On today’s date in 1883, the premiere of Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Concerto was given in Prague by Czech violinist František Ondrícek with the National Theatre Orchestra, led by Czech conductor Moric Anger, an old friend of Dvořák’s and his onetime roommate.
The concerto was commissioned by distinguished violinist Joseph Joachim, an old friend and collaborator of German composer Johannes Brahms. Brahms had sent Joachim two of Dvořák’s chamber works for strings. Joachim expressed enthusiasm for these pieces and urged Dvořák to write a concerto for him.
So far, so good.
Dvořák had a finished score by December 1879, but Joachim had what we now would call “some issues” with the score, and, by the time Dvořák was finishing the last revisions, three years had elapsed with no talk of a premiere. Dvořák realized Joachim was unlikely ever to premiere the new concerto, so he offered it to Ondrícek, a young virtuoso who eagerly championed it in Prague and abroad.
We should note that Joachim finally did perform Dvořák’s concerto in Berlin in 1894, about 15 years after he had commissioned it.
Music Played in Today's Program
Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904) Violin Concerto in A minor
On This Day
1871 - Austrian composer and conductor Alexander Zemlinsky, in Vienna;
1935 - American composer La Monte (Thorton) Young, in Bern, Idaho;
1952 - Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, in Helsinki;
1990 - American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, age 72, in New York City;
1670 - Lully: comedy-ballet, "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" (to a text by Molière), at the Château de Chambord;
1883 - Dvorák: Violin Concerto, Op. 53, in Prague;
1924 - Schoenberg: opera "Die glückliche Hand" (The Fateful Hand), in Vienna at the Volksoper;
1930 - Gershwin: musical "Girl Crazy," at the Alvin Theater in New York City; This show includes the classic Gershwin songs "Embraceable You" and "I Got Rhythm";
1956 - Hovhaness: Symphony No. 3, by the Symphony of the Air, Leopold Stokowski conducting;
1960 - Piston: Violin Concerto No. 2, by the Pittsburgh Symphony, William Steinberg conducting, with soloist Joseph Fuchs;
1970 - Lutoslawski: Cello Concerto, in London, by the Bournemouth Symphony conducted by Edward Downes, with Mstislav Rostropovich the soloist;
1971 - Argento: opera "Postcard from Morocco," by the Center Opera at the Cedar Village Theater, in Minneapolis, Minn.;
1995 - George Tsontakis: "The Dove Descending" (No. 3 of "Four Symphonic Quartets" after poems by T.S. Eliot), by the Pasadena Symphony, Jorge Mester conducting;
1999 - Peter Lieberson: Piano Concerto No. 2 ("Red Garuda") by soloist Peter Serkin with the Boston Symphony, Seiji Ozawa 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.