February 8

1741 André Grétry – Belgian-born French composer (d. 1813); most famous for his opéras comiques.

1908 first performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in St. Petersburg with the composer conducting; due to its formidable length, the work was subjected to many revisions, reducing its duration from nearly an hour to 40 minutes or less (the Cleveland Orchestra’s 1928 recording lasts 46 minutes); since 1970, orchestras have used the complete version almost exclusively; a section of the second movement is used several times in the 2014 film Birdman.

1925 first performance of Henry Cowell’s Ensemble at a concert sponsored by the International Composers' Guild at Aeolian Hall in New York, by an ensemble that featured the composer and two colleagues on "thunder-sticks" (an American Indian instrument also known as the "bull-roarer"); also on program was the premiere of William Grant Still's From the Land of Dreams for three voices and chamber orchestra (his first concert work, now lost, dedicated to his teacher, Edgard Varèse).

1932 John Williams – American composer, conductor and pianist (85 years old); one of the greatest film composers of all time; has won 5 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globe Awards, 7 British Academy Film Awards and 21 Grammies; with 50 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most-nominated person, after Walt Disney; in 2016, he receives the AFI Life Achievement Award.

1946 first performance of Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (completed by Tibor Serly after the composer's death) by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting and György Sándor as soloist; the work was written as a gift for the 42nd birthday of his wife, Ditta Pásztory-Bartók.

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