February 28

1808 Elias Parish Alvars – English harpist and composer (d.1849); Hector Berlioz said of him: "This man is the Liszt of the harp. You cannot conceive all the delicate and powerful effects, the novel touches and unprecedented sonorities that he manages to produce…”

1825 Jean-Baptiste Arban – French cornetist, conductor, composer and pedagogue (d.1889); first famous virtuoso of the modern cornet à piston, or valved cornet, and author of a still widely used method for the instrument.

1854 first performance of Franz Liszt’s Les préludes in Weimar conducted by the composer; in the announcement in the Weimarische Zeitung  the day before the premiere, it was called Les préludes— symphonische Dichtung, and the term ‘symphonic poem’ was invented.

1876 John Alden Carpenter – American composer (d.1951); studied composition at Harvard with John Knowles Paine and in Rome with Sir Edward Elgar; most famous for his ballets Krazy Kat (1921) and Skyscrapers (1926) and the impressionistic orchestral suite Adventures in a Perambulator (1914).

1912 first performances of Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Sinfonia espansiva’ and Violin Concerto with the composer conducting Copenhagen's Royal Danish Orchestra; there are wordless vocal solos for soprano and baritone in the second movement of the symphony; the concerto was written for—and premiered by—Hungarian violinist Dr. Emil Telmányi, the composer's son-in-law.

1920 first performance of the orchestral version of Maurice Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin in Paris (the solo piano version had been premiered by Marguerite Long in April 1919); this piece captures Ravel at the height of his orchestration skills, turning a very pianistic piece into a superb orchestral suite with very few hints of its origins.

1953 Osmo Vänskä – Finnish conductor, clarinetist and composer (65 years old); studied conducting with Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy, where his classmates included Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka-Pekka Saraste; became Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra in 2003, but resigned in October 2013, one year after management locked out the musicians in a longstanding labor dispute; in January 2014 Vänskä and the Minnesota won a Grammy for the album of Sibelius's Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4; he was re-appointed music director of the Orchestra in April 2014 with a two-year contract,  which was extended in May 2015 to last until August 2019.

                Leap Year events, celebrated otherwise on the 28th of February

1792 Gioacchino Rossini – Italian composer (d.1868); wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces; his best-known operas include the Italian comedies The Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola, and the French-language epics Mosé and William Tell; until his retirement in 1829, Rossini had been the most popular opera composer in history.

1828 premiere of Daniel Auber's opera La muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici, originally Masaniello) at the Salle Le Peletier of the Paris Opéra; generally regarded as the first French grand opera.


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