Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Tuesday, September 12

Milhaud and Bernstein in Venice

Synopsis

Have you ever been to Venice? A good number of the 20th century's greatest composers have—for decades they routinely visited that city's famous canals and churches during a biennial music festival that showcased brand-new works by the likes of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Britten, and others.

The French composer Darius Milhaud describes sharing space with several of his composer-colleagues in a cramped Festival "green room." "It was a normal sight to see Stravinsky's rain-coat and Constant Lambert's tweed overcoat hanging near my two walking sticks," writes Milhaud. "Meanwhile, the Italian composer Hildebrando Pizetti would be putting up a mirror, opening a silver toilet-case, and arranging flowers, his wife's photograph and a sheaf of telegrams."

On today's date in 1937, Milhaud conducted the first performance of his "Suite Provencale" at the Venice Festival. This jaunty score proved to be one of his most popular orchestral works.

In 1954, it was Leonard Bernstein's turn. On today's date that year, he conducted in Venice the premiere performance of his "Serenade" for violin and orchestra, with Isaac Stern the featured soloist. Like Milhaud's "Suite Provencale," Bernstein's "Serenade" has become one of that composer's most frequently programmed concert works.

Despite its admirable track record for picking winners, the Venice Festival shut down operations in 1973, although its impact lives on in the number of modern masterworks it helped launch in its day.

Music Played in Today's Program

Darius Milhaud (1892 - 1974) Suite provençale, Op. 152b Detroit Symphony; Neeme Järvi, cond. Chandos 7031

Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) Serenade (after Plato's "Symposium") Zino Francescatti, violin; NY Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. Sony 60559

Additional Information

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