Composers Datebook®

The Beeb

Composers Datebook - 20231114


On today’s date in 1922, the British Broadcasting Corporation began daily radio transmissions from London, at first offering just news and weather — the latter read twice, in case anyone wanted to take notes. The following month, on Dec. 23, 1922, the BBC broadcast its first orchestral concert.

Over time, the BBC became affectionately nicknamed “the Beeb,” or, less affectionately “Auntie,” due to the upper-middle class, slightly patronizing tone of its music announcers in the 1940s and ‘50s.

That said, Auntie has proven to be hip in one aspect: The BBC has been a major commissioner of and advocate for new music by a wide range of composers — and not just British ones. In 2007, for example, the BBC Symphony premiered the Doctor Atomic Symphony, by American composer John Adams, live on-air at a BBC Proms Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

And it’s not just famous, big-name composers who get an airing on the Beeb either. Each year, BBC Radio 3 hosts a competition for teenage composers. Winners participate in a mentored program and have one of their orchestral works developed, rehearsed and performed at the BBC Proms.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Adams (b. 1947) Violin Concerto; Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violin; BBC Symphony; Andrew Litton, cond. Signum 468

On This Day


  • 1663 - Baptism of German composer, organist and teacher (of Handel and others) Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, in Leipzig;

  • 1719 - German-Austrian composer Leopold Mozart (father of Wolfgang Amadeus), in Augsburg;

  • 1774 - Italian composer and conductor Luigi Spontini, in Majolati;

  • 1778 - German composer and pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel, in Pressburg (now Bratislava);

  • 1805 - German composer Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, sister of Felix, in Hamburg;

  • 1900 - American composer Aaron Copland, in Brooklyn, N.Y.;

  • 1939 - American composer and Moog synthesizer virtuoso Wendy (known until 1979 as Walter) Carlos, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island;


  • 1831 - Austrian-born composer, music publisher and piano maker Ignaz Josef (Ignace Joseph) Pleyel, age 74, in Paris;

  • 1922 - Austrian bandmaster and operetta composer Karl Michael Ziehrer, age 79, in Vienna;

  • 1946 - Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, age 69, in Alta Gracia, Argentina; In 1939, at the end of Spanish Civil War, de Falla retired to Argentina and lived in seclusion;

  • 1977 - English composer Richard Addinsell, age 73, in London; He is most famous for his popular “Warsaw Concerto,” based on his music for the British film “Dangerous Moonlight” (released in the U.S. as “Suicide Squadron”);


  • 1723 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 90 ("Es reisset euch ein schrecklich Ende") performed on the 25th Sunday after Trinity as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1802 - Beethoven: String Quintet, Op. 29, at Beethoven's apartment in Vienna;

  • 1887 - Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 4 (“Mozartiana”), in Moscow (Gregorian date: Nov. 26);

  • 1896 - Dvorák: symphonic poem "The Water Goblin," Op. 107, in London;

  • 1908 - Oskar Strauss: operetta "Der tapfere Soldat " (based on George Bernard Shaw's play "Arms and the Man"), in Vienna; .As "The Chocolate Soldier" this work opened in New York in 1909, and in London in 1910;

  • 1930 - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 4 (first version), by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting; A second version of this work was premiered on March 11, 1950 broadcast by the BBC Symphony, Sir Adrian Boult conducting; The first public performance of the revised version occurred on January 5, 1957, at a concert by the USSR State Symphony conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky;

  • 1935 - Hindemith: "Der Schwanendreher (Concerto on Old Folk Songs for Viola and Small Orchestra)," by the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg, with the composer as soloist;

  • 1944 - Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 2, in Leningrad, by Dimitri Tsiiganov (violin) and Sergei Shirinsky (cello), with the composer at the piano, on the same program as the premiere of Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 2, by the Beethoven Quartet;

  • 1954 - Roy Harris: "Symphonic Epigram," in New York City, Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting New York Philharmonic;

  • 1955 - Henry Cowell: Symphony No. 6, by the Houston Symphony, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1985 - Copland: "Proclamation" for Orchestra (orchestrated by Philip Ramey), at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, by New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta;

  • 1996 - Andrew Waggoner: Symphony No. 2, in Zlin (Czech Republic), by the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Petr Pololanik, cond;

  • 2001 - Richard Danielpour: "An American Requiem" by soloists and the Pacific Symphony, Carl St. Clair conducting;

  • 2002 - Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli premieres 20 short variations on the theme of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” at Columbia University’s Miller Theater in New York; The composers who contributed were Roberto Andreoni, Milton Babbitt, Alberto Barbero, Carlo Boccadoro, William Bolcom, Uri Caine, David Crumb, George Crumb, Michael Daugherty, Filippo Del Corno, John Harbison, Fred Hersch, Joel Hoffman, Aaron Jay Kernis, Gerald Levinson, Matthew Quayle, Eric Reed, Frederic Rzewski, Augusta Reed Thomas, and Michael Torke.


  • 1720 - Handel’s “Suites des Pièces pour le Clavecin, Premier Volume” (Keyboard Suites, First Collection), is published by John Cluer in London (Gregorian date: Nov. 25);

  • 1908 - Gala opening ceremonies of the newly rebuilt Brooklyn Academy of Music (now also known as "BAM") culminate in a special guest performance of Gounod's opera "Faust" by New York's Metropolitan Opera conducted by Francesco Spetrino and featuring Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Farrar in the cast; The original Brooklyn Academy of Music, founded in 1861, had burned down on November 30, 1903;

  • 1937 - Leonard Bernstein meets Aaron Copland in New York City;

  • 1943 - Leonard Bernstein's surprise conducting debut at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic, substituting at the last minute for the ailing Bruno Walter; The program consisted of works by Robert Schumann, Miklós Rósza, Richard Strauss, and Richard Wagner;

  • 1954 - Leonard Bernstein writes and hosts a famous "Omnibus" telecast on the sketches of the 1st movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5;

  • 1980 - Leonard Bernstein conducts the National Symphony (Washington, D.C.) in a concert celebrating Aaron Copland 80th birthday featuring Copland's "Lincoln Portrait," with Copland as the narrator;

  • 1990 - "A Concert Remembering Lennie" presented at Carnegie Hall; Bernstein had died in New York City on October 14 that year;

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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®