Composers Datebook®

Margaret Bonds

Composers Datebook - March 3, 2024


Today marks the birth in 1913 of American composer Margaret Bonds. Her mother was a church musician in Chicago; her father was a physician and one of the founders of a medical association for Black physicians denied membership in the American Medical Association.

One of the visitors to Bonds’ childhood home was composer Florence Price, with whom she studied composition. At 16, Bonds became one of the few Black students enrolled at Northwestern University, although she was not allowed to live on campus. At the 1933 World’s Fair, Bonds performed Price’s Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, becoming the first African-American woman soloist to appear with a major American orchestra.

After earning her master’s degree, she moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School. She met and became a close friend of poet Langston Hughes, with whom she collaborated on many projects.

Bonds wrote about 200 works, but only 47 were published during her lifetime, and only about 75 of her scores are known today. The rest exist as privately held manuscripts scattered all over the country.

One of her best-known works is Troubled Water, a solo piano fantasia on the spiritual “Wade in the Water.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Margaret Bonds (1913-1972): ‘Troubled Water’; Joel Fan, piano; Reference Recordings RR-119

On This Day


  • 1891 - Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba, in Madrid;


  • 1768 - Italian composer Nicola Porpora, 81, in Naples;

  • 1824 - Italian composer and violin virtuoso Giovanni Battista Viotti, 68, in London;

  • 1932 - British-born German composer and pianist Eugène d'Albert, 67, in Riga;


  • 1793 - Haydn: Symphony No. 101 (The Clock), conducted by the composer, at the Hanover-Square Concert Rooms in London;

  • 1842 - Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 (Scottish), by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, with the composer conducting;

  • 1853 - revised version of R. Schumann: Symphony No. 4, with the Düsseldorf Municipal Orchestra, conducted by the composer; An earlier version of this symphony premiered in Leipzig in 1841 as Schumann's Symphony "No. 2," but the composer withdrew the score and composed and premiered a new Symphony No. 2 and Symphony No. 3 before revising and reintroducing this symphony as "No. 4";

  • 1870 - Brahms: Alto Rhapsody, by the singer Pauline Viardot-Garcia, in Jena, Germany;

  • 1875 - Bizet: opera Carmen, in Paris at the Opéra-Comique;

  • 1893 - George Templeton Strong, Jr.: Symphony No. 2 (Sintram), at a public afternoon rehearsal by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, with Anton Seidl conducting; The "official" premiere concert took place the following evening;

  • 1899 - R. Strauss: tone-poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life), in Frankfurt, with Strauss conducting;

  • 1918 - Bartók: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 17, in Budapest, by the Waldbauer Quartet;

  • 1944 - Barber: Symphony No. 2, by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1951 - Otto Luening: Kentucky Concerto by the Louisville Orchestra, with the composer conducting;

  • 1959 - Cowell: Symphony No. 13 (Madras) in Madras, India;

  • 1963 - Menotti: television opera Labyrinth, broadcast over the NBC network;


  • 1886 - American premiere (in a concert version) of Wagner's Parsifal at the Old Metropolitan Opera House, by the New York Symphony and Oratorio Society conducted by the 24-year old Walter Damrosch; The soloists included soprano Marianne Brandt, who had alternated the role of Kundry with soprano Amalie Materna in the premiere staged performances of the opera in Bayreuth in July of 1882; The first fully staged presentation of "Parsifal" in the U.S. did not occur at the Met until Dec. 24, 1903;

  • 1922 - U.S. premiere of concert version of Stravinsky's ballet score, The Rite of Spring, in Philadelphia, with 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®