Composers Datebook®

A Vaughan Williams premiere in Liverpool

Composer's Datebook - September 30, 2023


Even during the bombing of London by the German Air Force, the London Blitz of World War Two, the BBC Proms Concerts continued.

True, in 1941 a German incendiary bomb did destroy the long-time home of the Proms, Queen’s Hall on Langham Place, but, not to be deterred, the Proms simply moved to the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington.

Wartime Proms programs included this printed notice: “In the event of an Air Raid Warning the audience will be informed immediately, so that those who wish to take shelter either in the building or in public shelters outside, may do so, The concert will then continue.”

Talk about pluck!

In 1944, the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams completed a new oboe concerto to be premiered at a Proms concert, but a German V-1 rocket that landed dangerously near the Albert Hall led to an early end to that Proms season, since the V-1 rockets, unlike the German bombers, didn’t allow enough warning time to clear the hall.

So, on today’s date in 1944, the new Vaughan Williams concerto was premiered not in London, but in Liverpool, with soloist Leon Goossens and Malcolm Sargent conducting the Liverpool Philharmonic.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) Oboe Concerto in A minor David Theodore, oboe; London Symphony; Bryden Thomson, cond. Chandos 8594

On This Day


  • 1840 - Norwegian composer Johann Svendsen, in Christiania;

  • 1852 - Irish-born British composer Sir Charles Villers Stanford, in Dublin;


  • 1989 - American composer and music critic Virgil Thomson, age 92, in New York City;


  • 1791 - Mozart: opera, "Die Zauberflöte" (The Magic Flute), in Vienna at the Freihaustheater auf der Wieden, conducted by the composer;

  • 1863 - Bizet: opera "Les Pecheurs de perles" (The Pearl Fishers), in Paris at the Théâtre Lyrique;

  • 1935 - Gershwin: opera "Porgy and Bess," during trial run at Boston's Colonial Theater; According to Opera America magazine, this is one of the most frequently-produced American operas during the past decade;

  • 1944 - R. Vaughan Williams: Oboe Concerto, with soloist Leon Goosens and the Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent;

  • 1960 - Barber: "Toccata Festiva" for organ and orchestra, at Philadelphia's Academy of Music, by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy, with Paul Callaway the soloist;

  • 1979 - Penderecki: "Te Deum" in Assisi, Italy;

  • 1989 - Daniel Asia: Piano Quartet, at Wigmore Hall in London, by the Domus ensemble;

  • 1999 - Michael Tilson Thomas: "Whitman Songs for Orchestra," by the San Francisco Symphony, composer 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.

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