Composers Datebook®

A Bartok premiere (and patron)

Composers Datebook - April 8, 2024


On today’s date in 1935, the Kolisch Quartet gave the premiere performance of Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 5 in the auditorium of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. That performance was part of a chamber music festival sponsored by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, one of the 20th century’s great musical patrons.

In 1925, she created a foundation to enable the Library of Congress to present concerts and commission new works in the nation’s capital. Among the major American works commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation were Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children. Coolidge herself was an accomplished musician and amateur composer. One of her chief advisors was Dutch cellist and conductor Hans Kindler, who once contacted Sibelius with a Coolidge commission for a new cello concerto, which, sadly, never materialized. It was Kindler who suggested commissioning a string quartet from Bartók, this time with success.

After its premiere, the critic for The Musical Courier wrote: “Mr. Bartók’s [new quartet] is impressionistic and well-wrought.”

The critic for Musical America was less impressed: “It honestly treats folk melody with a healthy vigor … [but] there is … no subtle play of light and shade.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Béla Bartók (1881-1945): String Quartet No. 5; Emerson String Quartet; DG 423 657

On This Day


  • 1533 - Italian composer and publisher Claudio Merculo, in Correggio

  • 1692 - Italian composer and violin virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini, in Pirano

  • 1881 - Russian composer Nikolai Miaskovsky (Gregorian date: April 20)


  • 1848 - Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, 50, in Bergamo

  • 1858 - Austrian composer and publisher Anton Diabelli, 76, in Vienna

  • 1920 - American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes, 35, in New York

  • 1937 - American composer Arthur Foote, 84, in Boston


  • 1708 - Handel: oratorio La Resurrezione (The Resurrection), at the Bonelli Palace in Rome, with Arcangelo Corelli leading the orchestra

  • 1876 - Ponchielli: opera La Gioconda, in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala

  • 1894 - Bruckner: Symphony No. 5, in Graz, with Franz Schalk conducting his own much-edited and re-orchestrated version of Bruckner's score. The Schalk edition was subsequently published as the “official” version of the symphony. The composer's original version of this symphony was first performed in 1935 and published in 1936.

  • 1927 - Varèse: Arcana for orchestra, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting

  • 1931 - Shostakovich: ballet The Bolt, in Leningrad, at the Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet

  • 1935 - Bartók: String Quartet No. 5, at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, by the Kolisch Quartet

  • 1938 - Walter Piston: Symphony No. 1, by the Boston Symphony, with the composer conducting

  • 1949 - Bernstein: Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety), by the Boston Symphony conducted by Serge Koussevutzky, with composer as piano soloist

  • 1983 - Christopher Rouse: Rotae Passionis (Passion Wheels) for chamber ensemble, in Boston, by Boston Musica Viva, Richard Pittman conducting

  • 1985 - Michael Torke: The Yellow Pages for chamber quintet, at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, by the Yale Contemporary Players

  • 1989 - Libby Larsen: Songs from Letters (of Calamity Jane to her daughter), for soprano and orchestra, in New York, by soprano Mary Elizabeth Poorel

  • 1999 - Bright Sheng: Three Songs for pipa and cello, at The White House in Washington, DC, by Wu Man (pipa) and Yo-Yo Ma (cello)


  • 1739 - London music publisher John Walsh the younger issues Handel's Trio Sonatas, Op. 5 (Julian date: Feb. 28)

  • 1805 - Haydn, 73, gives his blessing to Mozart's 14-year old son, Franz Xaver Mozart, at the teenager’s first public concert

  • 1865 - American premiere of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertate for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, in New York, with violinist Theodore Thomas and violist Georg Matzka (A review of this concert in the New York Times said: “On the whole, we would prefer death to a repetition of this production. The wearisome scale passages on the little fiddle repeated ad nausea on the bigger one were simply maddening.”)

  • 1886 - Franz Liszt plays for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle

  • 1931 - Abram Chasins: Flirtation in a Chinese Garden and Parade (orchestral versions of two of his Three Chinese Pieces for piano) become the first pieces of American music conducted by Arturo Toscanini as music director of the New York Philharmonic

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


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®