Composers Datebook®

Proust, Joyce, Stravinsky

Composers Datebook - May 18, 2024


Marcel Proust, James Joyce and Pablo Picasso walk into a bar. No, it’s not the start of some high-brow joke; that really happened in Paris on today’s date in 1922.

Well, not exactly: it was a hotel, not a bar, but certainly drinks were served when Sydney and Violet Schiff, two wealthy British patrons of the arts staying at the Hotel Majestic arranged what was called “soirée of the century.” The premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s opera-ballet Renard had just taken place across town, and the Schiffs decided to throw a late-night party in Stravinsky’s honor, and, to make things more interesting, invited Picasso, Joyce and Proust.

While other guests were in full evening dress, Picasso arrived with a traditional Catalan sash wrapped around his forehead. Joyce arrived late, underdressed, and already tipsy. Proust arrived even later — at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., wearing a big fur coat and with a face “pale as the afternoon moon,” as Stravinsky later recalled.

So what did they all have to say to each other? Not much, according to all accounts. After all, it was a party, not a university seminar — or a bar joke, so there was punch, but no punch line.

Music Played in Today's Program

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): Renard; Orchestre Du Domaine Musical; Pierre Boulez, conductor; Decca 481151

On This Day


  • 1830 - Austro-Hungarian composer Karl Goldmark, in Keszthely, Hungary

  • 1901 - French composer Henri Sauguet, in Bordeaux


  • 1733 - German composer and organist Georg Böhm, 71, in Lüneburg

  • 1909 - Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz, 48, in Cambo-les-Bains

  • 1910 - French composer and opera singer Pauline Viardot-Garcia, 88, in Paris

  • 1911 - Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, 50, in Vienna

  • 1975 - American composer Leroy Anderson, 66, in Woodburg, Connecticut


  • 1885 - Bruckner: String Quintet (final version), in Vienna, by the Hellmesberger Quartet with guest violist. 24 years earlier, Joseph Hellmesberger had asked Bruckner to write a quartet for his ensemble. A partial performance of this work (minus the Finale, and with its original Scherzo replaced by an Intermezzo movement) was arranged in Vienna on November 27, 1881, by Bruckner's pupil Franz Schalk.

  • 1887 - Chabrier: Le Roi Malgre Lui (The King in Spite of Himself), in Paris at the Opera Comique

  • 1897 - Dukas: tone-poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, in Paris, with the composer conducting

  • 1917 - Satie: ballet Parade, in Paris by the Ballet Russe

  • 1922 - Stravinsky: opera, Renard, at the Paris Opéra, with Ernest Anseremet conducting

  • 1939 - Douglas Moore: opera The Devil and Daniel Webster, in New York City

  • 1940 - Luigi Dallapiccola: opera Volo di Notte (Night Flight), after the novel by Antoine Saint-Exupéry), in Florence

  • 1949 - Milhaud: Sabbath Morning Service at Temple Emanu-El, in San Francisco, composer conducting

  • 1950 - Lukas Foss: opera The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (after the short story by Mark Twain) in Bloomington, Indiana

  • 1978 - Cowell: Quartet Romantic for two flutes, violin and viola, at Alice Tully Hall in New York City, by Paul Dunkel and Susan Palma (flutes), Ralph Schulte (violin) and John Graham (viola). This music was composed in 1917.

  • 1981 - Joan Tower: Sequoia in New York, with the American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies

  • 1988 - Philip Glass: opera The Fall of the House of Usher (after Poe) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the American Repertory Theater;

  • 1990 - John Harbison: Viola Concerto, in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with soloist Jaime Laredo and the New Jersey Symphony, Hugh Wolff conducting

  • 1996 - Philip Glass: opera Les Enfants Terrible (Children of the Game) based on the novel by Jean Cocteau), by the Philip Glass Ensemble at the Theatre Casino in Zug (Switzerland), Karen Kamensek 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®