Composers Datebook®

A fanfare for Women's History Month

Composers Datebook - March 1, 2024


For most of the 20th century, women’s history was almost totally ignored in American schools. To address this situation, an education task force in Sonoma County, California, initiated a women’s history celebration in March 1978. What began as an annual Women’s History Week grew over the years into a national celebration, and in 1987, Congress declared the whole of March to be Women's History Month.

Appropriately enough, 1987 also saw the premiere performance of Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman — music written for the same instrumentation as Aaron Copland’s famous Fanfare for the Common Man.

Originally, Tower chose to let the title of her Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman serve as a generic, built-in dedication to all the unsung heroes of women’s struggles past and present. But eventually, Tower added a specific dedication to conductor Marin Alsop, a champion of new music.

“I don’t think you can play a piece of music and say whether it’s written by a man or a woman,” Tower says. “I think music is genderless.”

But festivals and celebrations of women in music remain important, in Tower’s view, in helping to get the word out about their accomplishments.

Music Played in Today's Program

Joan Tower (b. 1938): ‘Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman’; Colorado Symphony; Marin Alsop, cond. Koch International 7469

On This Day


  • 1810 - Polish composer and pianist Frederic Chopin, in Zelazowa Wola (This is the date Chopin and his friends observed, although the composer's baptismal certificate says he was born on Feb. 22);

  • 1896 - Greek conductor and composer Dimitri Mitropoulos, in Athens;


  • 1643 - Italian composer Girolamo Frescobaldi, 59, in Rome;

  • 1777 - Austrian composer Georg Christoph Wagenseil, 62, in Vienna;

  • 1976 - French conductor and composer Jean Martinon, 66, in Paris;

  • 1980 - American folksinger and folksong collector John Jacob Niles, 88, near Lexington, Ky.;


  • 1736 - Handel: cantata Alexander's Feast, Concerto Grosso in C (HWV. 318), Harp Concerto, Op. 4, no. 6, and Organ Concerto, Op. 4, no. 1, in London (Julian date: Feb. 19);

  • 1743 - Handel: oratorio Samson and possibly the Organ Concerto Op. 7, no. 2, in London (Julian date: Feb. 18);

  • 1950 - Menotti: opera The Consul, in Philadelphia at the Shubert Theatre; The opera opened in New York City on March 15, 1950, and won that year's Pulitzer Prize for Music;

  • 1950 - Prokofiev: Cello Sonata, Op. 119 (first public performance), at the Moscow Conservatory, by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Sviatoslav Richter; The same artists had given a private performance of the work in Moscow, at the House of the Union of Composers on Dec. 6, 1949;

  • 1958 - Pizzetti: opera Assassinio della Cattedrale (based on T.S. Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral), at the Teatro della Scala in Milan;

  • 1968 - Andrew Lloyd Webber: musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (first version) at Colet Court Prep School in London;

  • 1979 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical Sweeny Todd;

  • 2003 - Beethoven: "Largo" movement from a lost Oboe Concerto written in 1792, reconstructed by Dutch musicologists Jos van der Zanden and Cees Nieuwenhuizen, by the Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra conducted by Conrad van Alphen, with Alexei Ogrintchouk the oboe soloist;


  • 1907 - American premiere of Debussy: La Mer, by the Boston Symphony, Karl Muck conducting;

  • 1916 - U.S. premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 8, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting.

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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®