Composers Datebook®

T.J. Anderson

Composers Datebook - Feb. 13, 2024


T.J. Anderson was the first Black composer to hold the title of composer-in-residence with an American symphony orchestra. That was in Atlanta, when Robert Shaw was the music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. For Atlanta, Anderson orchestrated Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha, resulting in the first full staging of that 1911 work, about 60 years after it was written, a performance that was broadcast on NPR in 1972.

In addition to orchestrating Joplin’s opera, Anderson wrote a few of his own, including Soldier Boy and Walker, which was based on the life of David Walker, an anti-slavery activist.

One of Anderson’s concert works, Squares, was premiered on today’s date in 1966 by the Oklahoma Symphony and later recorded by the Baltimore Symphony for inclusion in a now-classic set of recordings issued by Columbia Records in 1970, The Black Composer Series.

Squares is abstract and modernist, perhaps reflecting Anderson’s academic background of composition studies at the esteemed Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and with French composer Darius Milhaud at the Aspen School of Music. Before his retirement in 1990, Anderson also taught composition at several universities from Massachusetts to California.

Music Played in Today's Program

T.J. Anderson (b. 1928): Squares (Baltimore Symphony, Paul Freeman, cond.) Sony 86215

On This Day


  • 1778 - Spanish composer and guitarist Fernando Sor, in Barcelona;

  • 1870 - American composer and virtuoso pianist Leopold Godowsky, in Soshly, near Vilnius;

  • 1946 - English composer Colin Matthews, in London;


  • 1741 - Austrian composer Johann Joseph Fux, age c. 80, in Vienna;

  • 1883 - German composer composer Richard Wagner, age 69, in Venice;

  • 1968 - Italian composer Ildebrando Pizetti, age 87, in Rome;


  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 181 ("Leichgesinnte Flattergeister") and No. 18 ("Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee") performed on Sexagesimae Sunday as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1725 - Handel: opera “Rodelinda,” in London at the King’s Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: Feb. 24); On May 6/17 that same year, the score to this opera was published, the first Handel score to be offered to the public by subscription;

  • 1867 - Johann Strauss, Jr.: "Blue Danube" Waltz, in Vienna;

  • 1881 - Tchaikovsky: opera “The Maid or Orleans,” in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Feb. 25);

  • 1926 - Honegger: opera "Judith" (2nd version), at the Monte Carlo Opéra;

  • 1943 - William Schuman: "Prayer in Time of War," by the Pittsburgh Symphony, Fritz Reiner conducting;

  • 1944 - Antheil: Symphony No. 4, by the NBC Symphony, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1956 - Toch: "Peter Pan (A Symphonic Fairy Tale)" for orchestra, in Seattle;

  • 1959 - Martinu: "The Parables" for orchestra, by the Boston Symphony, Charles Munch conducting;

  • 1961 - Bernstein: "Symphonic Dances," from "West Side Story," by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Lukas Foss;

  • 1978 - Roger Reynolds: "Fiery Winds" for orchestra, in New York;


  • 1727 - Handel applies for British citizenship (Gregorian date: Feb. 24); Handel received his official citizenship seven days later, on Feb. 20/Mar. 3;

  • 1914 - ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) is formally organized in New York City, with composer Victor Herbert as its first director.

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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®