Composers Datebook®

Bach is back

Composers Datebook - June 17, 2024
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Synopsis

As Leipzig’s chief provider of both sacred and secular music, Johann Sebastian Bach probably gave a huge sigh of relief on today’s date in 1733.

The death of Imperial Elector Friedrich Augustus the First of Saxony earlier that year had resulted in a four-month period of official mourning, which meant NO elaborate sacred music at Bach’s Leipzig churches, and certainly no frivolous secular concerts with the Collegium Musicum, an orchestra of professionals and amateurs that Bach assembled periodically at Zimmermann’s coffee house in that city.

Finally, Frederich’s successor said, “Enough was enough,” and this notice appeared in a Leipzig paper:

“His Royal Highness and Electorial Grace, having given kind permission for the [resumption of] music, tomorrow, on June 17, a beginning will be made by Bach’s Collegium Musicum at Zimmermann’s Garden, at 4:00 in the afternoon, with a fine concert. The concerts will be weekly, with a new harpsichord, such as had not been heard there before, and lovers of music are expected to be present.”

So it’s not hard to imagine Bach at Zimmermann’s giving the downbeat to put the new instrument through its paces in one of his own harpsichord concertos.

Music Played in Today's Program

J.S. Bach (1685-1750): Harpsichord Concerto No. 4; Gustav Leonhardt, harpsichord; Leonhardt Consort; Telefunken 97452

On This Day

Births

  • 1818 - French opera composer Charles Gounod, in Paris

  • 1882 - Russian-born American composer Igor Stravinsky, in Oranienbaum (now Lomonosov), near St. Petersburg (Julian date: June 5). In the 19th century, the Julian calendar lagged behind the Gregorian by 12 days, and in the 20th by 13 days. For most of his life in Europe and America, Stravinsky chose to observe his birthday on June 18, but it was officially celebrated on June 17.

  • 1916 - Finnish composer Einar (Sven) Englund, in Ljugard, Gotland (Sweden)

Deaths

  • 1983 - American composer Peter Mennin, 60, in New York

Premieres

  • 1903 - Victor Herbert: operetta, Babes in Toyland, in Chicago

  • 1908 - Stravinsky: Fireworks, for the marriage of Rimsky-Korsakov's daughter to Maxmillian Steinberg (Julian date: June 4)

  • 1944 - Prokofiev: Violin Sonata No. 2, (transcription of his Flute Sonata), in Moscow, by violinist David Oistrakh and pianist Lev Oborin

  • 1957 - Stravinsky: ballet score Agon, at a 75th birthday concert for Stravinsky in Los Angeles conducted by Robert Craft. The first ballet performance of Agon occurred at the New York City Ballet on December 1, 1957, choreographed by Georges Balanchine.

  • 1959 - Barber: A Hand of Bridge, at Festival of Two Worlds in Spoletto, Italy

  • 1983 - Bernstein: opera A Quiet Place (first version), by Houston Grand Opera, John DeMain conducting. A revised version of this opera premiered at La Scala in Milan, Italy, on June 19, 1984, conducted by John Mauceri.

  • 1988 - Elliott Carter: Oboe Concerto, in Zurich, by the Zurich Collegium Musicum conducted by John Carewe, with Heinz Holliger as soloist

Others

  • 1733 - Performances by J.S. Bach’s Collegium Musicum in Leipzig resume after a period of mourning for Elector Friedrich August I

  • 1914 - Finnish composer Jean Sibelius awarded honorary degree by Yale University

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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®