Composer Birthdays

Thursday Evening Classics
Composer Birthdays
April 2011
Presented by Steve Petke

April 7

1763 Domenico Dragonetti

1899 Robert Casadesus

1931 Donald Harris

April 21

1899 Randall Thompson

1920 Bruno Maderna

1933 Easley Blackwood

1939 John McCabe

Randall Thompson

Birth: April 21, 1899 in New York City, NY

Death: July 9, 1984 in Cambridge, MA

Thompson's father was an English teacher, who expected academic excellence from his children. At the family's summer vacation home in Vienna, MA, Thompson took interest in an old parlor reed organ. At this instrument Thompson wrote his earliest works around 1915. In 1916, Thompson entered Harvard University and graduated with a Masters in Music in 1922. Later in that year, a Prix de Rome enabled him to study in Italy with Gian Francesco Malipiero, by whom he was much influenced. After three years, he returned to New York. He was appointed organist and lecturer in music at Wellesley College in 1927, a position he left in 1929 to take up a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. Two years later, he embarked on a three-year study of music education commissioned by the Association of American Colleges. His research resulted in an influential report, College Music, a text that helped restructure the collegiate agenda in music education nationwide. In 1936 Thompson's cantata The Peaceable Kingdom, inspired by the work of American primitive painter Edward Hicks, was premiered in Cambridge and helped establish Thompson's popularity as a composer. In 1937 Thompson resumed an academic career, taking up a professorship at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1939 he was appointed director of the Curtis Institute of Music (where Bernstein was one of his students) and in 1941 he became head of the music division of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. He joined the music department at Princeton University in 1946 and in 1948 was appointed to a position at Harvard. He is best known for his choral works, nearly all of which were composed on commission or for a specific occasion. Choral works such as Frostiana, The Testament of Freedom and The Last Words of David achieved popularity unprecedented in the USA. His chamber and orchestral works are imaginative and substantial. The most popular of these is the Symphony #2. No work of Thompson's, however, equaled the incredible celebrity accorded to his Alleluia. It was written in four days at the request of maestro Serge Koussevitzky as a work to celebrate the opening of the new Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. It was an immediate success and has been performed countless times by choruses large and small, professional and amateur.

April 28
1954 Michael Daugherty