January 20

1586 Johann Hermann Schein – German composer (d.1630); one of the first to import the early Italian stylistic innovations into German music; his most famous work was his only collection of instrumental music, the Banchetto musicale (Musical banquet, 1617) which contains 20 separate variation suites; they are among the earliest and finest representatives of the form. 

1855 Ernest Chausson – French composer (d.1899); his music bridges the gap between the ripe Romanticism of Massenet and the more introverted Impressionism of Debussy; he once said, “There are moments when I feel myself driven by a kind of feverish instinct, as if I had the presentiment of being unable to attain my goal, or of attaining it too late;" he died at age 44, just as his career was beginning to flourish.

1870 Guillaume Lekeu – Belgian composer (d.1894); a highly talented composer whose death cut short a promising musical career; he contracted typh          oid fever from a contaminated sorbet and died in his parents' home in Angers the day after his 24th birthday.

1892 premiere of Alfredo Catalani’s opera La Wally at La Scala in Milan; best known for its Act 1 aria Ebben? Ne andrò lontana; American soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez sang this aria in Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1981 movie Diva; Arturo Toscanini named his first daughter Wally after the heroine of this opera.

1894 Walter Piston – American composer, music theorist, and professor of music at Harvard University (d.1976); his students included Leroy Anderson, Leonard Bernstein and Elliott Carter; wrote four books on the technical aspects of music theory which are considered to be classics in their respective fields: Principles of Harmonic Analysis, Counterpoint, Orchestration, and Harmony.

1939 first performance of Charles Ives’s Piano Sonata No. 2 ‘Concord, Mass. 1840-1860’ (aka Concord Sonata) by John Kirkpatrick, in New York City; the four movements represent figures associated with transcendentalism. The composer said the work was his "impression of the spirit of transcendentalism that is associated in the minds of many with Concord, Massachusetts of over a half century ago. This is undertaken in impressionistic pictures of Emerson and Thoreau, a sketch of the Alcotts, and a scherzo supposed to reflect a lighter quality which is often found in the fantastic side of Hawthorne."

1944 first performance of Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber by the New York Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinski conducting; the themes are taken from incidental music which Weber wrote for Turandot, a play by Carlo Gozzi based on the same legend that later inspired Giacomo Puccini and others.

1951 Iván Fischer – Hungarian conductor and composer (66 years old); founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra in 1983; his older brother, Ádám Fischer, is also a conductor


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