Composers Datebook®

Missa Salisburgensis

Composer's Datebook - October 15, 2023


The hills surrounding the Austrian town of Salzburg, according to Rogers and Hammerstein, are “alive with the sound of music.” Well, the same could have been said for the vast interior and multiple choir lofts of Salzburg Cathedral on today’s date in 1682 when a lavish celebration of the 1100th anniversary of the Archbishopric of Salzburg culminated in a specially-composed mass setting, with performers placed above and all around the citizens assembled there for the occasion. The music was composed by one of Salzburg’s most remarkable composers. No, not Mozart – he wouldn’t be born for another six decades or so. We’re talking about Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, who lived from 1644 to 1704, and, while not a native son like Mozart, was similarly employed by one of the princely archbishops of Salzburg. Unlike Mozart, however, Biber was on much better terms with his employer. Biber’s magnificent “Missa Salisburgensis” for 53 voices is now regarded as a masterpiece of the Baroque music – but was almost lost. Forgotten for two centuries, the manuscript score was rediscovered by a choir director in 1870 in the home of a Salzburg greengrocer, who planned to use the large sheets of music paper to wrap vegetables.

Music Played in Today's Program

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644 - 1704) – Missa Salisburgensis (Musica Antiqua Köln; Reinhard Goebel, cond.) DG Archive 457 611

On This Day


  • 1775 - Finnish-born Swedish composer Bernhard Crusell, in Nystad (Uusikaupunki), Finland;

  • 1844 - German philosopher and occasional composer Friedrich Nietzsche, in Röcken, near Lützen;

  • 1905 - Swedish composer Dag Wirén, in Noraberg, Oerebro;


  • 1900 - Czech composer Zdenek Fibich, age 49, in Prague;

  • 1964 - American composer Cole Porter, age 73, in Santa Monica, California;


  • 1780 - Haydn: opera "La Fedelta premiata," at Esterházy;

  • 1886 - Mussorgsky: "A Night on Bald Mountain," posthumously, in a re-orchestration by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, in St. Petersburg, by the Russian Symphony conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov (Gregorian date: Oct. 27);

  • 1886 - Dvorák: oratorio "St. Ludmilla," Op. 71, at the Leeds Festival in England;

  • 1905 - Debussy: "La Mer," at a Lamoureux Concert in Paris, conducted by Chevillard;.

  • 1933 - Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1, by the Leningrad Philharmonic conducted by Fritz Stiedry, with the composer as piano soloist, and the trumpet solos played by Alexander Shmidt;

  • 1938 - R. Strauss: opera, "Daphne," in Dresden at the State Opera, karl Boehm conducting, with vocal soloists Margarete Teschemacher (Daphne), Torsten Ralf (Apollo), Helena Jung (Gaea), and Martin Kremer (Leukippos);

  • 1943 - Britten: "Serenade" for tenor, horn, and strings, in London;

  • 1943 - Lukas Foss: “The Prairie,” by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1946 - first concert performance of Britten: "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell)", in Liverpool; This music was written for an education film entitled "The Instruments of the Orchestra," which was first shown on November 29, 1946;

  • 1955 - Xenakis: "Metastasis" for 61 instruments, in Donaueschingen, Germany;

  • 1981 - Robert Starer: Violin Concerto, by the Boston Symphony, Seiji Ozawa conducting, with Itzhak Perlman as soloist;

  • 1985 - Christopher Rouse: “Lares Hercii” for violin and harpsichord, in Rochester, N.Y., by Charles Castleman (violin) and Arthur Haas (harpsichord);

  • 1988 - Conlon Nancarrow: String Quartet No. 3, in Cologne, Germany, by the Arditti Quartet;

  • 1997 - Peter Maxwell Davies: "The Jacobite Rising," in Glasgow, with the composer conducting soloists and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus;

  • 2003 - Peter Maxwell Davies: "Naxos Quartet" No. 3, at Wigmore Hall, London, by the Maggini Quartet;


  • 1738 - London music publisher John Walsh the younger issues Handel's Organ Concertos, Op. 4 (see Julian date: Oct. 4);

  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in g, Op. 6, no. 6 (Gregorian date: Oct. 26);

  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in F, Op. 6, no. 2 (see Julian date: Oct. 4);

  • 1844 - Johann Strauss, Jr., age 18, conducts his own orchestra for the first time, at Dommayer's Casino in Hietzing (just outside Vienna);

  • 1956 - Leonard Bernstein named co-principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic (with Dimitri Mitropoulos).

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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®