Composers Datebook®

Michael Praetorius

Composers Datebook - Feb. 15, 2024


Today’s date in 1621 marks the passing of a famous German composer of the Renaissance period, born Michael Schultze, or Schultheiss, but who Latinized his name to Praetorius, and under that name became one of the most popular composers of his time.

Praetorius died 64 years before the birth of J. S. Bach, the great German composer of the Baroque age. Praetorius was the son of a Lutheran minister, and like Bach, wrote a good deal of Lutheran church music, and his 1609 setting of the German hymn tune “Es Ist ein Ros Entsprungen” (“Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming”) is still sung by choirs today.

But Praetorius’ most enduring contribution to music was secular, not sacred. In 1612, he collected and harmonized more than 300 instrumental Renaissance dance tunes and published them in a compendium he titled Terpsichore, after the name of the Greek muse of the dance.

Praetorius included a list of instruments that could be used in performing these dances but does not specify which ones should play each dance. Not to worry, since Praetorius also published a work titled Syntagma Musicum, or The Syntax of Music, a detailed history and description of all known musical instruments from biblical times to the present — so take your pick!

Music Played in Today's Program

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621): Dances from Terpsichore (New London Consort; Philip Picket, cond.) Decca/L’oiseau-lyre 4759101

On This Day


  • 1571 - possible birth date of German composer Michael Praetorius, in Creuzberg an der Werra, near Eisenach;

  • 1847 - Austrian composer Robert Fuchs, in Frauenthal, Styria;

  • 1899 - French composer Georges Auric, in Lodève;

  • 1907 - French composer and organist Jean Langlais, in La Fontenelle;

  • 1947 - American composer John Adams, in Worcester, Mass.;

  • 1949 - American composer Christopher Rouse, in Baltimore, Maryland;


  • 1621 - German composer Michael Praetorius, supposedly on his 50th birthday, in Wolfenbüttel;

  • 1857 - Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, age 52, in Berlin;

  • 1887 - Russian composer Alexander Borodin (Gregorian date: Feb. 27);

  • 1974 - Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg, age 86, in Stockholm;

  • 1992 - American composer William Schuman, age 81 in New York; He won the first Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1943 for his Walt Whitman cantata, "A Free Song";


  • 1686 - Lully: opera "Armide et Renaud," (after Tasso) in Paris;

  • 1845 - Verdi: opera "Giovanna D'Arco" (Joan of Arc) in Milan at the Teatro all Scala;

  • 1868 - Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 ("Winter Dreams") (first version), in Moscow (Julian date Feb. 3); A revised version of this symphony premiered in Moscow on Nov. 19/Dec. 1, 1883;

  • 1874 - Bizet: "Patrie" Overture, in Paris, by the Concerts Pasedeoup;

  • 1884 - Tchaikovsky: opera "Mazeppa" in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theater (Julian date: Feb. 3);

  • 1919 - Loeffler: "Music for Four Stringed Instruments" at New York's Aeolina Hall by the Flonzaley Quartet;

  • 1939 - Miakovsky: Symphony No. 19 for wind band, in Moscow;

  • 1945 - Paul Creston: Symphony No. 2, by the New York Philharmonic, with Arthur Rodzinski conducting;

  • 1947 - Korngold: Violin Concerto, by the St. Louis Symphony, with Jascha Heifetz as soloist;

  • 1958 - Diamond: orchestral suite "The World of Paul Klee," in Portland, Ore.;

  • 1965 - B.A. Zimmermann: opera "Die Soldaten" (The Soldiers), in Cologne at the Städtische Oper;


  • 1940 - American Music Center, a library and information center for American composers, is founded in New York City.

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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®