Composers Datebook®

Marga Richter's 'Fragments'

Composer's Datebook - October 21, 2023


American composer Marga Richter was born on today’s date in 1926, in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. She began piano lessons by 4, started composing at 12 and had her first work performed when she was in high school in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, where her family had moved so she could study at the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis. The family moved again in 1943, this time to New York, so Richter could attend the Juilliard School.

She would recall, “I really didn’t notice that there weren’t any women composers to model myself after until I got to Juilliard, and then I found I was the only one there."

She persisted as a composer, and a New York Times reviewer of a concert of her music in 1951 found it “restless, inventive, dissonant, clean; … her intentions seemed … well realized.” They added, “We will hear more from Miss Richter.”

That said, it took decades for her nearly 200 works, which range from operas and orchestra scores to chamber works for solo instrument, to earn increasing respect and performances here and abroad.

Richter died in 2020, at 93, in New Jersey.

Music Played in Today's Program

Marga Richter (1926 – 2020): Fragments - Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Petr Vronský, conductor Navona 6050

On This Day


  • 1879 - French composer, pianist, and writer Joseph Canteloube, in Annonay (near Tournon);

  • 1885 - Austrian composer and musicologist Egon Wellesz, in Vienna;

  • 1921 - English composer (Sir) Malcolm Arnold, in Northampton;

  • 1926 - American composer Marga Richter, in Reedsburg, Wisconsin;

  • 1949 - Israeli composer Shulamit Ran, in Tel Aviv;


  • 1662 - English composer Henry Lawes, age 66, in London;


  • 1784 - Gretry: opera, "Richard Coeur de Lion" (Richard the Lionhearted), in Paris;

  • 1858 - Offenbach: comic opera, "Orphée aux enfers" (Orpheus in the Underworld), in Paris;

  • 1900 - Rimsky-Korsakov: opera "The Tale of Tsar Saltan," at the Solodovnikov Theatre in Moscow, with Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov conducting (Gregorian date: Nov. 3);

  • 1921 - Third (and final) version of Sibelius: Symphony No. 5, in Helsinki under the composer's direction; Sibelius conducted the first performances of two earlier versions of this symphony in Helsinki on Dec. 8, 1915 and Dec. 14, 1916;

  • 1926 - Nielsen: Flute Concerto (first version), in Paris, conducted by Emil Telmányi (the composer's son-in-law), with Holger Gilbert-Jespersen the soloist; Nielsen revised this score and premiered the final version in Oslo on November 9, 1926, again with Gilbert-Jespersen as the soloist;

  • 1933 - Gershwin: musical "Let 'Em Eat Cake," at the Imperial Theater in New York City;

  • 1941 - Copland: Piano Sonata, in Buenos Aires, by the composer;

  • 1956 - Menotti: madrigal-fable "The Unicorn, the Gordon and the Manticore," at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.;

  • 1984 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Double Quartet for strings, at a concert of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, by the Emerson Quartet and friends.

  • 2004 - Danielpour: "Songs of Solitude" (to texts of W.B. Yeats), at the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall in Philadelphia, by baritone Thomas Hampson and the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Daniel Robertson conducting;


  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in D, Op. 6, no. 5 and possibly his Concerto Grosso in F, Op. 6, no. 9 as well (see Julian date: Oct. 10).

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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®