Composers Datebook®

Brahms debuts in New York City

Composers Datebook - 20231127
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Synopsis

At 2 p.m. on today’s date in 1855, the first in a series of afternoon chamber music concerts was given at Dodworth’s Hall in New York City.

As a contemporary newspaper put it, “In consequence of the numerous evening engagements of the city, and to enable ladies to be present without escort, it is proposed to give matinees in preference to soirees.”

The concert was a great success, and many of the fashionably dressed ladies who attended were forced to stand, as all available seats were already occupied.

In addition to classics by Schubert and Mendelssohn, the audience heard new music, the American premiere of a recently published piano trio by 21-year old German composer Johannes Brahms. The New York Times opined that the Brahms contained “many good points and much sound musicianship” but possessed also “the defects of a young writer; ... the motives seldom fall on the ear freshly.”

It's doubtful that Brahms ever saw that review or even knew that his new trio had been played in America. But in 1889, 35 years later, Brahms extensively revised his youthful work, transforming his first major chamber work into his last.

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Piano Trio No. 1 (1854 version); Odeon Trio Capriccio 10 633

On This Day

Births

  • 1750 - Bohemian composer Anton Stamitz, in Nemecky Brod (now Havlickuv Brod);

  • 1759 - Moravian composer Franz Krommer (Kramár), in Kamenice;

  • 1860 - Russian composer Viktor Ewald, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Nov. 15);

  • 1867 - French composer Charles Koechlin, in Paris;

  • 1942 - American rock guitarist and composer Jimi Hendrix, in Seattle, Wash.;

Deaths

  • 1474 - French composer Guillaume Dufay, in Cambrai, age ca. 74;

  • 1955 - Swiss-born French composer Arthur Honegger, age 63, in Paris;

Premieres

  • 1743 - Handel: “Dettingen Te Deum and Anthem” in London at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, to celebrate the safe return of George II to England, after a victory over the French in Bavaria (Gregorian date: Dec. 8);

  • 1745 - Rameau: opera-ballet "Le temple de la gloire" (to a text by Voltaire, for the victory of Fontennoy), at Versailles;

  • 1748 - Rameau: opera-ballet "Les surprises de l'Amour," at Versailles;

  • 1836 - Glinka: opera “A Life for the Tsar,” in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Dec. 9);

  • 1842 - Glinka: opera “Russlan and Ludmilla,” in St. Petesrburg (Gregorian date: Dec. 9);

  • 1843 - Balfe: opera "The Bohemian Girl," in London;

  • 1855 - Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B (first version, American premiere), at Dodworth’s “Saloon” (Hall) in New York, by violinist Theodore Thomas, cellist Carl Bergmann, and pianist William Mason; Mason claimed it was the world premiere of this work; The most recent Grove Dictionary, however, lists this Trio’s European premiere as occurring in Danzig on Oct. 13, 1855 – but does not indicate whether this was a private or public event;

  • 1896 - R. Strauss: tone-poem "Thus spake Zarathustra," in Frankfurt, with the composer conducting;

  • 1903 - Wolf-Ferrari: opera "Le donne curiose" (The Curious Woman), in Munich at the Residenztheater;

  • 1913 - George Tempelton Strong, Jr.: orchestral suite "Die Nacht" (The Night), in Montreux, Switzerland, by the Orchestre du Kursaal, Ernest Ansermet conducting;

  • 1928 - Stravinsky: ballet, "Le Baiser de la fée" (The Fairy's Kiss), at the Paris Opéra, by the Ida Rubinstein Company, with the composer conducting;

  • 1972 - first successful concert performance of Korngold: Symphony, in Munich (posthumously), with Rudolf Kempe conducting; Harold Byrns had conducted the Vienna Symphony in a poorly rehearsed and performed Austrian radio premiere of this work on October 17, 1954.

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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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