Composers Datebook®

Hindemith in E-flat (and in Minneapolis)

Composers Datebook - 20231121


On today’s date in 1941, Greek-born conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos led the Minneapolis Symphony in the premiere performance of a new symphony by German composer Paul Hindemith, who came to Minnesota for the performance.

Mitropoulos was an ardent promoter of new music, but few of the contemporary works he programmed were welcomed by audiences or the critics with much enthusiasm. Hindemith’s reputation as an atonal composer had preceded him, but, surprisingly, his new piece for Minneapolis was billed as a “Symphony in E-flat Major” and, much to the delight of all concerned, featured recognizable tunes.

By chance, another famous composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, was in Minneapolis that day, and was invited by Mitropoulos to attend the Hindemith premiere backstage, where he wouldn’t be annoyed by autograph seekers. Rachmaninoff had a pessimistic view of modern music, but Mitropoulos was sure the famously dour Russian would like Hindemith’s resolutely tonal new symphony. Rachmaninoff was positioned just off stage, and after the end of the symphony, which was received with great applause, Mitropoulos passed him as he left the stage. “Well?” Mitropoulos asked. “No goooood,” was Rachmaninoff’s lugubrious response.

Music Played in Today's Program

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) Symphony in E-flat; BBC Philharmonic; Yan Pascal Tortelier, cond. Chandos 9060

On This Day


  • 1852 - Spanish guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega, in Villarreal, Castellon;

  • 1877 - German composer and organist Sigfrid Karg-Elert, in Oberndorf-am-Neckar;

  • 1931 - Australian composer Malcolm Williamson, in Sydney;


  • 1695 - English composer Henry Purcell, age 36, in Westminster, London;

  • 1710 - Italian composer Bernardo Pasquini, age 72, in Rome;

  • 1938 - Polish-born American piano virtuoso and composer Leopold Godowsky, age 68, in New York City;

  • 1974 - Swiss composer Frank Martin, age 84, in Naarden, Holland;


  • 1723 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 70 ("Wachet! Betet! Betet! Wachet!") performed on the 26th Sunday after Trinity as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1831 - Meyerbeer: opera, "Robert le Diable," at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1896 - Dvorák: symphonic poem "The Noonday Witch," Op. 108, in London;

  • 1901 - R. Strauss: opera "Feuersnot" (Fire Famine), in Dresden at the Hofoper, conducted by Ernst von Schuch;

  • 1935 - Stravinsky: Concerto for Two Pianos, the composer and his son as soloists;

  • 1937 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5, by Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting;

  • 1939 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 6, by Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting;

  • 1941 - Hindemith: Symphony in Eb, by the Minneapolis Symphony, Dimtri Mitropoulos conducting;

  • 1945 - Britten: String Quartet No. 2 in C, Op. 36, in London, by the Zorian Quartet;

  • 1947 - Persichetti: Symphony No. 3, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting;

  • 1974 - Peter Mennin: Symphony No. 8, Daniel Barenboim conducting New York Philharmonic;

  • 1984 - Gunther Schuller: "Concerto Quarterino" for flute, oboe, trumpet & orchestra, Zubin Mehta conducting New York Philharmonic, which commissioned it;

  • 1986 - John Harbison: cantata "The Flight into Egypt," at the New England Conservatory of Music, with soprano Lorraine Hunt, baritone John Osborne, and the Camerata Singers, David Hoose conducting; This work won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1987;

  • 1989 - Michael Torke: “Rust” for piano and winds, at the Huddersfield (U.K.) Contemporary Music Festival, by the Orkest de Volharding;

  • 1996 - George Perle: "Transcendental Modulations," Jahja Ling conducting New York Philharmonic, a 150th anniversary commission;

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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®