Composers Datebook®

Dvorak plays favorites?

Composers Datebook - 20231203


Parents are not supposed to have favorite children. By analogy, maybe composers aren’t supposed to love some of their pieces more than others — but they often do.

In the case of Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, his little Sonatina for violin and piano was one of his proudest creations. He wrote it for two of his older children, 15-year-old Otilie and 10-year-old Antonin Junior.

The Sonatina was composed in 1893 while Dvořák and his family were living in America. In the fall of that year, Dvořák had paid a visit to the Czech community in St. Paul, Minnesota, and while there had visited Minnehaha Falls, a local tourist attraction. After viewing the picturesque little waterfall, Dvořák jotted down a musical idea, a bit of rippling water music that found its way into the Sonatina’s slow movement.

The Sonatina was finished in New York City on today’s date in 1893 — less than two weeks before the premiere of Dvořák’s New World Symphony at Carnegie Hall. Despite the tremendous success of that symphony, Dvořák liked to say his proudest premiere was when his children played the Sonatina for him in the family parlor.

Music Played in Today's Program

Antonin Dvořák (1841 – 1904) Sonatina in G; Ivan Zenaty, violin; Antonin Kubalek, piano; Dorian 90171

On This Day


  • 1729 - Baptism of Spanish composer and organist, Padre Antonio Soler, in Olot;

  • 1883 - Austrian composer Anton Webern, in Vienna;

  • 1914 - American composer Irving Fine, in Boston;

  • 1938 - Uruguayan-born American composer and conductor, José Serebrier, in Montevideo;


  • 1866 - Bohemian composer Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda, age 65, in Karlsruhe, Germany;

  • 1876 - German opera composer Hermann Goetz, age 35, in Hottingen, near Zurich, Switzerland;

  • 1941 - Norwegian composer Christian Sinding, age 85, in Oslo;

  • 1978 - American composer William Grant Still, age 83, in Los Angeles;


  • 1712 - Handel: opera “Il pastor fido,” in London (Julian date: Nov. 22);

  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 62 ("Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" I) performed on the 1st Sunday in Advent as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1739 - Handel: “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day,” in London (Julian date: Nov. 22);

  • 1740 - Handel: opera “Imeneo” in London (Julian date: Nov. 22);

  • 1908 - Elgar: Symphony No. 1, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England, with the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Hans Richter;

  • 1913 - Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No. 2 (Gregorian date: Dec. 16);

  • 1913 - Franz Schmidt: Symphony No. 2, in Vienna;

  • 1925 - Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F, at Carnegie Hall in New York, with the composer as soloist and the New York Symphony conducted by Walter Damrosch;

  • 1931 - Edward Joseph Collins: Piano Concerto No. 2 in a (“Concert Piece”), by the Chicago Symphony, Frederick Stock conducting and the composer as soloist;

  • 1943 - Hanson: Symphony No. 4 ("Requiem"), with the Boston Symphony conducted by the composer; This work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1944;

  • 1949 - Grofé: "Death Valley" Suite, at Desolation Canyon, Calif., by the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by the composer;

  • 1953 - Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 4, in Moscow, by the Beethoven Quartet;

  • 1954 - Barber: oratorio “Prayers of Kierkegaard” for soloists, chorus and orchestra, by the Boston Symphony, Charles Munch conducting;

  • 1954 - Walton: opera "Troilus and Cressida," at Covent Garden in London;

  • 1958 - Colin McPhee: "Nocturne" for orchestra, by Lepold Stokowski and "his orchestra"';

  • 1963 - Copland: ballet "Dance Panels," in Munich;

  • 1992 - John Harbison: Oboe Concerto, with soloist William Bennett and the San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt conducting;


  • 1721 - J.S. Bach (age 36) marries his second wife, Anna Magdalena Wülken (age 20) at Cöthen;

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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®