Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, August 28

Liszt and Milhaud celebrate Goethe

Synopsis

Franz Liszt, the inventor of the "symphonic poem," wrote 13 of them. The second, "Tasso," had its first performance on today's date in 1849. The occasion was a festival celebrating the 100th birthday of the great German national poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the author of "Faust." The festival was in Weimar, Germany, the city where Goethe died and was buried in 1832.

Liszt's "Tasso" was written to serve as the overture to Goethe's drama about the Italian poet "Torquato Tasso," and its premiere performance was conducted by its composer. The main theme of the work is said to be a tune Liszt claimed he heard sung by an Italian gondolier in Venice.

One of the more surprising tributes to Goethe occurred not in Germany, but in scenic Aspen, Colorado, when the Aspen Music Festival was founded in Goethe's honor in 1949 — on the 200th anniversary of his birth. The Aspen Music Festival has grown over the years and today draws some 30,000 visitors annually. One of the original founders of the Festival was French composer Darius Milhaud, who taught at the Aspen Music School for many years. This music is from Milhaud's "Aspen Serenade," written in 1957.

More recently, during conductor David Zinman years as the Festival's Music Director, many contemporary American composers, including John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, Christopher Rouse, and Augusta Read Thomas, have had their works performed — and occasionally premiered — in Aspen.

Music Played in Today's Program

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) Tasso Orchestre de Paris; Sir Georg Solti, cond London 417 513

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) Aspen Serenade, Op 361 Stuttgart Radio Symphony; Gilbert Varga, cond. CPO 999114

Additional Information

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