Composers Datebook®

Tchaikovsky and Brahms in New York

Composers Datebook - 20231112


These days at symphony concerts, when a new piece of music is about to be played, it’s not uncommon to overhear someone mutter, “Why do they have to program this new stuff, when there’s so much Brahms and Tchaikovsky we’d rather hear?”

Well, on today’s date in 1881, the 40th season of the New York Philharmonic Society’s concerts opened with a pair of new works: first the New York premiere of the Tragic Overture, by Johannes Brahms, and after that, the world premiere of the Second Piano Concerto, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The soloist in the Tchaikovsky was Madeleine Schiller.

Here’s what the New York Times had to say the following morning: “The return of Madame Schiller to the stage is a welcome event, ... the only regret being that her efforts had not been devoted to a more interesting work, for, apart from the novelty, it cannot be said that the Tchaikovsky concerto possessed any great merit. There are older works, of which one never tires and which, interpreted by Madame Schiller ... would always be welcomed.”

Ah, some things never change!

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) Tragic Overture; Chicago Symphony; Daniel Barenboim, cond. Erato 95192

Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Piano Concerto No. 2; Barry Douglas, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, cond. RCA/BMG 61633

On This Day


  • 1833 - Russian composer Alexander Borodin, in St. Petersburg (see Julian date: Oct 31);


  • 1948 - Italian opera composer Umberto Giordano, age 81, in Milan;

  • 1966 - American composer Quincy Porter, age 69, in Bethany, Conn.;

  • 1972 - Czech-born American composer Rudolph Friml, age 92, in Los Angeles;

  • 1976 - American composer Walter Piston, age 82, in Belmont, Mass.;

  • 2013 - British composer Sir John Tavener, age 69, in in Child Okeford, Dorset;


  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 139 ("Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott") performed on the 23rd Sunday after Trinity as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1866 - Delibes: ballet "La Source,'" at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1881 - Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 2, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Theodore Thomas, with Madeleine Schiller the soloist;

  • 1888 - Tchaikovsky: symphonic fantasy overture “Hamlet,” in Moscow (Gregorian date: Nov. 24);

  • 1931 - Rachmaninoff: “Oriental Sketch” for solo piano, in New York City, by the composer;

  • 1943 - William Schumann: Symphony No. 5 ("Symphony for Strings"), in Boston;

  • 1973 - Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 14, in Leningrad, by the Beethoven Quartet;

  • 1974 - Crumb: "Makrokosmos II" for amplified piano, in New York;

  • 2002 - David Del Tredici: “Grand Trio” in New York City at the 92nd Street Y by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio;


  • 1738 - Handel completes Part II (“Moses’ Song”) of his oratorio “Israel in Egypt” (see Julian date: November 1);

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


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®