Composers Datebook®

Carter's last premiere

Composers Datebook - March 8, 2024


At Carnegie Hall on today’s date in 2015, the Met Chamber Ensemble gave the posthumous premiere of a new work by American composer Elliott Carter, who died in November 2012, a month or so shy of what would have been his 104th birthday.

The debut of The American Sublime marked the last world premiere performance of Carter’s 75-year-long composing career.

Hearing Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at Carnegie Hall in the 1920s inspired Carter to become a composer. A high school teacher introduced him to Charles Ives, who became a mentor. By the mid-1930s, Carter was writing music in the “populist modern” style, à la Copland, but during a year spent in the Arizona desert in 1950, Carter finished his String Quartet No. 1 — 40 minutes of music uncompromising in both its technical difficulty and structural intricacy.

"That crazy long first quartet was played in Belgium," Carter recalled. "It was played over the radio, and I got a letter from a coal miner, in French, who said, 'I liked your piece. It's just like digging for coal.' He meant that it was hard and took effort."

Music Played in Today's Program

Elliott Carter (1908-2012): Horn Concerto (2006); Martin Owen, fh; BBC Symphony; Oliver Knussen, cond. Bridge 9314

On This Day


  • 1714 - German composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (the third son of J.S. Bach), in Weimar;

  • 1904 - Greek composer Nikos Skalkottas, on the island of Euboca;

  • 1911 - American composer Alan Hovhaness, in Somerville, Mass.;


  • 1869 - French composer Hector Berlioz, 62, in Paris;

  • 1957 - Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck, 70, in Zurich;

  • 1961 - British conductor and arranger Sir Thomas Beecham, 81, in London;

  • 1983 - English composer and conductor Sir William Walton, 80, in Ischia;


  • 1752 - Handel: oratorio Jephtha, in London (Julian date: Feb. 26);

  • 1896 - Rachmaninoff: symphonic fantasy The Rock, in Moscow (Gregorian date: Mar. 20);

  • 1898 - R. Strauss: tone-poem Don Quixote, in Cologne, Wüllner conducting;

  • 1902 - Sibelius: Symphony No. 2, by the Helsinki Philharmonic, with the composer conducting;

  • 1903 - Enescu: Rumanian Rhapsodies Nos. 1 and 2, in Bucharest, with the composer conducting;

  • 1934 - Piston: Concerto for Orchestra, by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1954 - Stravinsky: Three Songs from William Shakespeare, at an Evenings on the Roof concert in Los Angeles conducted by Robert Craft;

  • 1956 - David Diamond: Symphony No. 6, by the Boston Symphony, Charles Munch conducting;

  • 1957 - Xenakis: Pithoprakta, in Munich;

  • 1979 - Rihm: opera Jakob Lenz, in Hamburg at the Opera stabile (Staatsoper);

  • 1991 - Daniel Asia: At the Far Edge for orchestra, by the Seattle Youth Symphony, Ruben Gurevich conducting;

  • 2000 - Karen Tanaka: At the Grave of Beethoven for string quartet, in London, by the Brodsky Quartet;

  • 2000 - John Tavener: The Lord's Prayer, in Guildford (England), by the Tallis Scholars.

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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®