Composers Datebook®

Dvorak's Serenade for Winds

Composers Datebook - 20231117


Nov. 17, 1878, marked a milestone in the career of 37-year old Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. For the first time, he engaged and conducted the orchestra of the Provisional Theater in Prague in a concert entirely of his own works, including the premiere performance of a new Serenade for Winds.

Earlier that year, Dvorak heard a performance of a Mozart wind serenade in Vienna and was so taken by the sound of Mozart’s double-reeds and horns that he wrote a similar work in just two weeks.

Dvorak added to the open-air feel of Mozart’s 18th-century wind serenade some lively 19th-century Czech dance rhythms. But he also chose the key of D minor, reserved by Mozart for some of his most serious works. That enables Dvorak’s Serenade to seem both somber and upbeat, infused with musical shadows and sunlight.

The new work was well received in Prague and also in Vienna, where one its biggest fans was Johannes Brahms, who wrote: ``A more lovely, refreshing impression of real, rich and charming creative talent you can't imagine. I think it must be a pleasure for the wind players!''

Music Played in Today's Program

Antonin Dvorak Serenade for Winds; St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Hugh Wolff, cond. Teldec

On This Day


  • 1919 - American composer and arranger Hershy Kay, in Philadelphia;

  • 1930 - American composer, French horn player and conductor David Amram, in Philadelphia;


  • 1959 - Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, age 72, in Rio de Janeiro;

  • 1982 - Estonian composer Eduard Tubin, age 77, in Stockholm;


  • 1726 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 55 ("Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht") performed on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity as part of Bach's third annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1725/27);

  • 1839 - Verdi: opera "Oberto" in Milan at the Teatro all Scala; This was Verdi's first opera;

  • 1866 - Ambroise Thomas: opera, "Mignon,"in Paris at the Opéra-Comique;

  • 1876 - Tchaikovsky: “Marche slav” in Moscow (see Julian date: Nov. 5);

  • 1877 - Gilbert & Sullivan: operetta, "The Sorcerer," at the Opera Comique Theatre in London;

  • 1888 - Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5, in St. Petersburg, with the composer conducting (se Julian date: Nov. 5);

  • 1924 - Ernst von Dohnányi: "Ruralia Hungarica" in Budapest, with composer conducting;

  • 1937 - Daniel Gregory Mason: "A Lincoln Symphony," John Barbirolli conducting the New York Philharmonic;

  • 1955 - Bernstein: incidental music for "The Lark" (play by Jean Anoilh adapted by Lillian Hellman) in New York City at the Longacre Theater, performed by New York Pro Musica conducted by Noah Greenberg; A trial run of this show had opened in Boston at the Plymouth Theater on October 28, 1955;

  • 1977 - Vincent Persichetti: "Concerto for English Horn & Strings," soloist Thomas Stacy, Erich Leinsdorf conducting New York Philharmonic;

  • 1991 - Katherine Hoover: "Canyon Echoes," by flutist Susan Morris De Jong and guitarist Jeffrey Van, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis;

  • 1996 - Michael Torke: “Chrome” for flute and piano, at Colden Center in Queens, N.Y., by Marina Piccinini (flute) and Andreas Haefliger (piano).

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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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