Composers Datebook®

Lully and Vivaldi greet the season

Composers Datebook - Dec. 22, 2023


Whether you live in sunny California or snowy Minnesota, the arrival of the solstice means, “It’s official: Winter is here!” And if you were born someplace sunny, but moved to someplace snowy, the arrival of winter is pretty hard to ignore.

Winter must have made an impression on the transplanted Italian composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, who was born in Florence but settled in Paris and ended up as the court composer for King Louis XIV.

One of Lully’s operas, Isis, had its premiere in the winter of 1676 and contains a chorus of “Trembleurs,” or “Trembling People from the Frozen Climes,” whose teeth chatter in slurred tremolos. This chorus became particular famous for the wintry pantomime ballet that accompanied it, as well as for its evocative music.

Of course, the most famous of all Baroque winter music was served up by another Italian, Antonio Vivaldi, who was born in Venice but traveled widely in Northern Europe as well and died in Vienna.

Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons includes its own musical shivers, not to mention a musical depiction of slipping and sliding on icy streets.

Music Played in Today's Program

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) Isis; Philippe Caillard Chorale and Orchestra Erato 20983

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) Winter, from The Four Seasons; Enrico Onofrio, violin; Il Giardino Armonico Teldec 97671

On This Day


  • 1723 - German composer and gamba player Carl Friedrich Abel, in Cöthen;

  • 1821 - Italian composer, doublebass player and conductor Giovanni Bottesini, in Crema;

  • 1858 - Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, in Lucca;

  • 1874 - Austrian composer Franz Schmidt, in Pressburg (Bratislava);

  • 1883 - French-born American composer Edgard (or Edgar) Varèse, in Paris;

  • 1885 - American composer and critic Deems Taylor, in New York City;

  • 1900 - British composer Alan Bush, in Dulwich, South London;

  • 1901 - Russian-born American conductor and arranger André Kostelanetz, in St. Petersburg;


  • 1745 - Czech composer Jan Dismas Zelenka, age 66, during the night of December 22-23, age 66, in Dresden;

  • 1950 - American composer and conductor Walter Damrosch, age 88, in New York City;


  • 1808 - Beethoven: Symphonies 5 and 6 along with the Choral Fantasy and the Piano Concerto No. 4, at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, with composer as conductor and piano soloist;

  • 1837 - Lortzing: opera "Zar und Zimmermann" (Csar and Carpenter), in Leipzig at the Stadttheater;

  • 1888 - Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 3 in d, Op. 108, in Budapest;

  • 1906 - Glazunov: Symphony No. 8, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Dec. 9);

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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®