Composers Datebook®

Athena on the air

Composers Datebook - Jan. 12, 2024


Like everyone else, young composers indulge in daydreams from time to time. One can easily imagine a 15-year-old composer wanna-be staring out the window and fantasizing that one day her music will be performed by big-name virtuosos and heard coast-to-coast on a national broadcast.

That is exactly what did happen on today’s date in 2002, when 15-year-old composer Athena Adamopoulos heard Yo-Yo Ma and Christopher O’Riley perform her Soliloquy for cello and piano at a taping of From the Top — a nationally broadcast public radio program that showcases young classical musicians from around the country. Occasionally, the show also spotlights young composers, too, as it did the day Ma stopped by as a special guest.

Adamopoulos said, “When I heard the piece in my head originally, I heard it something like this, but this is about 10 times better! It’s the most touching feeling in the world.”

Even at 15, Adamopoulos was already a somewhat “experienced” composer. She had written several other chamber works by that date and had actually performed one of her first pieces on The Sally Jesse Raphael Show on TV when she was just 8.

Music Played in Today's Program

Athena Adamopoulos (b. 1987) Soliloquy; Yo Yo Ma, cello; Christopher O'Riley, piano; live recording courtesy of ‘From The Top’ (PRI)

On This Day


  • 1715 - French composer Jacques Duphly, in Rouen;

  • 1876 - Italian opera composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, in Venice;

  • 1921 - American composer and pianist Leo Smit, in Philadelphia;

  • 1926 - American composer Morton Feldman, in New York City;

  • 1927 - American composer Salvatore Martirano, in Yonkers, N.Y.;


  • 1674 - Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi, age 68, in Rome;

  • 1958 - American composer Arthur Shepherd, age 77, in Cleveland;


  • 1723 - Handel: opera "Ottone, re di Germania" (Otto, King of the Germans), in London at the King's Theater in the Haymarket, with the debut London performance of the Italian soprano Francesca Cuzzoni in a work by Handel (Gregorian date: Jan. 23); It was during a rehearsal of this opera with Cuzzoni in late Dec. of 1722 that the famous incident between Handel and Cuzzoni took place during which the composer supposedly said “Madam, I know you are a veritable devil, but I would have you know that I am Beelzebub, the chief of the devils!”;

  • 1864 - Brahms: "Variations on a Theme by R. Schumann," Op. 23 for piano four-hands, in Vienna;

  • 1883 - Chadwick: “Thalia” Overture, by the Boston Symphony, with the composer conducting;

  • 1885 - Tchaikovsky: Orchestral Suite No. 3, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Jan. 24);

  • 1894 - Dvorák: String Quintet in Eb, Op. 97 (“American”), in New York, by the Kneisel Quartet (and violist M Zach);

  • 1918 - George Templeton Strong, Jr.: tone-poem “Le Roi Arthur” (King Arthur), in Geneva, Switzerland, with Ernest Ansermet conducting the orchestra which would be named the Orchestra of the Suisse Romande ater that same year;

  • 1934 - Bloch: "Sacred Service," in Turin, Italy;

  • 1942 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 22 in Tbilisi;

  • 1964 - Cowell: "Concerto Grosso," for chamber orchestra, in Miami Beach by the Miami Symphony Orchestra, Fabien Sevitzky, conducting;

  • 2002 - Athena Adamopoulos: "Soliloquy" for cello and piano, at a "From the Top" recording session for Public Radio International at Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Christopher O'Riley; Ms. Adamopoulos was 15 years old at the time; Their performance was broadcast nationwide in early February, 2002;


  • 1910 - Radio pioneer Lee De Forest experiments with live broadcasting from the Metropolitan Opera in New York; The signal was relayed from a rooftop transmitter at the Met to wireless installations, then by land lines to telephone receivers, and reportedly reached a few hundred listeners as far away as Newark, New Jersey; These were the first occasions on which a Met performance was heard live by audiences not present at the actual performance; De Forest’s 1910 “broadcasts” included part or all of Acts II and III of the Jan. 12th performance of “Tosca” (with soprano Olive Fremstad in the title role) and the following day’s double-bill of “Cavalleria Rusticana” (with soprano Emmy Destinn as Santuzza) and “Pagliacci”; Riccardo Martin sang the lead tenor roles in “Tosca” and “Cavalleria Rusticana,” Enrico Caruso in the “Pagliacci” performance; The first in the continuing series of complete live radio broadcasts from Met occurred on Christmas Day in 1931, when “Hansel and Gretel” was aired on the NBC network.

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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®