Composers Datebook®

Liszt pulls a switcheroo

Composers Datebook - Feb. 4, 2024


By 1837, the symphonies of Beethoven had become quite popular in Paris. Beethoven had been dead for 10 years, but surprisingly, much of his chamber music had yet to be performed publicly in Paris.

So Franz Liszt organized a series of chamber concerts at the Salle Erard to introduce Beethoven’s piano trios. Liszt would play the piano part, of course, joined by the finest Parisian violinist and cellist available.

One of the programs fell on today’s date in 1837 and was to feature, on the first half, one of Beethoven’s trios, then, on the second half, a new trio by contemporary German composer Johann Peter Pixis, whose works Liszt admired.

At the last minute, the performers decided to reverse the printed order of the program, performing the new Pixis trio first. The audience (and critics), following the printed program, warmly applauded the Pixis, mistakenly thinking it was the Beethoven, and reacted coolly to the Beethoven, assuming it was by Pixis.

Among the many newspaper critics who attended the concert, only one noticed the switch and wrote his review accordingly — and that music critic’s name happened to be a famous composer, Hector Berlioz.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 2; Kempff-Szeryng-Fournier Trio DG 453 751

On This Day


  • 1740 - Swedish song composer Carl Michael Bellman, in Stockholm;

  • 1892 - Finnish song composer Yrjo Kilpinen, in Helsingfors;

  • 1893 - American composer Bernard Rogers, in New York;


  • 1781 - Bohemian-born composer Josef Mysliveczek, age 43, in Rome;

  • 1997 - American composer Ross Lee Finney, age 90, in Carmel, Calif.;

  • 2001 - Romanian born, Greek-French composer and architectural engineer Iannis Xenakis, age 78, in Paris;


  • 1725 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 126 ("Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort") performed on Sexagesimae Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1884 - Tchaikovsky: Orchestral Suite No. 2, in Moscow (Gregorian date: Feb. 16);

  • 1908 - First public performance of Stravinsky: Symphony in Eb in St. Petersburg, conducted by Felix Blumenfeld (Julian date: Jan. 22); A private performance of two movements of this symphony had occurred on April 14/27, 1907, also in St. Petersburg;

  • 1945 - Hovhaness: "Lousadzek" (Coming of Light) for piano and strings, in Boston, with the composer conducting from the piano;


  • 1837 - Franz Liszt performs a chamber recital in Paris, featuring the then-unfamiliar Piano Trios of Beethoven; At the last minute, the performers decided to reverse the printed order of the program, performing on the first half of the concert a trio by Pixis, and a Beethoven trio on the second half; The audience (and critics) warmly applaud the Pixis, mistakenly thinking it was the Beethoven work, and react coolly to the Beethoven, assuming it was by Pixis; Among the critics, only Berlioz notices the program switch.

  • 1854 - First documented American performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, at Boston's Odeon by the Germania Musical Society conducted by Carl Bergmann, with Robert Heller the soloist;

  • 1887 - American premiere of Bruckner: Symphony No. 7, by the Boston Symphony, Wilhelm Gericke conducting;

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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®