Composers Datebook®

Clyne's music of voyages

Composers Datebook - Feb. 9, 2024


Composers have always been fascinated by the sea. If you’re curious, Spotify offers a playlist of 50 sea-inspired classical works from composers ranging from Mendelssohn to Debussy to Takemitsu.

On today’s date in 2012, conductor Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony premiered a new sea-inspired work by London-born composer Anna Clyne, who was then the orchestra’s composer-in-residence. Clyne’s piece, Night Ferry, was "music of voyages, from stormy darkness to enchanted worlds,” as she described. “It is music of the conjurer and setter of tides, the guide through the ungovernable and dangerous.”

The Chicago Symphony took Night Ferry on tour that year, with Pacific Coast stops in San Francisco and San Diego, and also, perhaps for thematic contrast, to Palm Desert, California, for good measure.

Clyne is bit of a traveler herself. She studied music formally at the University of Edinburgh, then at the Manhattan School of Music. In addition to being the composer-in-residence in Chicago, she has held similar positions with Orchestre National d'Île-de-France, the Baltimore Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony and, coming full circle, the Edinburgh-based Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Music Played in Today's Program

Anna Clyne (b. 1980): Night Ferry; Chicago Symphony; Richardo Muti, cond. CSO Re-Sound 9011401 (live recording, February 2012)

On This Day


  • 1834 - German composer Franz Xaver Witt, in Walderbach, Bavaria;

  • 1885 - Austrian composer Alban Berg, in Vienna;

  • 1909 - German composer Harald Genzmer, in Blumenthal, near Bremen;


  • 1740 - German composer, organist and teacher Vincent Lübeck, age c. 85, in Hamburg;

  • 1812 - German composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister, age 57, in Vienna;

  • 1960 - Hungarian composer Ernö (Ernst von) Dohnányi, age 82, in New York City;


  • 1722 - ; first documented concert performance of Handel: “Water Music” at the Stationer’s Hall in London (Gregorian date: Feb. 20); Handel’s “Water Music” had been premiered on July 17/28, 1717, during a famous royal barge excursion on the river Thames;

  • 1727 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 84 ("Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke") probably performed on Septuagesimae Sunday as part of Bach's third annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1725/27);

  • 1728 - Gay & Pepusch: ballad-opera, “The Beggar’s Opera,” in London (Julian date: Jan. 29);

  • 1812 - Beethoven: private premieres of "The Ruins of Athens" and "King Stephen" Overture and Incidental Music, as part of a production at the opening of a new theater in Pest, Hungary (see also Feb. 10 for offical public premiere);

  • 1886 - Mussorgsky (arr. Rimsky-Korsakov): opera “Khovanschchina,” posthumously, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Feb. 21);

  • 1893 - Verdi: opera, "Falstaff," in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala; This was Verdi's last opera;

  • 1909 - Albéniz: piano suite, "Iberia," in Paris;

  • 1919 - Chadwick: symphonic poem "Angel of Death" in New York;


  • 1784 - Mozart finishes his Piano Concerto No. 14 in Eb, K. 449, and enters it as the first item in his own catalogue of his compositions; The concerto may have been performed by Mozart in Vienna on March 17 that year, and also outside Vienna at the home of Barbara von Ployer, one of Mozart's pupils, for whom the work was written.

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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®