In France, today is “la Fete de la Toussaint” – All Saints’ Day – observed as both a sacred and secular national holiday, a time to visit cemeteries and put flowers on the graves of relatives. In 1947, when memories of the dead of World War II were still fresh, French Radio broadcast three premieres at a special concert from the Salle Gaveau in Paris.
First on the program was the French premiere of Hungarian composer Lazlo Lajhta’s somber In Memoriam. This had been the first new orchestral work to be performed in Budapest when concert life had resumed after the war.
Second was the world premiere of the Sixth Symphony by Polish composer Alexandre Tansman, who, being Jewish, found refuge in France in 1938, then, during the German occupation, had fled to the United States. In 1946, Tansman returned to Europe in time for the premiere of his symphony, also titled In Memoriam, at this concert.
The third work on the program was another world premiere: a newly completed Requiem Mass by French composer Maurice Duruflé, originally commissioned as an orchestral work in 1941 during the German occupation of France, which morphed into a choral Requiem Mass by the time of the liberation.
Music Played in Today's Program
Maurice Duruflé (1902 - 1986) – Requiem (Westminster Choir; Joseph Flummerfelt, cond.) Avie 46
On This Day
1877 - English composer Roger Quilter, in Brighton;
1934 - Welsh composer William Mathias, in Whitland, Dyfed.
1942 - German composer Hugo Distler, age 34, commits suicide in Berlin;
1892 - Rimsky-Korsakov: opera “ Mlada,” at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, with Eduard Nápravník conducting and basso Fyodor Stravinsky (Igor’s father) singing the role of Mstivoy (Julian date: Oct. 20);
1948 - Copland: "The Red Pony" Suite (from the film of the same name), by the Houston Symphony, Efrem Kurtz conducting;
1964 - Virgil Thomson: "The Feast of Love," for baritone and chamber ensemble, at the 13th Coolidge Festival in Washington, D.C.;
1738 - Handel completes Part II (“Moses’ Song”) of his oratorio “Israel in Egypt” (Gregorian date: November 12);
1830 - Chopin’s friends in Warsaw throw a festival “bon voyage” dinner for the composer-pianist on the eve of his departure for Paris; As it turned out, he would never return to his native land.
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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.