On today’s date in 1994, Dennis Russell Davies conducted the Chicago Symphony in the premiere performance of a 23-minute orchestral work by American composer Steven Mackey. The new piece was titled Eating Greens, after a painting of the same name that the composer purchased at an African art store in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Mackey’s Eating Greens is a colorful orchestral suite of seven movements. The fourth movement is only 46 seconds long and is playfully labeled “The Title Is Almost as Long as the Piece Itself.” Other movements’ titles acknowledge the influence of the colorful and playful visual artist Henri Matisse and the quirky but brilliant jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk.
In the liner notes for the recording of Eating Greens, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Mackey writes, “On more than one occasion, Michael has used the word ‘wacky’ to describe my music. Composers usually blanch at such attributions — nobody wants to be captured in a single word — but I can live with ‘wacky.’ It is not a common adjective, does not end with ‘ism’ and clearly the rhyme with my last name personalizes it.”
Music Played in Today's Program
Steven Mackey (b. 1956) Eating Greens - New World Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. RCA/BMG 63826
On This Day
1782 - Italian composer and violinist Niccolò Paganini, in Genoa;
1912 - American-born Mexican composer Conlon Nancarrow, in Texarkana, Arkansas (He became naturalized Mexican citizen in 1956);
1927 - American composer and teacher Dominick Argento, in York, Pennsylvania;
1678 - English composer John Jenkins, age c. 86, in Kimberley, Norfolk;
1975 - American jazz composer and arranger Oliver Nelson, age 43, in Los Angeles;
1991 - Polish-born British composer Sir Andrzej Panufnik, age 77, in London;
1827 - Bellini: opera "Il Pirata," at La Scala in Milan;
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 (see Julian date: Oct. 15);
1901 - Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2, in Moscow, composer as soloist (Gregorian date: Nov. 9);
1916 - Stenhammar: incidental music for Strindberg's "A Dream Play," at the opening of the Lorensberg Theater in Gothenburg, Sweden;
1948 - Stravinsky: "Mass," in Milan at La Scala, with Ernest Ansermet conducting;
1950 - Creston: Symphony No. 3, Op. 48, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting;
1957 - Villa-Lobos: Harmonica Concerto in Jerusalem;
1958 - Henze: ballet "Undine," in London;
1975 - Druckman's "Lamia" at New York Philharmonic concert;
1988 - Steven Stucky: "Concerto for Orchestra," in Philadelphia;
1989 - Christopher Rouse: “Iscariot” for chamber orchestra, in St. Paul, Minn., by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, John Adams conducting;
1993 - Daniel Asia: Symphony No. 4, by the Phoenix Symphony, the composer conducting;
1994 - Steven Mackey: "Eating Greens" for orchestra, by the Chicago Symphony, Dennis Russell Davies conducting.
1994 - Christopher Rouse: Flute Concerto, by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Vonk, with soloist Carol Wincenc;
1995 - Michael Torke: “Flint” for chamber ensemble, in Palermo, Italy, by The Brass Group.
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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.