Composers Datebook®

A domestic postscript from Richard Strauss

Composer's Datebook - October 16, 2023


Of all the works of Richard Strauss, the one that premiered in Dresden on today’s date in 1925 ranks amount the least-known.

For starters, it has an odd title, Parergon to the Symphonia Domestica. “Parergon” means “an ornamental accessory or embellishment,” and Strauss meant his new work, written for piano left-hand and orchestra, as a follow-up to his Symphonia Domestica tone-poem of 1903, which depicted one day in the Strauss family household, complete with baby’s bath.

The baby in question was Strauss’ son Franz, who by 1925 was a young man setting up his own household, and recently recovered from a near-fatal case of typhus contracted while on his honeymoon in Egypt. For Strauss, this Parergon was a private celebration of his son’s survival.

For Paul Wittgenstein, the wealthy one-handed concert pianist who commissioned the new work, this was one of several he had requested from leading composers of his day, all designed to showcase his talent. Wittgenstein’s contract with Strauss stipulated that Wittgenstein alone would have exclusive rights to the Parergon as long as he wished, and so it wasn’t until 1950 that any other pianist could perform it.

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) Parergon to the Symphonia Domestica

On This Day


  • 1679 - Baptismal date of Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka, in Lounovice;

  • 1821 - Hungarian composer Franz [Ferenc] Doppler, in Lemberg (now Lvov);


  • 1621 - Dutch composer and organist Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, age c. 59, in Amsterdam;

  • 1750 - German composer and lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss, age 64, in Dresden;

  • 1920 - Brazilian composer Alberto Nepomunceno, age 56, in Rio de Janeiro;

  • 1946 - British composer Sir Granville Bantock, age 78, in London;


  • 1893 - Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Oct. 28);

  • 1912 - Schoenberg: "Pierrot Lunaire," in Berlin;

  • 1925 - R. Strauss: "Parergon to the Symphonia domestica," for piano left hand and orchestra, in Dresden, with Paul Wittgenstein the soloist;

  • 1926 - Kodály: opera "Háry János," at the Budapest Opera;

  • 1934 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 13, in Winterthur (Switzerland), by the Musikkollegium orchestra, Hermann Scherchen conducting;

  • 1938 - Copland: ballet "Billy the Kid," in Chicago by the Ballet Caravan Company, with pianists Arthur Gold and Walter Hendel performing a two-piano version of the score; This Oct. 16 premiere date is persistently but incorrectly listed as Oct. 6 in many standard reference works and Copland biographies; First performance of "Billy the Kid" in New York City occurred on May 24, 1939, with an orchestra conducted by Fritz Kitzinger;

  • 1942 - Copland: ballet "Rodeo," in New York City by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo;

  • 1960 - Messiaen: "Chronochromie," in Donaueschingen, Germany;

  • 1969 - Leon Kirchner: "Music" for orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic, with the composer conducting;

  • 1976 - Peter Maxwell Davies: "Five Klee Pictures" for orchestra, in London at St. John's Smith Square, by the Young Musicians' Symphony, James Blair conducting;

  • 1988 - Stephen Paulus: "Seven for the Flowers Near the River," for viola and piano, by Cynthia Phelps and Warren Jones, at a Music in the Park chamber concert at St. Anthony Park UCC in St. Paul, Minn.; A revised version of this piece, re-titled "Five for the Flowers Near the River," was premiered by the same performers at Alice Tully Hall in New York on October 24, 1988, and recorded in 1998 by Phelps with pianist Judith Gordon for the Cala CD label;

  • 1992 - Joan Tower: "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman" No. 4 (dedicated to conductor JoAnn Falletta), by the Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Bill McGlaughlin;


  • 1891 - Inaugural afternoon concert of the Chicago Symphony at the Chicago Auditorium, with Theodore Thomas conducting music of Wagner("Faust" Overture), Beethoven (Symphony No. 5), Tchaikovsky (Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Rafael Joseffy), and Dvorák ("Hussite" Overture); The Symphony's first evening concert occurred the following day;

  • 1931 - American premiere of Mahler: Symphony No. 9, by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1958 - Leonard Bernstein begins his presentation of a "major view of American music" at New York Philharmonic concerts with a Carnegie Hall concert that includes works by Wallingford Riegger, John J. Becker and Carl Ruggles.

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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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