January 8

1792 Lowell Mason – American composer and educator (d.1872); a leading figure in American church music, the composer of over 1600 hymn tunes, many of which are sung today.

1812 Sigismond Thalberg – Swiss-born Austrian composer and pianist (d.1871); one of the most famous virtuoso pianists of the 19th century and legendary rival of Franz Liszt.

1843 first performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-Flat Op 44, at the Leipzig Gewandhaus with pianist Clara Schumann; written in just a few weeks late in 1842;  by pairing solo piano and string quartet, the composer revolutionized the musical character of the piano quintet and virtually invented a new genre.

1896 Jaromir Weinberger – Czech-American composer (d.1967); wrote over 100 works, including operas, operettas, choral works, and works for orchestra, but the only one which is still remembered is the opera Schwanda the Bagpiper (1927) and the Polka and Fugue from it is often heard in a concert version; it was considered by the Walt Disney studio as a segment for Fantasia 2000 but lost out to Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2.

1905 Giacinto Scelsi – Italian composer (d.1988); best known for writing music based around only one pitch, as exemplified in his Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola (Four Pieces on a single note, 1959); also wrote surrealist poetry in French.

1924 Benjamin Lees – American composer (d.2010); born Benjamin George Lisniansky in Harbin, Manchuria, he was raised in San Francisco and lived in Palm Springs, California; his Symphony No. 5 ‘Kalmar Nyckel’, was written in 1986 to honor the founding of Wilmington, Delaware; the work received a Grammy nomination in 2003.

1936 Zdenek Macal – Czech-born American conductor (81 years old); music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, 1986-1993; made a popular recording of Má vlast by Bedrich Smetana for Telarc Records in 1991.

1937 Robert Moran – American composer (80 years old); his Trinity Requiem (2011) commemorates the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. 

1952 Vladimir Feltsman – Russian-American pianist (65 years old); in 1979, because of his discontent with the official Soviet ideology and governmental control of the arts, he applied for an exit visa from the Soviet Union and was immediately banned from performing in public; after eight years of virtual artistic exile, he was finally granted permission to leave the Soviet Union; has been a US citizen since 1995.

1971 first performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 in Moscow, by the All-Union Radio and Television Symphony, with the composer's son, Maxim, conducting; the composer loved placing allusions to the works of himself and other composers in his music, and the Fifteenth Symphony is full of them: beside cryptic references to his own pieces, there is an outburst of Rossini's William Tell Overture in the first movement, allusions to Mikhail Glinka and Gustav Mahler, and Richard Wagner's ‘Fate’ leitmotif from the Ring Cycle.


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