Classical Music Timeline: 1950s

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.

1950
Gyula Dávid (1913-1977) completed the Viola Concerto

January 6 – Piano Concerto in C♯ minor, FP 146 by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

March 1 – Cello Sonata in C major, op. 119 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

April 3 – Kurt Weill (1900-1950) died in New York, New York

May 22Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was first performed in London, England

1951
Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) completed The Phantom Regiment

April 14English Dances, op. 27 by Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was first performed in London, England

August 21 – Constant Lambert (1905-1951) died in London, England

October 23 – Symphony No. 3 in B minor by Borys Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968) was first performed in Kyiv, Ukraine

1952
January 26Taras Bulba, ballet in four acts, op. 92 by Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

May 3 – Romance in D♭ major for harmonica and orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in New York, New York

July 13 – Alla Pavlova (1952-) was born in Vinnytsia, Ukraine

October 11 – Symphony No. 7 in C♯ minor, op. 131 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

1953
Heino Eller (1887-1970) completed Five Pieces for String Orchestra

January 14 – Symphony No. 7, “Sinfonia Antartica”, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in Manchester, England

March 5 – Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) died in Moscow, Russia

April 11 – Concerto Grosso No. 2 for string orchestra by Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was first performed in London, England

August 22Soleriana by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

November 13 – String Quartet No. 5 in B♭ major, op. 92 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

December 17 – Symphony No. 10 in E minor, op. 93 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

1954
Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) completed The First Day of Spring

February 12The Stone Flower, ballet, op. 118 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

March 5 – Jack Stamp (1954-) was born in College Park, Maryland

April 3 – Elisabetta Brusa (1954-) was born in Milan, Italy

August 11 – Tarantella for Two Pianos by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 6 – Festive Overture, op. 96 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

1955
January 15From Jewish Folk Poetry, op. 79 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) received its first public performance in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

May 4 – George Enescu (1881-1955) died in Paris, France

October 31 – Symphony No. 2, “Mysterious Mountain”, op. 132 by Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) was first performed in Houston, Texas

1956
April 30 – Sextet in B♭ for piano and winds, op. 6 by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) was first performed in London, England

June 23 – Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) died in Moscow, Russia

August 30 – Aita Donostia (1886-1956) died in Lecároz, Navarre, Spain

September 5 – Piano Concerto No. 4 in B♭ major for the left hand, op. 53 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

October 17 – Symphony No. 4 in C major, op. 54 by Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

December 1Candide, operetta with music by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), was first performed in New York, New York

December 27Spartacus, ballet by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

1957
Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986) completed Concertino for Clarinet and String Orchestra, op. 45, no. 3

Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) completed Commonwealth Christmas Overture, op. 64

January 26Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) received its first concert performance in New York, New York

May 10 – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 102, (Piano Concerto No. 2) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

June 18 – Sonata for Flute and Piano, FP 164 by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was first performed in Strasbourg, France

September 20 – Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) died in Järvenpää, Finland

September 26West Side Story, musical with music by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), was first performed in New York, New York

October 30 – Symphony No. 11 in G minor, “The Year 1905”, op. 103 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 4 – Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957) died in Grigny, France

November 4 – Elena Kats-Chernin (1957-) was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

November 29 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) died in Los Angeles, California

1958
Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) completed Symphony No. 3 for symphonic band

Alec Wilder (1907-1980) completed Woodwind Quintet No. 3

March 5Fantasía para un gentilhombre, concerto for guitar and orchestra, by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in San Francisco, California

August 21 – Stevan Hristić (1885-1958) died in Belgrade, Serbia

August 26 – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) died in London, England

December 4 – Symphonie de danses by Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur (1908-2002) was first performed in Paris, France

1959
Trevor Duncan (1924-2005) completed The Girl from Corsica

Veljo Tormis (1930-2017) completed Overture No. 2

July 15 – Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) died in Portland, Oregon

August 26 – Symphony No. 4 by William Alwyn (1905-1985) was first performed in London, England

August 28 – Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) died in Liestal, Switzerland

November 16The Sound of Music, musical with music by Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and lyrics by Oscar Hammarstein II (1895-1960) premiered in New York, New York

November 17 – Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) died in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

1940s

1960s→

Classical Music Timeline: 1940s

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.

1940
Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987) completed The Comedians, op. 26

June 11 – Divertimento for string orchestra, Sz. 113 BB 118 by Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was first performed in Basel, Switzerland

July 1The Sea Hawk, with film score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), was released

November 9Concierto de Aranjuez, for guitar and orchestra, by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in Barcelona, Spain

November 16 – Violin Concerto in D minor by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

December 3 – Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940) died in Moscow, Russia

December 9 – Sextet for Piano and Winds (1939 revision), FP 100 by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was first performed in Paris, France

December 26 – Symphony No. 4, “Folk Song Symphony”, by Roy Harris (1898-1979) was first performed in Cleveland, Ohio

1941
January 3 – Symphonic Dances, op. 45 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

January 10 – Frank Bridge (1879-1941) died in Eastbourne, England

February 7 – Violin Concerto, op. 14 by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was first performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

April 17 – Adolphus Hailstork (1941-) was born in Rochester, New York

June 21Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

June 26Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell (1904-1977) premiered in the film Dangerous Moonlight

1942
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) completed Song of the Brave, for tenor and piano, op. 89, no. 2

March 5 – Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad”, by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia (Leningrad at the time)

April 16 – Second Essay for Orchestra, op. 17 by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was first performed in New York, New York

June 11 – Geoffrey Toye (1889-1942) died in London, England

June 18 – Paul McCartney (1942-) was born in Liverpool, England

December 4A Ceremony of Carols, op. 28 by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was first performed (in its final form) in London, England

December 9Gayane, ballet by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) was first performed in Perm, Russia

1943
March 12Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was first performed in Cincinnati, Ohio

March 28 – Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) died in Beverly Hills, California

June 24 – Symphony No. 5 in D major by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

1944
Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed the orchestration of La Vallée des cloches (”Valley of the Bells”) from Miroirs by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

January 28 – Symphony No. 1, “Jeremiah”, by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was first performed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

April 16Concierto de estío, for violin and orchestra, by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in Lisbon, Portugal

May 7Our Town, music from the film score, by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

May 8 – Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) died in Woking, England

June 7Gran Marcha de los Subsecretarios (“Grand March of the Subsecretaries”), for piano four hands, by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in Madrid, Spain

August – Kaljo Raid (1921-2005) completed Symphony No. 1

October 30Appalachian Spring, ballet by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was first performed in Washington, D.C.

October 31Sebastian, ballet by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) was first performed in New York, New York

December 1 – Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123 by Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

December 27 – Amy Beach (1867-1944) died in New York, New York

December 30 – Piano Sonata No. 8 in B♭ major, op. 84 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

1945
Suite from Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was arranged by Artur Rodziński (1892-1958)

January 13 – Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, op. 100 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

April 9Girl No. 217, with film score by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), was released

August 2 – Emil von Reznicek (1860-1945) died in Berlin, Germany

September 15 – Anton Webern (1883-1945) died in Mittersill, Austria

September 24 – John Rutter (1945-) was born in London, England

September 26 – Béla Bartók (1881-1945) died in New York, New York

October 12 – Symphony No. 3, H. 299 by Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

November 3 – Symphony No. 9 in E♭ major, op. 70 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

November 21Cinderella, ballet, op. 87 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 30 – Symphony No. 4, H. 305 by Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) was first performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

December 17À l’ombre de Torre Bermeja (“In the Shadow of the Crimson Tower”) by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in Madrid, Spain

December 17A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map, for male chorus, brass, and drums, op. 15 by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was first performed in New York, New York

1946
Twenty-Four Preludes, op. 38 by Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

February 8 – Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major, Sz. 119, BB 127 by Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was first performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 16 – Granville Bantock (1868-1946) died in London, England

October 18 – Symphony No. 3 by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

October 23 – Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, op. 80 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 14 – Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) died in Alta Gracia, Argentina

November 27Cinco piezas infantiles (“Five children’s pieces”), for orchestra, by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in Madrid, Spain

December 6 – Maximilian Steinberg (1883-1946) died in Saint Petersburg, Russia

1947
January 8 – Piano Concerto, op. 44 by Richard Arnell (1917-2009) was first performed in New York, New York

February 15 – Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) was first performed in St. Louis, Missouri

February 15 – John Adams (1947-) was born in Worcester, Massachusetts

March 5 – Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) died in Rome, Italy

June 14 – Michael Mauldin (1947-) was born in Port Arthur, Texas

August 20 – Concerto for Bassoon and Strings with Percussion by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) was first performed in London, England

October 23Starlight Roof Waltz by George Melachrino (1909-1965) was first performed in London, England

November 12Flourish, Mighty Land, cantata for chorus and orchestra, op. 114 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 29The Legend of Ohrid, ballet by Stevan Hristić (1885-1958) was first performed in Belgrade, Serbia

1948
William Grant Still (1895-1978) completed Miniatures, for flute, oboe, and piano

January 21 – Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) died in Venice, Italy

April 21 – Symphony No. 6 in E minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

May 4Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

June 27 – George Templeton Strong (1856-1948) died in Geneva, Switzerland

October 29 – Violin Concerto in C major, op. 48 by Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

October 30The Red Pony, suite from the film score, by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was first performed in Houston, Texas

1949
Clive Richardson (1909-1998) completed Beachcomber

Robert Farnon (1917-2005) completed How Beautiful is Night

January 14 – Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) died in Madrid, Spain

September 8 – Richard Strauss (1864-1949) died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

September 11 – Henri Rabaud (1873-1949) died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

December 2Turangalîla-Symphonie by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

1930s

1950s

Classical Music Timeline: 1930s

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.

1930
August 7 – Veljo Tormis (1930-2017) was born in Kuusalu, Estonia

November 28 – Symphony No. 2 in D♭ major, op. 30, “Romantic” by Howard Hanson (1896-1981) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

December 17 – Peter Warlock (1894-1930) died in London, England

1931
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite III, P172

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed the orchestral version of Blithe Bells (Ramble on Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze”)

September 8A Choral Fantasia, op. 51 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in Gloucester, England

October 3 – Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) died in Copenhagen, Denmark

November 22Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé (1892-1972) was first performed in Chicago, Illinois

December 2 – Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931) died in Paris, France

1932
February 8 – John Williams (1932-) was born in New York, New York

March 17La donna serpente, opera by Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) was first performed in Rome, Italy

April 2 – Symphony No. 9 by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) was first performed in Munich, Germany

April 22 – Isao Tomita (1932-2016) was born in Tokyo, Japan

May – Piano Quartet in A minor, op. 67 by Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) was first performed (location unknown)

September 5 – Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D minor, FP 61 by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was first performed in Venice, Italy

1933
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) completed Cavatina

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) completed Pastorale for Violin and Piano

Aita Donostia (1886-1956) completed Urruti-jaia [Festive Song], for chamber orchestra

January 23 – Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Sz. 95, BB 101 by Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was first performed in Frankfurt, Germany

April 9 – Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) died in Leipzig, Germany

May 13Chorale on a Theme of Hans Leo Hassler, for string orchestra, by George Templeton Strong (1856-1948) was first performed in Geneva, Switzerland

August 30 – Overture to The School for Scandal, op. 5 by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was first performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 10 – Gloria Coates (1933-2023) was born in Wausau, Wisconsin

October 15 – Concerto for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra (Piano Concerto No. 1), op. 35 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

1934
February 23 – Edward Elgar (1857-1934) died in Worcester, Worcestershire, England

MarchBrook Green Suite, for string orchestra, H. 190 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

March 21 – Franz Schreker (1878-1934) died in Berlin, Germany

April 3The Haunted Ballroom, ballet by Geoffrey Toye (1889-1942) was first performed in London, England

May 25 – Gustav Holst (1874-1934) died in London, England

June 10 – Frederick Delius (1862-1934) died in Grez-sur-Loing, France

September 27 – Fantasia on “Greensleeves” by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and arranged for string orchestra and harp by Ralph Greaves (1889-1966) was first performed in London, England

November 7 – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, in A minor, op. 43 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in Baltimore, Maryland

December 21Lieutenant Kijé, suite, op. 60 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

December 25 – Cello Sonata in D minor, op. 40 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

December 31Egyptian Nights, symphonic suite, op. 61 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in a radio broadcast from Moscow, Russia

1935
William Grant Still (1895-1978) completed Summerland

January 28 – Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) died in Moscow, Russia

March 10 – Auvo Sarmanto (1935-) was born in Helsinki, Finland

March 24Music for a Scene from Shelley, tone poem, op. 7 by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was first performed in New York, New York

April 10 – Symphony No. 4 in F minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

May 17 – Paul Dukas (1865-1935) died in Paris, France

May 29 – Josef Suk (1874-1935) died in Benešov, Czech Republic

July 17 – Peter Schickele (1935-2024) was born in Ames, Iowa

November 6 – Symphony No. 1 in B♭ minor by William Walton (1902-1983) was first performed in London, England

December 1 – Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 63 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Madrid, Spain

December 4 – Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) died in Oslo, Norway

1936
January 29Summer’s Last Will and Testament, cantata by Constant Lambert (1905-1951) was first performed in London, England

March 21 – Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

April 11Music for Children, for piano, op. 65 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

April 18 – Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) died in Rome, Italy

May 2Peter and the Wolf, a symphonic fairy tale for children, op. 67 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

May 10The Plow That Broke the Plains, with documentary film score by Virgil Thomson (1896-1989), received its public premiere in Washington, D.C.

July 22 – Krasimir Kyurkchiyski (1936-2011) was born in Troyan, Bulgaria

October 2Dona Nobis Pacem, cantata for soprano, baritone, chorus, and orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England

October 28 – Carl Davis (1936-2023) was born in Brooklyn, New York

November 11 – Edward German (1862-1936) died in London, England

1937
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) completed Four Marches for Military Band, op. 69

January 19Hollywood Suite by Ferde Grofé (1892-1972) was first performed in New York, New York

January 31 – Philip Glass (1937-) was born in Baltimore, Maryland

March 12 – Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) died in Paris, France

March 29 – Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) died in Lausanne, Switzerland

May 7 – “Walking the Dog (Promenade)” by George Gershwin (1898-1937) premiered in the film Shall We Dance. This may be the last instrumental composition by Gershwin.

May 8The Prince and the Pauper, with film score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), was released

July 11 – George Gershwin (1898-1937) died in Los Angeles, California

July 12 – Piano Concerto in D♭ major, op. 38 by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

September 30 – Valentin Silvestrov (1937-) was born in Kyiv, Ukraine

November 21 – Symphony No. 5 in D minor, op. 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

December 28 – Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) died in Paris, France

1938
Howard Hanson (1896-1981) completed Suite from Merry Mount

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) completed Cinco piezas del siglo XVI (Five Pieces of the Sixteenth Century), for piano

January 5Songs of Our Days, cantata for mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, chorus, and orchestra, op. 76 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

February 16 – John Corigliano (1938-) was born in New York, New York

February 22Colas Breugnon, opera, op. 24 by Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

May 26 – William Bolcom (1938-) was born in Seattle, Washington

October 5Serenade to Music in D major by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

October 19 – “September Song”, from Knickerbocker Holiday by Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was first performed in New York, New York

November 5Adagio for Strings in B♭ minor by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was first performed in New York, New York

December 30 – Romeo and Juliet, ballet, op. 64 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Brno, Czech Republic

1939
Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed “The Duke of Marlborough” Fanfare (BFMS No. 36)

March 9Cuatro piezas para piano by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was first performed in Paris, France

May 17Alexander Nevsky, cantata, op. 78 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

June 2 – Enrique Fernández Arbós (1863-1939) died in San Sebastián, Spain

June 22 – Heikki Sarmanto (1939-) was born in Helsinki, Finland

November 21 – Symphony No. 6 in B minor, op. 54 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

December 21Zdravitsa, cantata for chorus and orchestra, op. 85 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

1920s

1940s

Prokofiev and Astronomy

I recently completed teaching a six-week course on the Ukraine-born Russian/Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), a course I am eager to reprise in the not-too-distant future. His story is by turns both fascinating and tragic, and he wrote a lot of great music—much of it seldom performed. I am amazed that no one has yet produced an English-language documentary on Prokofiev, nor even a biopic.

Since my primary interests are classical music and astronomy, I am naturally curious about significant classical composers who were also interested in astronomy. Prokofiev was one of those composers.

Prokofiev kept fascinating and extensive diaries between 1907 and 1933, a practice which sadly ceased as soon as he began seriously contemplating a return to the Soviet Union and the increasingly repressive regime of Joseph Stalin.

Here are Prokofiev’s astronomy-related entries from those diaries.

The song Prokofiev is referring to here is Two Poems for voice and piano, op. 9, no. 1. The text is a poem by Russian poet Konstantin Balmont (1867-1942). Here is that poem in an English translation:

In this first performance, Anna Grigorievna Zherebtsova-Andreyeva was the singer, and Dulov (first name unknown) was the pianist.

Here is a performance of this work by Andrey Slavny (baritone) and Yuri Serov (piano), recorded at St. Catherine Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg in 1995.

The astronomy book Prokofiev was referring to is The World of the Heavens [Nebesny Mir], An Illustrated Astronomy for the General Reader by E. I. Ignatiev, published in St. Petersburg in 1916. Hardly a “little book” at over 400 pages!

When Prokofiev writes “the green and white diamond of Sirius” he must be referring to the impressive scintillation of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, since at the latitude (50° N) of Kharkiv, Ukraine, where he was at the time, Sirius never reaches an altitude higher than 23° above the horizon.

What’s an arshin, you might be wondering? An arshin is an antiquated Russian unit of length equal to 71.12 cm, so “two arshins” would be a little less than 5 ft. in length.

An editorial footnote indicates that “Presumably, Prokofiev’s Fraunhofer was looted or destroyed in the Petrograd flat after his departure in 1918. It would be worth a fortune today.”

Prokofiev continues,

Prokofiev again continues,

An editorial footnote indicates that “The White Nights in St. Petersburg are normally regarded as lasting from 11 June to 2 July. During this period the sun does not descend far enough below the horizon for the sky to become dark.”

Now on holiday on the Kama river, a tributary of the Volga, Prokofiev writes,

Prokofiev would only have been able to see four satellites of Jupiter with his telescope: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. The other two “satellites” must have been background stars. If I have figured correctly, Prokofiev would have been observing Jupiter early morning on Friday, August 24, 1917 (New Style date) which would have been Friday, August 11 (Old Style date) in Russia at that time. The two stars he thought were satellites of Jupiter were probably 8th-magnitude stars HD 28990 and HD 28966.

Prokofiev’s reference to the Sun “belonging” to Hercules indicates he knew about the solar apex, the direction the Sun travels relative to the local standard of rest. William Herschel was the first to demonstrate that the solar apex is in the constellation Hercules.

Balmont refers to the aforementioned poet, Konstantin Balmont.

Prokofiev is referring to the 1917 Russian Constituent Assembly election during the Russian Revolution, and that he observed Venus, Jupiter, Sirius, and the Moon at Kislovodsk.

On his way to his first visit to the United States, Prokofiev is spending some time in Japan. At this time he is in Yokohama. At latitude 35° N, he is indeed getting a good view of Scorpius. The date in brackets is the New Style (Gregorian calendar) date, whereas the non-bracket date is the Old Style (Julian calendar) date.

Prokofiev is now sailing from Yokohama to San Francisco, by way of Honolulu.

Prokofiev is now in New York City.

Prokofiev is, of course, referring to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London, England.

This takes place in Paris, and B. N. is Boris Nikolayevich Bashkirov, a wealthy amateur poet and friend of Prokofiev whose pseudonym was Boris Verin. “Linette” is Lina Codina, who would become Prokofiev’s wife in two years’ time.

An editorial footnote states, “When staying in Les Rochelets in the summer of 1921 Prokofiev every evening read aloud a chapter of H. G. Wells’s The Outline of History to his mother and Boris Bashkirov.”

Interesting that this insightful essay was penned on “Pi Day”, since the transcendental π = 3.1415926535897932384626433832795… has infinitely many digits that neither terminate nor enter a permanently repeating pattern.

My take after reading this is that there may be two realities. One reality (our reality) consist of entities that exist within time and space. But there is another reality, where there are entities that exist outside of time and space (of which eternity and infinity are proxies).

As for immortality, since I have no consciousness of anything before I was born, why should I expect that I would have any consciousness of anything after I die? To me, that is the most tragic fact of human existence. Within a few minutes (or hours, if extraordinary measures are taken) after death occurs, all of our knowledge and experience—our memories—are irretrievably lost, and all that remains of us is what we have left behind (writing, music, art, etc.), and the memories of those who are still living who knew us. After all the people who knew us personally have died, then all that remains of our existence are artifacts. And, eventually, all of those will be gone, too. This truly emphasizes the importance of this life, of this world, of this time. How we live our lives and treat others today, tomorrow, and the next day are of paramount importance. It is all we have, or will ever have.

Fatou refers to Pierre Joseph Louis Fatou (1878-1929), mathematician and astronomer. I am virtually certain that “Jacobi” is actually the French astronomer Michel Giacobini (1873–1938).

Here are my observing notes about Gamma Leonis:

Algieba.  Very bright, close double.  Primary is orangish-yellow (2.6 K1-IIIbCN-0.5) and secondary is yellow (3.8 G7IIICN-1).  Relative color seems to change as you watch. 

I think it only fitting to end these excerpts from Prokofiev’s diaries with some of his music. In preparing my Prokofiev course, I came across some noteworthy compositions that were not known to me previously. Most unfortunately, some of these works are almost unknown and seldom played because they were written (under duress, without a doubt) as propaganda pieces. Here is, I believe, his most inspired composition written under such circumstances. It is a cantata for chorus and orchestra that Prokofiev wrote in 1939, called Zdravitsa (literally “A Toast!”), op. 85. It was written to commemorate the 60th birthday of Joseph Stalin. The words are hagiolatry in praise of Stalin (Prokofiev did not write them), but the music is truly divine. Here are three excerpts from a recording by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra and the Russian State Symphonic Cappella, conducted by Valeri Polyansky.

The first excerpt is of the orchestra alone:

Now, choir and orchestra:

And, finally, the glorious finale:

I look forward to the time when Russia will be free from tyranny, and when this gorgeous piece by Sergei Prokofiev gets a new libretto. No longer a toast to the despot Stalin, but a toast to peace-loving people throughout the world!

References
Prokofiev, S. (2006). Diaries 1907-1914: Prodigious youth (A. Phillips, Ed.). Faber & Faber.

Prokofiev, S. (2008). Sergey Prokofiev: Diaries 1915-1923: Behind the mask (A. Phillips, Ed.). Faber & Faber.

Prokofiev, Sergei. (2012). Sergey Prokofiev diaries 1924-1933: Prodigal son. Faber & Faber.

Classical Music Timeline: 1920s

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.

1920
FebruaryLe Tombeau de Couperin (orchestral version) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

March 25The Hymn of Jesus, op. 37 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

April 8 – Charles Griffes (1884-1920) died in New York, New York

May 23Short Festival Te Deum, H. 145 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

June 20Three Tone-Pictures, op. 5 by Charles Griffes (1884-1920) was first performed in Greenwich, Connecticut

October 2 – Max Bruch (1838-1920) died in Berlin, Germany

1921
January 23The Three Miracles of Saint Cecilia, incidental music to the play by Henri Ghéon, by Aita Donostia (1886-1956) was first performed in Paris, France

January 30The Fog is Lifting, for flute and harp, op. 41, no. 2, by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark

February 20 – Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, England

March 4 – Kaljo Raid (1921-2005) was born in Tallinn, Estonia

September 27 – Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) died in Neustrelitz, Germany

October 9Taras Bulba by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was first performed in Brno, Czech Republic

October 21 – Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was born in Northampton, Northamptonshire, England

December 16 – Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) died in Algiers, Algeria

December 16 – Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, op. 26 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Chicago, Illinois

1922
January 16 – Symphony No. 3, “Pastoral”, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

January 30 – Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed Spoon River (AFMS No. 2) [elastic scoring]

February 25Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was first performed in Paris, France

March 10 – Hans Sitt (1860-1922) died in Leipzig, Germany

May 20Daisies, in F major, op. 38, no. 3 (piano-only version) by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in London, England

October 19Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) as orchestrated by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), was first performed in Paris, France

1923
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed the Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite II

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957) completed Baïlèro, Chants d’Auvergne, Series 1, No. 2

May 14The Perfect Fool by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

May 28 – György Ligeti (1923-2006) was born in Târnăveni, Romania

September 30Hassan, incidental music, by Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was first performed in London, England

October 18 – Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 19 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

1924
February 12Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (1898-1937) was first performed in New York, New York

February 27 – Trevor Duncan (1924-2005) was born in London, England

May 8 – The revised version of Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 16 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

July 27 – Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) died in Berlin, Germany

September 14Ruralia hungarica, Five pieces for orchestra, op. 32b, by Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) was first performed in Pécs, Hungary

September 28 – Rudolf Barshai (1924-2010) was born in Labinsk, Russia

November 4 – Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) died in Paris, France

December 14The Pines of Rome, tone poem by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was first performed in Rome, Italy

1925
Enrique Fernández Arbós (1863-1939) completed his orchestrations of five of the twelve piano pieces, Iberia, by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

May 29 – Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra with Piano Obbligato by Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was first performed in Cleveland, Ohio

August 31Mississippi Suite by Ferde Grofé (1892-1972) was first performed in New York, New York

November 20 – Clytus Gottwald (1925-2023) was born in Szczawno-Zdrój, Poland

November 29 – The Love for Three Oranges, Suite, op. 33bis by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

December 3 – Piano Concerto in F major by George Gershwin (1898-1937) was first performed in New York, New York

1926
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) completed Seven Part-Songs, op. 44

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) completed Zarabanda lejana (Distant Sarabande)

May 2 – Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano, FP 43 by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was first performed in Paris, France

May 12 – Symphony No. 1 in F minor, op. 10 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

June 26 – Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

October – Peter Warlock (1894-1930) completed Capriol Suite

October 31 – Symphony No. 5 in F♯ minor, “Dance Symphony”, by Emil von Reznicek (1860-1945) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

November 1The Profound Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, incidental music to the play by Henri Ghéon, by Aita Donostia (1886-1956) was first performed in Paris, France

December 26Tapiola, tone poem in B minor, op. 112 by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in New York, New York

1927
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) completed Gypsy Caprice

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed Three Botticelli Pictures

March 24Háry János Suite, op. 35a by Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was first performed in Barcelona, Spain

June 7Le pas d’acier (“The Steel Step”), ballet, op. 41 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

June 14The Red Poppy, ballet, op. 70 by Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

October 27 – Dominick Argento (1927-2019) was born in York, Pennsylvania

1928
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) completed Schluck und Jau, incidental music

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed Brazilian Impressions

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) completed the two-piano transcription of his orchestral piece, Cinco piezas infantiles (Five children’s pieces)

February 12Egdon Heath, tone poem, op. 47 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in New York, New York

June 12Gli uccelli (“The Birds”) by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was first performed in São Paulo, Brazil

August 12 – Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) died in Ostrava, Czech Republic

September 11 – String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters”, by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was first performed in Brno, Czech Republic

October 9 – Einojuhani Rautavaara (1929-2016) was born in Helsinki, Finland

December 13An American in Paris by George Gershwin (1898-1937) was first performed in New York, New York

1929
January 11 – Stabat Mater, op. 53 by Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) was first performed in Warsaw, Poland

February 10 – Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) was born in Los Angeles, California

February 21Roman Festivals, tone poem by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was first performed in New York, New York

May 21L’enfant prodigue (“The Prodigal Son”), ballet, op. 46 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

November 7 – Suite-Divertissement, for violin, viola, cello, and piano, by Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) was first performed in Brussels, Belgium

1910s

1930s

Classical Music Timeline: 1910s

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.

1910
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) completed Caprice Viennois, for violin and piano, op. 2

Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) completed Praeludium and Allegro (in the style of Pugnani), for violin and piano

Ein Tanzspiel by Franz Schreker (1878-1934) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

March 1 – Suite in A major, op. 98b, B190, “American” by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

March 9 – Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania

April 23 – Italia, Rhapsody for Orchestra, op. 11, by Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) was first performed in Paris, France

May 29 – Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) died in Saint Petersburg, Russia

June 25The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was first performed in Paris, France

September 6 – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in Gloucester, England

September 12 – Symphony No. 8 in E♭ major by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was first performed in Munich, Germany

1911
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) completed Two Eastern Pictures, for women’s voices and harp (H. 112)

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) completed Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose) Suite

Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) completed Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice, for solo violin, op. 6

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed Irish Tune from County Derry (BFMS No. 29)

February 21 – Berceuse élégiaque, op. 42 (BV 252a) by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was first performed in New York, New York

March 8 – Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) was born in Somerville, Massachusetts

March 11 – Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Third Group, by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in Blackburn, England

April 3 – Symphony No. 4 by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in Helsinki, Finland

May 2 – Invocation for Cello and Orchestra, op. 19, no. 2, by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

May 18 – Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) died in Vienna, Austria

June 14 – Johan Svendsen (1840-1911) died in Copenhagen, Denmark

July 7 – Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) was born in Cadegliano-Viconago, Italy

August 1 – Autumnal, op. 8, by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

September 14 – Five Mystical Songs, for baritone, chorus, and orchestra, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in Worcester, England

December 3 – Nino Rota (1911-1979) was born in Milan, Italy

December 6 – Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, First Group, by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England

December 23 – I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna), opera by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948), was first performed in Berlin, Germany

1912
Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) completed Three Pieces, op. 23

February 28 – Violin Concerto, op. 33 by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark

March 22 – Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Second Group, by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

April 22 – La Péri, ballet by Paul Dukas (1865-1935), was first performed in Paris, France

June 8 – Daphnis et Chloé by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

June 26 – Symphony No. 9 by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

July 23 – Aristophanic Suite, The Wasps, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

August 7 – Piano Concerto No. 1 in D♭ major, op. 10 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

August 13 – Jules Massenet (1842-1912) died in Paris, France

September 24 – The Sea, Suite for Orchestra, H. 100 by Frank Bridge (1879-1941) was first performed in London, England

1913
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) completed St. Paul’s Suite, in C major, op. 29, no. 2

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) completed Questo fu il carro della Morte, op. 2

April 24 – Canto serioso, for horn and piano, FS 132 by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark

May 6 – Gyula Dávid (1913-1977) was born in Kecskemét, Hungary

October 23 – On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring by Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was first performed in Leipzig, Germany

November 22 – Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was born in Lowestoft, England

1914
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) completed A Dirge for Two Veterans, H. 121

Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) completed Variations on a Nursery Song, op. 25

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed Il Tramonto (“The Sunset”), for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, P. 101

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed Sinfonia Drammatica in B♭ minor, P. 102

February 5 – Ten Pieces, op. 12 , for piano, by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

March 18 – Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Fourth Group, by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

March 27 – Symphony No. 2, “A London Symphony”, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

August 28 – Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914) died near Borovichi, Russia

November 12 – Second Quintet in E♭ minor for Piano and Strings, op. 26, by Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

1915
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) completed “Christmas Carol for Homeless Children”, for children’s chorus (Noël des enfants qui n’ont plus de maison: Nous n’avons plus de maison), CD 147

George Enescu (1881-1955) completed Orchestral Suite No. 2, in C major, op. 20

May – English Pastoral Impressions, op. 26, by Ernest Farrar (1885-1918) was first performed in Harrogate, England

1916
Franz Schreker (1878-1934) completed Verschwiegene Liebe (Silent Love), arrangement for voice and orchestra of Eichendorff Lieder: No. 3 by Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)

Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974) completed Symphony No. 3 in D major, op. 10, “Västkustbilder” (“West Coast Pictures”)

January 29 – Scythian Suite, op. 20 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

April 9 – Nights in the Gardens of Spain, for piano and orchestra, G. 49 by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) was first performed in Madrid, Spain

April 11 – Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina

1917
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed the Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1, P 109

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) completed Song of the Black Swan (Canto do cysne negro), for cello and piano, W122

Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974) completed the Suite No. 3, op. 19, no. 1, for violin, viola, and string orchestra

Ilse Fromm-Michaels (1888-1986) completed Piano Sonata, op. 6

Ilse Fromm-Michaels (1888-1986) completed Walzerreigen, op. 7

March 11The Fountains of Rome, tone poem by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was first performed in Rome, Italy

May 3 – Schelomo: Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra, B. 39 by Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was first performed in New York, New York

July 24 – Robert Farnon (1917-2005) was born in Toronto, Canada

September 15 – Richard Arnell (1917-2009) was born in London, England

1918
Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) completed D’un Soir Triste, symphonic poem

January – Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) completed the orchestral version of D’un matin de printemps

February 11 – Pan and Syrinx, symphonic poem in F major, op. 49 by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark

February 11 – Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 68 by Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was first performed in Budapest, Hungary

March 15 – Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) died in Mézy-sur-Seine, France

March 25 – Claude Debussy (1862-1918) died in Paris, France

April 9Le bourgeois gentilhomme, orchestral suite, op. 60 by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

April 21 – Symphony No. 1 in D major, op. 25, “Classical”, by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

July 3 – Heroic Elegy, op. 36, by Ernest Farrar (1885-1918) was first performed in Harrogate, England

August 25 – Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts

September 18 – Ernest Farrar (1885-1918) died near Le Cateau, Cambrai, France (World War I casualty)

September 29 – The Planets, op. 32 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

1919
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) completed Ode to Death, for chorus and orchestra, op. 38

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed the orchestral version of Colonial Song (Sentimental No. 1)

Peter Warlock (1894-1930) completed the choral work Balulalow

George Gershwin (1898-1937) completed Lullaby, for string quartet

March 31 – Two Studies for Doktor Faust, BV 282 by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was first performed in Zürich, Switzerland

April 11 – Le Tombeau de Couperin (piano), M. 68 by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

June 22 – The White Peacock (orchestral version) by Charles Griffes (1884-1920) was first performed in New York, New York

October 27 – Cello Concerto in E minor, op. 85 by Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was first performed in London, England

November 16 – Poem for Flute and Orchestra, A. 93 by Charles Griffes (1884-1920) was first performed in New York, New York

November 24 – Symphony No. 5 in E♭ major, op. 82 by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in Helsinki, Finland

November 28 – The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, tone poem by Charles Griffes (1884-1920) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

1900s

1920s

Classical Music Timeline: 1890s

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.

1890
Feuillet d’album by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) was first published

February 2 – Symphony No. 8 in G major, op. 88, B163 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

June 21 – Death and Transfiguration, op. 24, tone poem by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was first performed in Eisenach, Germany

October 17 – Piano Quartet No. 2 in E♭ major, op. 87, B162 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

November 4Prince Igor, opera by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

November 8 – César Franck (1822-1890) died in Paris, France

December 8 – Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) was born in Polička, Czech Republic

1891
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed Two Melodies for String Orchestra, op. 53

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed Lyric Pieces, Book V, op. 54 (some were orchestrated later as the Lyric Suite)

Norwegian Dances, op. 35, by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was orchestrated by Hans Sitt (1850-1922)

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) completed Beau Soir

Josef Suk (1874-1935) completed Piano Quartet in A minor, op. 1

January 15 – Marche Solennelle by Edward German (1862-1936) was first performed in London, England

March 16 – Fantasy Pieces, op. 2, for oboe and piano, by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark

April 18 – Symphony in B♭ major, op. 20 by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) was first performed in Paris, France

April 27 – Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was born in Sontsivka, Ukraine

October 9 – Requiem in B♭ minor, op. 89, B165 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Birmingham, England

December 12 – Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in B minor, op. 115, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

1892
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) completed Seven Fantasies for Piano, op. 116

Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) completed Capricho árabe (Arabic Caprice), for solo guitar

March 19 – The Nutcracker Suite, op. 71a, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

March 27 – Ferde Grofé (1892-1972) was born in New York, New York

April 6 – Symphony No. 4 in D minor, op. 13, B41 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

April 22 – Édouard Lalo (1823-1892) died in Paris, France

May 6 – Ernest Guiraud (1837-1892) died in Paris, France

September 26 – Prélude in C♯ minor, op. 3, no. 2 from Morceaux de fantaisie by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

October 21 – Te Deum, op. 103, B176 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in New York, New York

December 18 – Symphony No. 8 in C minor, WAB 108, by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

1893
January 18 – Mass in D by Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) was first performed in London, England

January 30 – Intermezzo in E♭ major, op. 117, no. 1, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in London, England

March 4 – Symphony No. 2 in G minor, “Sintram”, by George Templeton Strong (1856-1948) was first performed in New York, New York

August 21 – Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) was born in Paris, France

October 28 – Symphony No. 6 in B minor, op. 74 “Pathétique” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

November 6 – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) died in Saint Petersburg, Russia

November 23 – Karelia Suite, op. 11 by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in Helsinki, Finland

December 16 – Symphony No. 9 in E minor, op. 95, B178 “From the New World” by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in New York, New York

December 23 – Hänsel und Gretel, opera by Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921), was first performed in Weimar, Germany

1894
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) completed Caucasian Sketches, Suite No. 1, op. 10

January 1 – String Quartet No. 12 in F major, op. 96, B179 “American” by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

January 22 – Six Pieces for Piano, op. 118, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in London, England

January 22 – Rhapsody in E♭ major, op. 119, no. 4, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was first performed in London, England

February 25 – Serenade for Strings in E♭ major, op. 6 by Josef Suk (1874-1935) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

March 16 – Méditation from Thaïs by Jules Massenet (1842-1912) was first performed in Paris, France

May 17 – Richard Strauss (1864-1949) completed Ruhe, Meine Seele, op. 27, no. 1 at Weimar, Germany. He completed an orchestral song version of this piece in 1948.

September 13 – Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) died in Paris, France

October 30 – Peter Warlock (1894-1930) was born in London, England

December 16 – Silent Woods, for cello and orchestra (or piano), op. 68, no. 5, B182 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Basel, Switzerland

December 22 – Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, symphonic poem by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was first performed in Paris, France

1895
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) completed the Viola Sonata in F minor, op. 120, no. 1 (version of Clarinet Sonata, op. 120, no. 1)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) completed the Viola Sonata in E♭ major, op. 120, no. 2 (version of Clarinet Sonata, op. 120, no. 2)

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed Two Nordic Melodies for String Orchestra, op. 63

Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) completed Armenian Rhapsody on National Themes, op. 48

Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897) completed Suite gothique, op. 25 for organ

January 3 – Borys Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968) was born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine

April 3 – Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) was born in Florence, Italy

May 11 – William Grant Still (1895-1978) was born in Woodville, Mississippi

July 5 – Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) was born in London, England

November 5 – Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, op. 28 tone poem by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was first performed in Cologne, Germany

December 13 – Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection”, by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

1896
Souvenir d’un lieu cher (Memory of a Beloved Place), op. 42, for Violin and Orchestra (arranged by Alexander Glazunov), by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was first published

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed Symphonic Dances, op. 64

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed Lyric Pieces, Book VIII, op. 65

Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) completed Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra), for solo guitar

Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) completed Woodland Sketches, op. 51

Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940) completed Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 1 in G major, op. 1, no. 1

January 10 – Sonatina in G major, for violin and piano, op. 100, B183 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Brno, Czech Republic

March 16Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

March 19 – Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 104, B191 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in London, England

May 20 – Clara Schumann (1819-1896) died in Frankfurt, Germany

June 3 – The Water Goblin, symphonic poem, op. 107, B195 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

June 3 – The Noon Witch, symphonic poem, op. 108, B196 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

October 11 – Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) died in Vienna, Austria

October 28 – Howard Hanson (1896-1981) was born in Wahoo, Nebraska

November 25 – Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) was born in Kansas City, Missouri

November 27 – Also sprach Zarathustra, op. 30, tone poem by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was first performed in Frankfurt, Germany

December 27 – Poème, for violin and orchestra, op. 25 by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) was first performed in Nancy, France

1897
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) completed Der Abend, op. 34, no. 1 (“The Evening”), for chorus

January 3 – Symphony in C by Paul Dukas (1865-1935) was first performed in Paris, France

March 28 – Symphony No. 1 in D minor, op. 13 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

April 3 – Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) died in Vienna, Austria

May 29 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) was born in Brno, Czech Republic

June 12 – Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) was born in Łódź, Poland

October 11 – Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897) died in Paris, France

1898
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) completed Sicilienne, op. 78, for cello and piano

February 12 – Roy Harris (1898-1979) was born in Chandler, Oklahoma

March 20 – The Wild Dove, symphonic poem, op. 110, B198 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Brno, Czech Republic

September 26 – George Gershwin (1898-1937) was born in Brooklyn, New York

November 13 – Four Sacred Pieces by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was first performed in its entirety in Vienna, Austria

1899
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) completed the orchestration for Two Lyric Pieces, op. 68

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed Fisher’s Boarding-House

January 7 – Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was born in Paris, France

March 3 – Ein Heldenleben, op. 40, tone poem by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was first performed in Frankfurt, Germany

June 3 – Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) died in Vienna, Austria

June 10 – Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) died in Limay, Yvelines, France

June 19 – Variations on an Original Theme, op. 36 “Enigma Variations” by Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was first performed in London, England

November 18The Devil and Kate, opera, op. 112, B201 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

1880s

1900s

Sibelius Violin Concerto

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) aspired to be a virtuoso violinist, but abandoned that career because he felt that he had begun his “training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late.” But it must have been some consolation that his violin concerto of 1904/1905—his only concerto—is one of the most inspired works of that genre in the repertoire.

There are many fine recordings of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but one I am especially fond of is a 1951 recording with Isaac Stern and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

Here’s the conclusion of the work, nicely illustrating the passion and energy of this performance by Stern and Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic despite the primitive recording technology available at the time. Just goes to show that there were some remarkable recordings made more than 70 years ago!

Conclusion of the 1951 recording of Isaac Stern playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, conducting

While we’re on the topic of violin concertos, here are the best I’ve heard, in chronological order of their composition. Seek them out and enjoy!

Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 – Johann Sebastian Bach (c. 1730)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61 – Ludwig van Beethoven (1806)

Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64 – Felix Mendelssohn (1844)

Violin Concerto No. 8 in D major, op. 99 – Charles-Auguste de Bériot (c. 1845)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26 – Max Bruch (1867)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 – Johannes Brahms (1878)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1878)

Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 53 – Antonín Dvořák (1879)

Violin Concerto in D minor, op. 47 – Jean Sibelius (1905)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 19 – Sergei Prokofiev (1917)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 63 – Sergei Prokofiev (1935)

Violin Concerto, op. 14 – Samuel Barber (1939)

Violin Concerto in D minor – Aram Khachaturian (1940)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1945)

Violin Concerto in C major, op. 48 – Dmitry Kabalevsky (1948)

And, outstanding violin concerto movements:

Intermezzo (Poco adagio) [2nd & final movement] from Violin Concerto, op. 33 – Carl Nielsen (1911)

Sicilienne (Andantino) [2nd movement] from Concierto de estío, for violin and orchestra – Joaquín Rodrigo (1943)

Curious as to why so many violin concertos are written in the key of D major? I was.

“D major is well-suited to violin music because of the structure of the instrument, which is tuned G D A E. The open strings resonate sympathetically with the D string, producing a sound that is especially brilliant. This is also the case with all other orchestral strings.” – Wikipedia entry for D major

Prokofiev’s Last Symphony

Photograph of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Dated 1950.

Sergei Prokofiev was truly one of the most remarkable composers of the 20th century. His signature disjunct melodies and quirky, perky compositional style is so interesting and unique that his music is instantly recognizable, even today. When critics complain that the wellspring of current musical idioms has become exhausted or derivative, along comes a composer like Prokofiev who surprises everyone and does something completely different. That is why I believe that even within established musical forms it is possible to invent something completely new and exciting—it just doesn’t happen very often.

Regrettably, no English-language documentary about the life and music of Prokofiev has ever been produced. While we wait for someone to do that, perhaps Robert Greenberg might add another excellent installment to his “Great Masters” series for The Great Courses by profiling Sergei Prokofiev in eight 30-minute episodes as he did for Shostakovich, Brahms, and others.

Sergei Prokofiev composed his last completed work, the Symphony No. 7, between December 1951 and July 1952 at the age of 60-61. Its first public performance in Moscow on October 11, 1952 would be the last public performance Prokofiev would attend. He died less than five months later.

Dmitri Shostakovich attended the premiere, and quickly sent a letter of congratulations to Prokofiev, “I wish you at least another hundred years to live and create. Listening to such works as your Seventh Symphony makes it much easier and more joyful to live.” Shostakovich would attend Prokofiev’s funeral in March 1953.

Iconic photo of the three greatest 20th-century Soviet composers, together. Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), and Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978). Dated 1940.

The most inspired recording I have ever heard of Prokofiev’s Seventh Symphony is by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra with Andrew Litton conducting. Even though I was already familiar with this work, listening to this performance was like hearing the work for the first time. This interpretation is intimate and compelling.

BIS-2134

The last years of Prokofiev’s life were difficult ones. His health was deteriorating and Stalin’s terrible regime was a constant threat and source of anxiety. Official disapproval had led to a life of poverty for Prokofiev.

With that as a backdrop, Prokofiev was eager that his new symphony would be well received by the authorities as well as the public, hoping that it would earn him a First Class Stalin Prize—he needed the money. But like Shostakovich, Prokofiev took his symphonies seriously, pouring his heart and soul into them while cleverly embedding what he wanted to say musically in a way that would elude the authorities with their limited musical sophistication and intelligence.

Prokofiev even wrote two endings for the symphony. The “real” ending and a contrived ending to please the authorities and help him win the prize. (He did not win the hoped for Stalin Prize, but he was posthumously awarded the Lenin Prize for this symphony in 1957.)

Prokofiev told his friend, the young cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, “Slava, you will live much longer than me, and you must take care that this new ending never exists after me.” As Andrew Huth writes in the liner notes, “Both versions of the ending are included on this disc so that listeners can judge the very different effect each makes.” Track 9 is the final movement of Symphony No. 7 played again with the alternative ending that Prokofiev wrote to please the authorities.

Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) with Sergei Prokofiev

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!