Classical Music Timeline: 1870s

This is one of a series of postings of important classical music dates, from the 17th century to the present. Included are the date and location of the birth and death of composers, and the premiere date and location of the first public performance of works. When the premiere date and location is unknown, the date or year of completion of the work is given. Though reasonably comprehensive, this is a subjective list, so the choice of composers and works is mine. If you find any errors, or if you can offer a premiere date and location for a work where only the completion date or year is listed, please post a comment here.

1870
January 5 – Liebeslieder Waltzes, op. 52, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

April 8 – Charles Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870) died in Brussels, Belgium

1871
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed The Bridal Procession Passes By, op. 19, no. 2 [later orchestrated by Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) as the Norwegian Bridal Procession]

1872
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed the incidental music for Sigurd Jorsalfar, op. 22

May 1 – Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960) was born in Stockholm, Sweden

May 16 – Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940) was born in Lyubim, Russia

October 12 – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England

November 10 – L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1, op. 23bis, incidental music by Georges Bizet (1837-1875) was first performed in Paris, France

1873
January 19 – Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, op. 33, by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was first performed in Paris, France

April 1 – Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was born in Oneg, Novgorod, Russia

April 22 – Wiener Blut, op. 354, waltz by Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

November 2 – Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, op. 56a, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

November 10 – Henri Rabaud (1873-1949) was born in Paris, France

December 11 – String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, op. 51, no. 1, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

1874
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) completed Der Abend (The Evening) from Three Quartets, op. 64, no. 2

January 4 – Josef Suk (1874-1935) was born in Křečovice, Czech Republic

May 22Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was first performed in Milan, Italy

June 22 – Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) completed Pictures at an Exhibition, for piano

September 21 – Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England

1875
January 11 – Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) was born in Kyiv, Ukraine

January 24 – Danse macabre, op. 40, by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was first performed in Paris, France

February 2 – Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was born in Vienna, Austria

March 3 – Carmen, opera by Georges Bizet (1837-1875) was first performed in Paris, France

March 7 – Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was born in Ciboure, France

May 8 – Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes, op. 65, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Karlsruhe, Germany

June 3 – Georges Bizet (1837-1875) died in Bougival, France

September 15 – Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) died in Paris, France

October 31 – Piano Concerto No. 4 in C minor, op. 44, by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was first performed in Paris, France

November 18 – Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, op. 60, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

1876
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed Ballade in the Form of Variations on a Norwegian Folk Song in G minor, op. 24, for piano

January 12 – Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) was born in Venice, Italy

January 28 – Sérénade mélancolique in B♭ minor for violin and orchestra, op. 26, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

February 24 – Peer Gynt, op. 23, incidental music by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was first performed in Oslo, Norway

November 4 – Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Karlsruhe, Germany

November 18 – Slavonic March in B♭ minor, op. 31, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 23 – Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) was born in Cádiz, Spain

December 10 – Serenade for Strings in E major, op. 22, by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

1877
March 4 – Swan Lake, op. 20, ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

March 9 – Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, op. 32, symphonic poem by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

July 27 – Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) was born in Bratislava, Slovakia

November 21 – Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) was born in Oberndorf am Neckar, Germany

December 2 – Symphonic Variations, op. 78, by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

December 9 – Cello Concerto in D minor by Édouard Lalo (1823-1892) was first performed in Paris, France

December 9 – Romance in F minor for Violin and Orchestra, op. 11, by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

December 30 – Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 73, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

1878
Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931) completed The Enchanted Forest (La forêt enchantée), op. 8

February 22 – Symphony No. 4 in F minor, op. 36, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

1879
L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2, incidental music by Georges Bizet (1837-1875) and compiled by Ernest Guiraud (1837-1892), was published

Nocturne in B major, op. 40, by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Nice, France

January 1 – Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Leipzig, Germany

February 26 – Frank Bridge (1879-1941) was born in Brighton, England

March 4 – Symphony No. 2 in B minor (revised) by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

May 16 – Czech Suite in D major, op. 39, by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

July 9 – Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was born in Bologna, Italy

October 19 – Symphony No. 5 in F minor for Organ, op. 42, no. 1, by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

October 21 – Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957) was born in Annonay, France

October 29 – Eight Pieces for Piano, op. 76, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

November 8 – Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, op. 78, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Bonn, Germany

1860s

1880s

Scythia Sweet

One of the enjoyable aspects of recording asteroids passing in front of stars (we call them asteroid occultations) is the interesting names of some of the asteroids. This month, Bob Dunford, Steve Messner, and I had two double-chord events across the asteroid 1306 Scythia, discovered in this month of 1930 by Soviet astronomer Grigory Neujmin (1886-1946).

The name 1306 Scythia immediately brought to mind a favorite piece of music, the Scythian Suite—surely one of the most unusual and otherworldly compositions by Sergei Prokofiev, or anyone else for that matter.

A quick look at the entry for 1306 Scythia in the 5th edition of Dictionary of Minor Planet Names by Lutz D. Schmadel (1942-2016) quickly confirmed my suspicion that the subject matter of both asteroid and musical composition is the same.

Named for the country of the ancient Scythians comprising parts of Europe and Asia now in the U.S.S.R. in regions north of the Black sea and east of the Aral sea.

In the wee hours of Friday, July 12, Bob Dunford in Illinois and I in Wisconsin observed only the second asteroid occultation of 1306 Scythia (and the first since 2014). The predicted path is shown below.

Predicted shadow path of the asteroid 1306 Scythia from the star Tycho 5189-597-1 (UCAC4 414-136241) on 12 July 2019 UT.

Bob, who was observing at Naperville, observed a 4.3-second dip in brightness as the asteroid covered the star between 8:23:46.203 and 8:23:50.531 UT, and I, observing at Dodgeville, observed a 1.3-second event between 8:24:01.783 and 8:24:03.054. Our light curves are shown below.

Bob Dunford’s light curve of the 1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT, using a 14-inch telescope.
David Oesper’s light curve of the 1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT, using a 12-inch telescope.

Here’s a map showing our observing locations relative to the predicted path.

1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT – Predicted Path and Observer Locations

Here’s the profile showing the chords across the asteroid.

1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT – Asteroid Profile and Chords

Just four days later, both Bob Dunford and I had a high probability event of the same asteroid passing in front of a different star, and this time we were joined by Steve Messner. Bob and Steve both got positives! Unfortunately, I was clouded out.

Predicted shadow path of the asteroid 1306 Scythia from the star TYC 5188-573-1 on 16 July 2019 UT.
1306 Scythia / Tycho 5188-573-1 event of 16 July 2019 UT – Predicted Path and Observer Locations
1306 Scythia / Tycho 5188-573-1 event of 16 July 2019 UT – Asteroid Profile and Chords

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote the Scythian Suite in 1915 when he was 24 years of age. Even at that young age, Prokofiev already showed great talent and originality.

Sergei Prokofiev, circa 1918

Here are some excerpts of the Scythian Suite performed by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Stanisław Skrowaczewski. This is a 1983 recording (Vox Box CD3X 3016). The movement descriptions are based on those given in Wikipedia.

1st movement: Invocation to Veles and Ala – barbaric and colorful music describing the Scythians’ invocation of the sun.

Some of the music you’ve heard in the original “Star Trek” certainly was inspired by this.
Alien landscape music
Alien landscape music #2

2nd movement: The Alien God and the Dance of the Evil Spirits – as the Scythians make a sacrifice to Ala, daughter of Veles, the Alien God performs a violent dance surrounded by seven monsters.

Best to observe this nasty dance from a distance…
This certainly reminds me of Dmitri Shostakovich, but he was only 9 years old at the time and just beginning to compose!

3rd movement: Night – the Alien God harms Ala; the Moon Maidens descend to console her.

This beautiful movement of many moods begins peacefully, then moves to a section of descending lines that might remind you of “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, but this was being written at the exact same time as the Scythian Suite! Next the music takes an ominous turn, and then returns to a little night music, but more a travel through interstellar or intergalactic space rather than a terrestrial night.

4th movement: The Glorious Departure of Lolli and the Cortège of the Sun – Lolli, the hero, comes to save Ala; the Sun God assists him in defeating the Alien God. They are victorious, and the suite ends with a musical picture of the sunrise.

Here, now, the conclusion of this remarkable work.

Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite. There is nothing else like it in the orchestral repertoire!

Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) is, of course, best known for The Planets, but I continue to discover other compositions by Holst which are truly remarkable and unjustifiably neglected.

I listened to an out-of-print compact disc this evening that features some Holst rarities: Hymn to Dionysus, Choral Hymns of the Rig Veda, and Two Eastern Pictures. Fortunately, there are still used copies available of this 1985 UK release, so I was able to purchase the disc: Unicorn Digital DKP(CD) 9046. These performances are by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir, conducted by Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015), and the legendary harpist Osian Ellis (1928-). What a gem of a recording this is! Seek it out!

The standout work on this disc is a (nearly) complete recording of the Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, written in four groups between 1908 and 1912. The Rig Veda is the oldest scripture of the Hindu religion. Not satisfied with existing English translations, Holst learned Sanskrit so that he could provide his own translation.

Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, op. 26

First Group, for chorus and orchestra (H. 96)
   I.   Battle Hymn
   II.  To the Unknown God
   III. The Funeral Hymn [not included in this recording]

Second Group, for women's chorus and orchestra (H. 98)
   I.   To Varuna (God of the Waters)
   II.  To Agni (God of Fire)
   III. Funeral Chant

Third Group, for women's chorus and harp (H. 99)
   I.   Hymn to the Dawn
   II.  Hymn to the Waters
   III. Hymn to Vena (Sun rising through the mist)
   IV.  Hymn of the Travellers

Fourth Group, for men's chorus and orchestra (H. 100)
   I.   Hymn to Agni [not included in this recording]
   II.  Hymn to Soma (the juice of a herb)
   III. Hymn to Manas (the spirit of a dying man)
   IV.  Hymn to Indra [not included in this recording]

I also very much enjoyed the final work on this recording, Two Eastern Pictures, written in 1911.

Two Eastern Pictures, for women’s voices and harp (H. 112)

I.  Spring
II. Summer

I certainly hope that this fine recording will be reissued soon, and that live performances of these works are in the offing.

Neptune, the Mystic

Many years ago I wrote a short poem while listening to the final and most otherworldly section of The Planets by Gustav Holst: Neptune, the Mystic.

Here it is:

Neptune, the Mystic from The Planets by Gustav Holst
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vernon Handley
Ambrosian Chorus, John McCarthy
Alto ALC 1013
The endless poetry of space
Sends shivers across my spine,
And there upon the threshold sounds
The now distant drone of time.
Music fills the spacecraft
Starlight fills the night,
And there upon the threshold think
I wonder, was I right?
David Oesper

 

The Planets was written by Holst between 1914 and 1916, and the premiere performance was at The Queen’s Hall, London, on September 29, 1918.  Adrian Boult conducted the orchestra in a private performance for about 250 invited guests.  The Queen’s Hall was destroyed by an incendiary bomb during the London Blitz in 1941, seven years after Holst’s death in 1934.

Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, and was considered to be the ninth planet until its controversial demotion by the IAU in 2006.  A number of composers have added a Pluto movement to The Planets (“Pluto, the Renewer” by Colin Matthews, for example), and even an improvised performance (“Pluto, the Unpredictable”) by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.  I remember enjoying “Pluto, the Unknown” by American composer Peter Hamlin performed by the Des Moines Symphony in 1992, but unfortunately no recording of this work exists.