Composers Datebook®

Music for the movies

Composer's Datebook - October 6, 2023


On today’s date in 1927, the landmark film The Jazz Singer received its premiere showing at the Warner Theater in New York. The Jazz Singer starred Al Jolson and is usually credited with being the first “talkie” — the first motion picture to successfully incorporate prerecorded music and spoken dialogue. Both the music and dialogue were recorded using the Vitaphone process, essentially a set of disc recordings synchronized for playback with the film’s projector.

The previous year, the New York Philharmonic had participated in the first Vitaphone projects, recording Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture as the first “music video” and performing the soundtrack for the otherwise silent drama Don Juan, starring John Barrymore.

Within a decade, Hollywood orchestras would be recording the classic film scores of European émigré composers like Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner, and within two decades American composers like Aaron Copland and Bernard Herrmann would be writing their memorable film scores, as well.

But back in 1927, all of that was well in the future, and, as one of Jolson’s lines in The Jazz Singer so prophetically put it, “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Felix Arndt (1889 – 1918) An Operatic Nightmare (Desecration Rag No. 2) - Paragon Ragtime Orchestra; Rick Benjamin, cond. Newport Classics 60039

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897 – 1957) The Prince and the Pauper film score - National Philharmonic; Charles Gerhardt, cond. RCA/BMG 0185

On This Day


  • 1882 - Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, in Tymoszówska, Ukraine;

  • 1943 - German composer Udo Zimmermann, in Dresden;


  • 1909 - American composer and organist Dudley Buck, age 70, in West Orange, N.J.;

  • 1947 - Finnish composer Leevi Medetoja. Age 59, in Helsinki;


  • 1600 - Jacopo Peri: opera, "Euridice," at the marriage of Maria de Medici to King Henri IV of France, in Florence, Italy. The oldest surviving complete opera;

  • 1868 - Offenbach: operetta "La Périchole," at the Variétés, in Paris;

  • 1911 - Reger: “A Comedy Overture,” by the Boston Symphony with Max Fiedler conducting;

  • 1939 - William Schuman: "American Festival" Overture, by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1963 - Ibert: "Symphonie marine" (composed in 1931), in Paris;

  • 1977 - Tippett: Symphony No. 4, by the Chicago Symphony, Sir Georg Solti conducting;

  • 1991 - Hovhaness: Symphony No. 65, Op. 428 (Artstakh), at Carnegie Hall in New York, with the composer conducting;

  • 1996 - Zemlinksy: opera "Der König Candaules" (King Candaules), posthumously, in Hamburg at the Staatsoper; This unfinished opera was written in 1936, and completed for its 1996 premiere by Anthony Beaumont;


  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in e, Op. 6, no. 3 (Gregorian date: Oct. 17);

  • 1802 - Beethoven files his will, the so-called "Heiligenstadt Testament," to be opened after his death.

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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®