Composers Datebook®

Pizzetti in New York

Composers Datebook - Feb. 28, 2024


For most music lovers, the phrase “Italian composers of the 19th and 20th centuries” means, first and foremost, opera composers.

But during the 1920s and 1930s, when great Italian opera conductor Arturo Toscanini was music director of the New York Philharmonic, American audiences heard many nonoperatic, symphonic works by modern Italian composers.

On today’s date in 1929, for example, Toscanini led the New York Philharmonic in the world premiere performance of Concerto dell ‘Estate (Summer Concerto), by contemporary Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti.

In addition to premieres by Pizzetti, New York audiences heard recent Italian symphonic works by Respighi, Tommasini, Martucci, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Wolf-Ferrari and others.

Absent from Toscanini’s New York programs were new works by the rising American composers of the day. There were no Toscanini premieres — or even performances — of works by Copland, Harris or Piston. Those composers had to look to the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky if they wanted a hearing.

American composer Daniel Gregory Mason complained in 1931 that the Philharmonic was run by “fashion-enslaved, prestige-hypnotized minds ... totally devoid of any American loyalty to match the Italian loyalty” that was, as Mason admitted, “rather likeable” in the charismatic Italian maestro.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968): Rondo Veneziano; BBC Scottish Symphony; Osmo Vänskä, cond. Hyperion 67084

On This Day


  • 1876 - American composer John Alden Carpenter, in Park Ridge, Illinois;


  • 1688 - M.-A. Charpentier: opera "David et Jonathas," in Paris;

  • 1728 - Handel: opera “Siroe, re di Persia” (Julian date: Feb. 17);

  • 1862 - Gounod: opera "La Reine de Saba" (The Queen of Sheba), in Paris;

  • 1888 - Tchaikovsky: “Pezzo capriccioso” for cello and orchestra, in Paris;

  • 1898 - Kalinnikov: Symphony No. 2 (Gregorian date: Mar. 12);

  • 1904 - d'Indy: Symphony No. 2 in Paris;

  • 1912 - Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 ("Sinfonia espansiva" & Violin Concerto (with soloist Emil Telmányi), in Copenhagen, with the composer conducting;

  • 1920 - Ravel: orchestral suite "Le Tombeau de Couperin," at a Pasdeloup Concert in Paris;

  • 1929 - Pizzetti: "Concerto dell'estate" (Summer Concerto) by the New York Philharmonic, Arturo Toscanini conducting;

  • 1936 - Roy Harris: Symphony No. 2, by the Boston Symphony & "Prelude and Fugue" for strings by the Philadelphia Orchestra;

  • 1940 - Cowell: "Old American Country Set," by the Indianapolis Symphony, Fabien Sevitzky conducting;

  • 1976 - Ralph Shapey: oratorio "Praise" in Chicago;

  • 1991 - John Harbison: Symphony No. 3, by the Baltimore Symphony, David Zinman conducting;

  • 1994 - George Tsontakis: "Winter Lightning" (No. 4 of "Four Symphonic Quartets" after poems by T.S. Eliot), by the Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz conducting;


  • 1739 - London music publisher John Walsh the younger issues Handel’s Trio Sonatas, Op. 5 (Gregorian date: Mar. 11);

  • 1874 - American premiere of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, at New York's Academy of Music, by the Theodore Thomas Orchestra; Thomas also introduced this concerto to Cincinnati (May 19, 1882) and Chicago (Feb. 5, 1892);

  • 1882 - The Royal College of Music is founded in London.

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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®