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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, November 4

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge

Synopsis

Today we honor one of America’s greatest patrons of chamber music, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, who died on this date in 1953.

Born in 1864, Elizabeth was the daughter of a very wealthy wholesale grocer. She put her inheritance to good use. In 1924, she proposed to the Library of Congress that an auditorium be constructed in Washington DC, which would be dedicated to the performance of chamber music. A year later it was built, and Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress still stands today.

Not content with just a superb venue for chamber music, Mrs. Coolidge diligently commissioned new works to be played there. The list of important chamber pieces her Foundation commissioned is impressive, and includes Bartok and Schoenberg string quartets, the original chamber versions of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” Stravinsky’s “Apollo” ballets, and modern works by American composers as diverse as Samuel Barber, Milton Babbitt, George Crumb, and John Corigliano.

Mrs. Coolidge was herself an amateur composer and accomplished pianist. Her passion for music and enthusiasm for the creation of new works was all the more remarkable considering that tragically she herself battled deafness from her mid-thirties.

Music Played in Today's Program

Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) Apollo Ballet Stockholm Chamber Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond. Sony Classical 46667

Additional Information

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