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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, February 26

Symphonies by Bizet and Harris

Synopsis

Two interesting symphonies had their premieres on today's date just eight years apart. Oddly enough, they were composed nearly ninety years apart.

The first was the Symphony in C by George Bizet, written in 1855 when the composer was only 17. It was mislaid in his papers, ignored by Bizet himself as a naive youthful exercise, and not revived until 1935. It was performed for the first time on the 26th of February that year in Basel, Switzerland under the baton of Felix Weingartner, who found a copy of the score that had been kept in the Paris Conservatory.

The other work that premiered today was the Fifth Symphony of the American composer Roy Harris. It was written in 1942, during the Second World War, and was reportedly inspired by reports of heroic resistance by the Soviet Union to the Nazi invasion. Harris dedicated this symphony to the Red Army in honor of its 25th anniversary.

The first performance—given by Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony on February 26th, 1943—was broadcast via short wave to the Soviet Union. Ironically, despite Harris's unquestionable credentials as a loyal American and enthusiastic patriot, his pro-Soviet Symphony No. 5 was to become something of an embarrassment when our one-time Soviet allies became Public Enemy No. 1 during the long Cold War period that followed the end of the Second World War.

Music Played in Today's Program

Georges Bizet (1823 - 1892) Symphony No. 1 in C ORTF Orchestra; Jean Martinon, cond. DG 437 371

Roy Harris (1899 - 1979) Symphony No. 5 Louisville Orchestra; Robert Whitney, cond. Albany 012

Additional Information

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