravinsky “the apostle of reactionary forces in bourgeois music.” Dimtri Shostakovich had condemned “the unwholesome influence of Stravinsky” and his “complete divorce from the true demands of our time.”
Whether Khrennikov or Shostakovich really believed this, or merely parroted the official party line, is debatable. But Stravinsky’s return to Russia proved a profoundly emotional experience for all concerned. The 80-year-old composer reconnected with old friends he had not seen in 50 years and relatives he had never met. And, yes, Stravinsky even met with Khrennikov and Shostakovich.
Stravinsky led the Moscow Symphony in his Symphonic Ode and Orpheus Ballet. Robert Craft, Stravinsky’s American assistant, then led the orchestra in Stravinsky’s revolutionary Rite of Spring — all to thunderous applause. For an encore, Stravinsky returned to conduct a quintessentially Russian score: his own 1917 arrangement of the Volga Boatmen’s Song.
Music Played in Today's Program
Igor Stravinsky (1882 - 1971) — Ode (Cleveland Orchestra; Oliver Knussen, cond.) DG 4843064
On This Day
1698 - French violinist and composer François Francoeur, in Paris; He was one of the "24 violins du roi" and collaborated with François Rebel in the production of several works for the Paris Opéra;
1737 - American statesman and composer Francis Hopkinson, in Philadelphia; He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and also composed some songs;
1874 - English composer Gustav Holst, in Cheltenham; He was born Gustavus Theodore von Holst, and his early works were published under the name "Gustav von Holst," but removed the Germanic "von" after World War I broke out in 1914;
1953 - English composer Roger Quilter, age 75, in London;
1795 - revised version of Haydn: Symphony No. 103 ("The Drumroll"), conducted by the composer, in Vienna (Haydn had conducted the first version of this symphony at the King's Theater in London, on March 2, 1795;
1925 - Rudolph Friml's operetta, "The Vagabond King," in New York City;
1966 - Havergal Brian: Symphony No. 6 ("Sinfonia Tragica") in London; This work was composed in 1948;
1966 - Maliperio: Symphony No. 9 ("Hélas") at the "Warsaw Autumn" Festival of Contemporary Music in Poland;
1972 - Piston: Flute Concerto, with Dorothy Anthony Dwyer the soloist and the Boston Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas;
1988 - Peter Maxwell Davies: Trumpet Concerto, in Hiroshima (Japan), by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting, with soloist John Wallace;
1994 - James MacMillan: "Britannia" for orchestra, at the Barbican in London by the London Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting;
1880 - The International Mozart Foundation is established in Salzburg;
1962 - Igor Stravinsky returns to the Soviet Union for the first time in 48 years; He visits Moscow, Leningrad and Oranienbaum.
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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.