Composers Datebook®

Shaw on Mozart

Composers Datebook - June 6, 2024


On today’s date in 1885, George Bernard Shaw had these thoughts after a performance of Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni:

“A century after Shakespeare’s death, it was fashionable to ridicule the pretensions of the author of Hamlet to intellectual seriousness and to apologize for his childishness. At present, a century after Mozart’s death, we have among us those who hold [similar views] of the composer of Don Giovanni. Now the truth about Shakespeare was never forgotten — never even questioned by the silent masses who read poetry, but skip notes, comments, and criticism … and the masses are similarly sound on the subject of Mozart, shown by the fact that Mozart will still draw a house when nothing else will.”

Today, Shaw is chiefly remembered as a playwright, but his collected music criticism fills three stout volumes.

Music Played in Today's Program

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Don Giovanni; Berlin Philharmonic; Herbert von Karajan, conductor; Deutsche Grammophon 419635

Frederick Loewe (1904-1988): My Fair Lady; Original Soundtrack Recording; Sony 66711

On This Day


  • 1840 - English composer Sir John Stainer, in London

  • 1869 - German composer and conductor Siegfried Wagner, in Triebschen (near Lucerne), Switzerland. He was the third of three children born to Richard Wagner and Cosima Liszt-von Bulow. Cosima’s marriage to Hans von Bulow was annulled in 1870, and she married Wagner in 1870.

  • 1903 - Soviet-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, in Tiflis (Julian date: May 24)

  • 1915 - American composer Vincent Perischetti, in Philadelphia

  • 1922 - Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, in Glasgow

  • 1939 - Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, in Utrecht


  • 1881 - Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps, 61, in Mustapha, Algiers

  • 1915 - Russian composer Sergei Taneyev, 56, in Dyud’kovo, near Zvenigorod (Gregorian date: June 19)


  • 1921 - Hindemith: one-act opera Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murder, Hope of Women) and Burmese puppet-play Nusch-Nuschi, in Stuttgart at the Württembergisches Landstheater

  • 1921 - Milhaud: ballet L'Homme et son Désir (Man and His Desire), in Paris

  • 1924 - Schoenberg: one-act melodrama Erwartung (Expectation), in Prague at the New German Theater

  • 1925 - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 2, in Paris, with Serge Koussevitzky conducting

  • 1928 - R. Strauss: opera Die Aegyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen), in Dresden at the Staatsoper, conducted by Fritz Busch, and with vocal soloists Elisabeth Rethberg (Helena) and Curt Taucher (Menelas)

  • 1931 - Cowell: Synchrony, in Paris, at the first of two concerts of modern American music with the Orchestre Straram conducted by Nicholas Slonimsky and funded anonymously by Charles Ives. On the same program, Slonimsky also conducted the Orchestre Straram in the European premieres of works by Adolph Weiss (American Life), Ives (Three Places in England), Carl Ruggles (Men and Mountains), and the Cuban composer Amadeo Roldan (La Rehambatamba). See June 11, 1931 for the program of the second concert of chamber works.

  • 1943 - Shostakovich: Piano Sonata No. 2, in Moscow, by the composer

  • 1947 - Leroy Anderson: Irish Suite by the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall, Arthur Fiedler conducting (commissioned by the Eire Society of Boston for its annual Irish Night at the Pops)

  • 1998 - Esa-Pekka Salonen: Gambit at the Holland Festival, by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by the composer


  • 1727 - The opera season of the Royal Academy in London ends early, when rival prima donnas Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni come to blows on stage during a performance of Bononcini’s opera Astianatte (Gregorian date: June 17)

  • 1922 - The American Academy in Rome awards American composer Randall Thompson its third two-year composition fellowship. The first fellowship was awarded to Leo Sowerby on October 4, 1921, and the second to Howard Hanson on November 9, 1921. The fellowship awards continue to this day.

  • 1962 - The Beatles audition with music producer George Martin at their first recording session at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios.

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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.

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