Composers Datebook®

Lodovico Giustini

Composers Datebook - 20231212


1685 was a good year for composers: Bach, Scarlatti and Handel were all born in 1685, as was, on today’s date, Italian composer Lodovico Giustini.

Like Bach, Giustini came from a family of musicians, and he began his career by succeeding his father as church organist, eventually landing the prize organ post at his hometown cathedral, a position he retained for the rest of his life. Giustini also took up a new-fangled keyboard instrument known as the forte-piano, which, unlike the harpsichord, struck the instrument’s strings with small hammers rather than plucking them like a harp. This new technology allowed music to be played loud and soft (piano and forte), with a more nuanced range of dynamics and phrasing.

Giustini’s claim to fame is that in 1732 he published the first collection of sonatas written specifically for the instrument we now call the piano. Although Giustini’s sonatas attracted little attention when they were first published, since only a few wealthy royals could afford to own these new and expensive instruments, over the next two centuries thousands of pianos — and piano sonatas — began appearing in even the most modest of musical households.

Music Played in Today's Program

Lodovico Giustini (1685-1743) Canzona, from Sonata No. 12; Andrea Coen, fortepiano Brilliant Classics 94021

On This Day


  • 1887 - Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg, in Göteborg;


  • 1707 - British composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke (Julian date: Dec. 1);


  • 1891 - Brahms: Clarinet Trio in a, Op. 114, and Clarinet Quintet in B, Op. 115, at the Singakadmie in Berlin, both with clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, accompanied by cellist Robert Hausmann, and the composer at the piano (in the Trio) and the Joachim Quartet (in the Quintet); A private performance of the Clarinet Trio had occurred earlier in Meiningen on November 24, 1891, with the same performers;

  • 1902 - Rimsky-Korsakov: opera "Kashchey the Immortal," in Moscow (Gregorian date: Dec. 25);

  • 1909 - Liadov: “Kikimora” for orchestra, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Nov. 29);

  • 1926 - Shostakovich: Piano Sonata No. 1, in Leningrad, by the composer;

  • 1929 - Constant Lambert: "Rio Grande" for piano and orchestra, in Manchester, England;

  • 1932 - Britten: "Phantasy Quartet" No. 2 for oboe and strings, in London, with oboist Leon Goossens and members of the International String Quartet;

  • 1948 - Henze: Violin Concerto, in Baden-Baden;

  • 1997 - Kevin Volans: Cello Concerto, in Munich, by soloist Wen-Sinn Yang with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra;

  • 2001 - Henry Brant: "Ice Field" for orchestra, by the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting; This work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2002;

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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®