Composers Datebook®

Athletically inclined music by Janacek and Torke

Composers Datebook - March 29, 2024


One sunny afternoon in 1925, Czech composer Leos Janácek was sitting in a park listening to a military band concert. He was so taken with the fanfares he heard that he decided to write something along these lines himself. He was asked to write music for the Sokol gymnastic festival the next year, and soon he was enthusiastically working on what would become his Sinfonietta, which had its first performance on today’s date in 1926.

Janácek dedicated the work to the Czechoslovak Armed Forces and said the music was meant to express “the contemporary free man, his spiritual beauty and joy, his strength, courage and determination to fight for victory.”

Another concert showpiece inspired by an athletic event is Javelin, commissioned from American composer Michael Torke for the 1996 Olympic Games in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

“I liked the word ‘javelin,’” Torke said. “The sweeping motion of a lot of the music is like an object thrown; a slender spear such as a javelin seemed apt, I knew the title would be appropriate.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Leos Janácek (1854-1928): ‘Sinfonietta’; Boston Symphony; Seiji Ozawa, cond. EMI 47837

Michael Torke (b. 1961): ‘Javelin’; Atlanta Symphony; Yoel Levi, cond. Argo 452 101

On This Day


  • 1902 - British composer William Walton, in Oldham

  • 1936 - British composer Richard Rodney Bennett, in Broadstairs


  • 1697 - German composer and organist Nicolaus Bruhns, 32, in Husum

  • 1888 - French composer Charles-Henri Alkan, 75, in Paris

  • 1911 - French composer and organist Alexandre (Felix) Guilmant, 74, in Meudon

  • 1924 - British composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, 71, in London

  • 2001 - American jazz pianist and composer John Lewis, a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, 80, in New York


  • 1795 - possible premiere of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, in Vienna, with the composer as soloist; This concerto was written and premiered before Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, which was published first

  • 1806 - Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3, as part of the second, revised version of the opera Fidelio, at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna

  • 1836 - Wagner: opera Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), in Magdeburg at the Stadttheater; Wagner's libretto is based on Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure

  • 1874 - Dvorak: Symphony No. 3, in Prague

  • 1879 - Tchaikovsky: opera Eugene Onegin, in Moscow at the Malïy (Small) Theater (Julian date: Mar. 17)

  • 1882 - Glazunov: Symphony No. 1, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: March 17)

  • 1892 - Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1 (first movement only), in Moscow, Vasily Safanov conducting and with the composer as soloist (Julian date: March 17)

  • 1911 - Chadwick: Suite Symphonique, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, with the composer conducting

  • 2000 - Bright Sheng: String Quartet No. 4, in Richmond, Va., by the Shanghai String Quartet


  • 1871 - Royal Albert Hall is formally opened in London by Queen Victoria

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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®