Composers Datebook®

Maslanka's Symphony No. 4

Composers Datebook - Feb. 10, 2024


What do you see when you hear music? That’s an odd question, perhaps, but sometimes composers confess that particular places, persons and scenes play a role in how music is created.

On today’s date in 1994, in San Antonio, Texas, for example, a new symphony for wind ensemble by the American composer David Maslanka received its premiere performance during a convention of the Texas Music Educators Association.

In program notes, Maslanka confessed two major inspirations: The first was “the powerful voice of the Earth that comes to me from my adopted western Montana, and the high plains and mountains of central Idaho.” The second, he said, was his fascination with President Abraham Lincoln. Maslanka explained that reading about a Civil War brass band playing the “Old Hundreth” hymn tune at sunset as Lincoln’s coffin was transferred to a waiting funeral train was an image that haunted him.

“For me,” Maslanka wrote, “Lincoln’s life and death are as critical today as they were more than a century ago. … My impulse through this music is to speak to the fundamental human issues of transformation and rebirth in this chaotic time.”

Music Played in Today's Program

David Maslanka (1943-2017): Symphony No. 4; Dallas Wind Symphony; Jerry Junkin, cond. Reference Recordings RR-108

On This Day


  • 1908 - Canadian composer and pianist Jean Coulthard, in Vancouver;

  • 1929 - American film score composer Jerry Goldsmith;

  • 1939 - American composer Barbara Kolb, in Hartford, Conn.;


  • 1744 - Handel: oratorio “Semele,” in London at the Covent Garden Theater (Gregorian date: Feb. 21);

  • 1749 - Handel: oratorio “Susanna” in London at the Covent Garden Theater (Gregorian date: Feb. 21);

  • 1794 - Haydn: Symphony No. 99, conducted by the composer, at the King's Theatre in London;

  • 1812 - Beethoven: public 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. 9);

  • 1860 - Brahms: Serenade No. 2 in A, Op. 16, in Hamburg, with the composer conducting;

  • 1878 - Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4, in Moscow (Gregorian date: Feb. 22);

  • 1881 - Offenbach: opera "The Tales of Hoffmann," posthumously, in Paris at the Opéra Comique;

  • 1882 - Rimsky-Korsakov: opera “The Snow Maiden” (first version), in St. Petersburg, Napravnik conducting (Julian date: Jan. 29);

  • 1896 - Walter Damrosch: opera "The Scarlet Letter," in Boston;

  • 1903 - Rachmaninoff: Piano Preludes Nos. 1, 2, and 5, from Op. 23 and “Variations on a Theme of Chopin” (Gregorian date: Feb. 23);

  • 1927 - Krenek: "jazz" opera "Jonny spielt auf" (Johnny Strikes Up the Band), in Leipzig at the Stadttheater;

  • 1934 - Howard Hanson: opera "Merry Mount," (staged premiere) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Tulio Serafin conducting;

  • 1949 - Antheil: Symphony No. 6, by the San Francisco Symphony, Pierre Monteux conducting;

  • 1950 - William Schuman: Violin Concerto, by Isaac Stern with the Boston Symphony with Charles Munch conducting and Isaac Stern the soloist;

  • 1961 - Piston: Symphony No. 7, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting; This work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1961;

  • 1966 - Richard Rodney Bennett: Symphony No. 1, in London;

  • 1976 - Ulysses Kay: "Southern Harmony," by the North Carolina Symphony;

  • 1995 - Daniel Asia: Piano Concerto, by the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Symphony, conducted by Carl St. Clair, with André-Michel Schub the soloist;

  • 2001 - Pierre Jalbert: "L'amour infini," (Infinite Love), by the Albany Symphony, David Alan Miller conducting;


  • 1859 - First documented complete American performance of Handel's oratorio "Israel in Egypt," at Boston's Melodeon, by the Handel and Haydn Society, Carl Zerrahn conducting; Selections from this work had been performed previously in New York and Boston; The Feb. 19 edition of Dwight's Journal enthused: "Israel at last! The great work, occasionally nibbled at, attacked in fragments, in fits of resolution few and far between, was finally essayed in earnest; and after eight more rehearsals, the giant Handel's greatest work, with the sole exception of the 'Messiah' . . . was offered to the public, and the public wouldn't have it . . . the hall was only two-thirds full";

  • 1921 - Charles Ives hears Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird" Ballet Suite at an all-Russian program by the New York Symphony at Carnegie Hall; Also on the program were works of Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff (with Rachmaninoff as piano soloist); Walter Damrosch conducted.

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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.

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