Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
October 23
What Else
1801 - Death of German composer Johann Gottlieb Naumann in Dresden.

1819 - Isaac Baker Woodbury, US composer, was born.

1866 - Death of Russian cellist Prince Nicolas Galitzin founder of St. Petersburg Philharmonic Society, to whom Beethoven dedicated Quartets Op 127, 130 & 132.

1890 - Debut of Borodin's opera Prince Igor at the Imperial Opera House in St. Petersburg, Russia. Completed by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov.

1903 - Premiere of Edward MacDowell's symphonic poem Lamia based on Keats poem. Boston Symphony.

1941 - Lawrence Foster, American conductor, was born.

1943 - Ross Edwards, Australian composer, was born.

1947 - Neil Rolnick, US composer, was born.

1950 - Al Jolson, known as the World's Greatest Entertainer, died.

1959 - Debut of Ned Rorem's Eagles by The Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.

1965 - The Byrds' Turn! Turn! Turn! is released.

1970 - Premiere of George Crumb's Black Angels '13 Images from the Dark Lord' for string quartet.

1971 - Birth of Italian composer Carlo Forlivesi in Faenza, Ravenna.

1981 - Debut of Roger Sessions' Concerto for Orchestra. Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pulitzer Prize for Music (1982).

1997 - Premiere of Richard Danielpour's Celestial Night New Jersey Symphony.
Igor Stravinsky's Violin Concerto in D
premiered on October 23, 1931 in Berlin.

Igor Stravinsky was born in Russia in 1882.  He grew up in a musical atmosphere and studied with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  In 1909 Sergei Diaghilev heard some of Stravisnky's music, was impressed, and asked him to orchestrate some of Chopin's piano pieces.  He very much liked the results, and commissioned an original ballet.  The resulting ballet, The Firebird, premiered in 1910, and was immediately popular, as was the ballet Petrushka in 1911.
Samuel Dushkin
Igor Stravinsky
The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky's third ballet, premiered in Paris in 1913.  The resulting shock at the piece's dissonance, rhythms and percussiveness, caused outrage and confusion in the classical music community, but even then the piece was perceived as a masterpiece. 

In 1930, the prestigious German publishing house, Schott, approached Stravinsky with the idea of his composing a violin concerto.  Stravinsky was not impressed with the idea.  He said that he was not yet comfortable writing for violin, even though he had done a masterful job with it in The Soldier's Tale, in 1919.
A Great Performance of the Concerto by Hilary Hahn.
Audio Samples Here.
Can You Guess
We read of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov helping to complete Borodin's opera Prince Igor below.  Almost everyone has heard a piece of music Rimsky-Korsakov wrote involving a weapon. Can You Guess the weapon in the title?

Go to the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
Beethoven Quartets
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Did You Guess?
The piece is called Saber Dance.  You can hear a MIDI version of the piece by clicking HERE.

Paul Hindemith, a fellow composer, convinced Stravinsky that his unfamiliarity with the violin would be an advantage.  He said that Stravinsky could approach the piece with new ideas and a fresh outlook, and not be tied to what Hindemith called, "the familiar movement of the fingers."

Still unconvinced, Stravinsky met with Dushkin.  Their meeting was not only cordial, but actually pleasant.  Soon the two men became fast friends.

Stravinsky said he was deeply influenced by Johann Sebastian Bach.  He was especially fond of Bach's Concerto for Two Violins, and alluded to the similarity in substance, and even in the titling of the movements.

Stravinsky was not content to simply write a piece that would allow a violinist to show off, and Dushkin eager to work with Stravinsky in this area.  Stravinsky's goal was to write a piece that was truly a showpiece for the orchestra as well as the soloist.  It was traditional to place a cadenza in a violin concerto.  A cadenza is a part of a concerto when the soloist plays alone to demonstrate his virtuosity.  At the end of the cadenza the soloist stops and the orchestra completes the musical idea that was presented.  Stravinsky decided that this would be a true cooperation between orchestra and soloist, and he decided that there would be no cadenza in his piece.

In spite of this decision, Stravinsky's concerto ended with a Capriccio, a dazzling showpiece for the soloist.

The concerto premiered on this date in Berlin.  The soloist was Samuel Dushkin, who had been the technical consultant on the piece, and who was now the close friend of the composer, Igor Stravinsky, who stood on the podium and conducted the first performance.
Willy Strecker, a co-owner of Schott, said that violinist Samuel Dushkin would be willing to offer technical advice on writing for the violin.  This did not persuade Stravinsky, who was concerned that Dushkin would only want a piece that would show off his skill, not present the types of musical ideas that Stravinsky would present.
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