Composers Datebook®

The Chopin of America

Composers Datebook - 20231128


On today’s date in 1843, a composer dubbed “The Chopin of America” was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His name was Manuel Gregorio Tavárez, born to a French father and Puerto Rican mother. He began his musical studies in San Juan but at 15 moved to France to study at the Paris Conservatory with two leading French composers of the day, Daniel Auber and Eugen D'Albert.

While in Paris, Tavárez suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left hand and affected his hearing. He returned to Puerto Rico, overcame those problems and after giving several recitals in San Juan, became a piano teacher.

As a composer, Tavárez developed an original dance form called danza — similar to the waltz but tinged with Afro-Cuban rhythms from the Caribbean and the wistful melancholy of European Romantic composers.

Tavárez gave his works evocative titles such as La Sensitiva (The Sensitive One), La Ausencia (Absense), Un Recuerdito (A Little Remembrance) and Pobre Corazón (Poor Heart), but the title of his most famous danza, written in 1870, was simply a woman’s name: Margarita.

Like Chopin, Tavárez lived only 39 years. He died in 1883.

Music Played in Today's Program

Manuel Gregorio Tavárez (1843-1883) Margarita; Kimberley Davis, p. from “La Ondina: Una Colección de Música Puertorriqueña para Piano” (digital album)

On This Day


  • 1784 - Baptismal date of German composer and pianist Ferdinand Ries, in Bonn;

  • 1829 - Russian composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein, in Vikhvatinets, Podolia (see Julian date: Nov. 16);


  • 1972 - British composer Havergal Brian, age 96, in Shoreham-by-Sea; He composed 32 symphonies between 1919-1968 (most remained unperformed during his lifetime);


  • 1723 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 61 ("Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" I) performed on the 1st Sunday in Advent as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1811 - Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Johann Philip Christian Schultz conducting, and Friedrich Schneider as the soloist;

  • 1895 - Rimsky-Korsakov: opera “Christmas Eve,” in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Dec. 10);

  • 1896 - Mussorgsky: opera “Boris Godunov” (Rimsky-Korsakov version), in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Dec. 10);

  • 1909 - Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3, in Carnegie Hall, composer at piano, Walter Damrosch conducting New York Symphony Society Orchestra;

  • 1919 - Charles Tomlinson Griffes: "The Pleasure Dome of Kublai Khan," Pierre Monteux conducting Boston Symphony Orchestra;

  • 1930 - Hanson: Symphony No. 2 ("Romantic"), by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1930 - Kodály: "Marosszék Dances," in Dresden;

  • 1940 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 20, in Moscow;

  • 1990 - Christopher Rouse: “Concerto per Corde” (Concerto for Strings), at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, by the American Symphony Orchestra, Catherine Comet conducting;

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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®