Composers Datebook®

Bernstein, Blitzstein and Brecht

Composers Datebook - June 14, 2024
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Synopsis

Bernstein, Blitzstein and Brecht … it sounds a little like a law firm, doesn’t it?

But today, we celebrate the anniversary of an important musical partnership involving those three gentlemen.

Marc Blitzstein and Leonard Bernstein were two American composers who shared a passion for musical theater. Bertolt Brecht was a German poet and playwright perhaps best known here for his collaboration with the composer Kurt Weill on The Three Penny Opera.

The artistic careers of Bernstein, Blitzstein and Brecht came together on today’s date in 1952, when, as part of the First Festival of the Creative Arts held at Brandeis University, Leonard Bernstein conducted the premiere of a new English-language version of Three Penny Opera.

Blitzstein had seen the original 1928 production of Three Penny Opera when he was a student in Berlin, and some 20 years later had translated one of the show’s songs just for fun. He got the chance to perform his translation for Kurt Weill, and Weill was so impressed he encouraged Blitzstein to translate the entire work.

The Blitzstein version of the Three Penny Opera proved so successful that when it opened in an off-Broadway New York production, it ran for 2,707 performances.

Music Played in Today's Program

Kurt Weill (1900-1950): Little Threepenny Music; London Symphony members; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor; CBS 44529

On This Day

Births

  • 1730 - Italian opera composer Antonio Sacchini, in Florence

  • 1835 - Russian composer, pianist and conductor Nicolai Rubinstein (brother of Anton), in Moscow (Julian date: June 2). He is probably best known for his severe criticism of Tchaikovksy's Piano Concerto No. 1 when the new work was submitted to him for consideration in 1874. He eventually changed his mind, and conducted the work as part of all-Russian concerts at the Paris Exposition in 1878.

Deaths

  • 1594 - Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus (aka Orlando di Lasso, Orlandus Lassus, Roland Delattre), in Munich, 61 or 62 (exact date of his birth is not known)

  • 1911 - Norwegian composer, conductor and violinist Johan Svendsen, 70, in Copenhagen

Premieres

  • 1876 - Delibes: ballet, Sylvia, in Paris

  • 1927 - Gliere: ballet, The Red Poppy, in Moscow

  • 1952 - Americanized version of Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera translated by Marx Blitzstein premieres at Brandeis University as part of the first Festival of the Creative Arts, with Leonard Bernstein conducting

  • 1962 - Stravinsky: The Flood, on CBS Television

  • 1985 - John Harbison: Concerto for Oboe, Clarinet and Strings, in Sarasota, Florida, with oboist Sarah Bloom and clarinetist Charles Russo, with the New College Festival Orchestra, Paul Wolfe conducting

  • 2001 - Daniel S. Godfrey: revised version of String Quartet No. 3, at the Seal Bay Music Festival in Rockport, Maine, by the Cassett Quartet

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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®