Composers Datebook®

Corigliano's 'Poem in October'

Composer's Datebook - October 25, 2023


On today’s date in 1970, a new chamber work by American composer John Corigliano received its premiere performance at a concert given by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the group that had commissioned it.

The new piece, Poem in October, was scored for tenor voice and eight instruments and was a setting of poetry by Dylan Thomas, the great Welsh poet who died in 1953.

“The thing that most appeals to me is the sound of his words,” Corigliano explained. “Phrases from Poem in October like ‘a springful of larks in a rolling cloud’ and ‘the blue altered sky streamed again a wonder of summer’ are in themselves musical.”

“The music itself,” Corigliano says, “is unabashedly lyrical. I sought to convey a pastoral feeling that would match the directness and simplicity of the text, to deal in understatement and succinctness rather than in complexity and theatrical effect.”

Corigliano’s chamber scoring includes three “pastoral” wind instruments — flute, oboe and clarinet — plus strings, and, perhaps to give the work a slightly archaic feel, a harpsichord.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Corigliano (b. 1938) Poem in October - Robert White, tenor; Thomas Nyfenger, f.; Humbert Lucarelli, ob.; Joseph Rabbai, cl.; American String Quartet; Maurice Peress, cond. and hc. RCA 60395

On This Day


  • 1825 - Austrian composer and conductor Johann Strauss, Jr. (aka "The Younger," or II), in Vienna;

  • 1838 - French composer Georges Bizet, in Paris;

  • 1864 - Russian composer Alexander Grechaninov, in Moscow (see Julian date: Oct. 13);

  • 1923 - Australian composer Don Banks, in South Melbourne;


  • 1823 - Weber: opera "Euryanthe," in Vienna at the Kärtnertor Theater;

  • 1848 - Verdi: opera "Il Corsaro" (The Corsair), in Trieste at the Teatro Grande;

  • 1875 - Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 23, at the Music Hall in Boston, by the orchestra of the Harvard Musical Association conducted by B.J. Lang, with Hans von Bülow as soloist;

  • 1885 - Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in Meiningen, Germany, with the composer conducting;

  • 1912 - R. Strauss: opera, "Ariadne auf Naxos," and incidental music to "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme," in Stuttgart at the Hoftheater (Kleines Haus), with the composer conducting, and vocal soloists Maria Jeritza (Ariadne), Margarethe Siems (Zerbinetta), and Hermann Jadlowker (Bacchus); A revised version of this work (with a newly composed prologue) premiered at the Vienna Court Opera on Oct. 4, 1916;

  • 1923 - Milhaud: ballet, "La Création du Monde," in Paris, by the Ballets Suédois at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées;

  • 1949 - Frank Martin: Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion, and Strings, by the orchestra of the Bern Musickgesellschaft, Luc Balmer conducting;

  • 1958 - Janácek: opera "Fate" (1st staged performance) in Brno at the National Theater; This opera was written in 1904 and was premiered in a concert performance by the Brno Radio on September 18, 1934;

  • 1973 - Martinu: Violin Concerto (composed in 1932), by the Chicago Symphony, Sir Georg Solti conducting, with Josef Suk as soloist;

  • 1979 - Earl Kim: Violin Concerto, by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta, with Itzhak Perlman as soloist;

  • 1986 - Christopher Rouse: "Phantasmata" (first complete performance of three orchestral pieces composed 1981-85: "The Evestrum of Juan de la Cruz in the Sagrada Familia, 3 A.M."; "The Infernal Machine"; and "Bump"), by the St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin 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.

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