Composers Datebook®

A summer sextet by Brahms

Composers Datebook - Feb. 3, 2024


If he hadn’t turned composer, Johannes Brahms might have made an excellent travel agent. He was in the habit of spending his summer vacations working on his music and consequently was always on the lookout for scenic spots and comfortable rooms at a decent price. In the summer of 1865, Brahms rented rooms from a certain widow Becker in Lichtental near Baden-Baden. The rooms offered a wonderful view of a mountain hillside covered with fir trees — and the rent was irresistibly low.

“I came. I saw. I rented,” Brahms wrote to a friend.

Brahms composed his String Sextet No. 2 there, between jolts of bracing coffee in the morning and afternoon hikes up the aforementioned hillside. Not surprisingly, this sextet turned out to be one of his happiest and most genial chamber works.

But on today’s date in 1867 at the sextet’s first performance in Vienna, the critic of the Wiener Zeitung heard desert sands rather than shady forests, and wrote: “We are seized with a kind of foreboding whenever Herr Johannes Brahms, this new John the Baptist, emerges from the wilderness. This prophet makes us quite disconsolate with his impalpable, vertiginous tone-vexations, pleasing to neither body nor soul.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): String Sextet No. 2; L'Archibudelli Sony Classical 68252

On This Day


  • 1525 - Earliest possible birth date for the Italian composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who was probably born between February 3, 1525 and February 2, 1526, most likely at Palestrina (near Rome);

  • 1809 - German composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, in Hamburg;

  • 1842 - American poet, flutist and composer Sidney Lanier, in Macon, Ga.;

  • 1904 - Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola, in Pisino, Istria;

  • 1910 - Mexican composer Blas Galindo Dimas, in San Gabriel, Jalisco;

  • 1911 - French composer and organist Jehan Alain, in Paris;


  • 1814 - Bohemian composer Johann Antonin Kozeluch, age 75, in Prague;


  • 1823 - Rossini: opera "Semiramide," in Venice at the Teatro la Fenice;

  • 1844 - Berlioz: "Roman Carnival" Overture, in Paris at the Salle Herz, with the composer conducting;

  • 1867 - Brahms: String Sextet No. 2, Op. 36, in Vienna, by the Hellmesberger Sextet; This work had received some informal performances in Zürich the preceding year;

  • 1868 - Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1, in Moscow (Gregorian date: Feb. 15);

  • 1884 - Tchaikovsky: opera “Mazeppa” in Moscow (Gregorian date: Feb. 15);

  • 1894 - Glazunov: Symphony No. 4, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Jan. 22);

  • 1945 - Stravinsky: "Scènes de ballet," in New York City by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by the composer; This work was commissioned by Broadway impresario Billy Rose for a 1944 revue titled "The Seven Lively Arts";

  • 1956 - Elie Siegmeister: Clarinet Concerto, in Oklahoma City;

  • 1989 - Michael Torke: "Ash," in St. Paul, Minn., by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, John Adams conducting;

  • 2002 - Philip Glass: Symphony No. 6, at Carnegie Hall, by the American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.

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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®