Composers Datebook

Reich and Korot tell tales

Steve Reich (b. 1936) Music for Large Ensemble Alarm Will Sound and Ossia; Alan Pierson, cond. Nonesuch 79546

Composer's Datebook - May 12, 2021


May 12, 2021


In the 1960s, an American composer named Steve Reich prepared some electronic pieces consisting of gradually shifting tape loops of the same prerecorded–and enigmatic–spoken phrases excerpted from someone telling a story. Reich quickly realized he could produce the same effect with conventional instruments and live musicians. These repetitive patterns and the gradual shifts came to be labeled “minimalist.”

Three decades later, in May of 1993, Reich and his wife, the video artist Beryl Korot, created a large-scale piece they dubbed a "documentary video opera." Titled “The Cave,” it investigated the roots of Christianity, Judaism and Islam through prerecorded interviews, images projected on multi-channel video screens, and live musical accompaniment utilizing the speech patterns of the interviewees as the starting point for much of the score.

On today’s date in 2002, at the Vienna Festival, Reich and Korot premiered another music theatre piece, entitled “Three Tales,” intended as symbolic parables of technology in the 20th century, the three topics being the crash of the Hindenburg, the early atomic bomb tests in the Pacific Islands, and the cloning of a sheep named Dolly.

Music Played in Today's Program

Steve Reich (b. 1936) Music for Large Ensemble Alarm Will Sound and Ossia; Alan Pierson, cond. Nonesuch 79546

On This Day


  • 1739 - Bohemian composer Johann Baptist Wanha (Vanhall) in Nechanicz;

  • 1754 - German composer and publisher (of Mozart and Beethoven) Franz Anton Hoffmeister, in Rottenburg;

  • 1755 - Italian violinist and composer Giovanni Viotti, in Fontanetto da Po;

  • 1842 - French composer Jules Massenet, in Montaud, near St.-Etienne, Loire;

  • 1845 - French composer Gabriel Fauré, in Pamiers (Ariège);

  • 1903 - English composer Sir Lennox Berkeley, in Boar's Hill, near Oxford;

  • 1941 - American composer, harpsichordist and organist Anthony Newman, in Los Angeles;


  • 1871 - French opera composer Daniel-François Auber, age 89, in Paris;

  • 1884 - Bohemian composer Bedrich Smetana, age 60, in Prague;

  • 1931 - Belgian composer, violinist and conductor Eugene Ysaÿe, age 72, in Brussels;


  • 1736 - Handel: opera "Atalanta" in London at the Covent Garden Theater; Handel dedicated the opera to the recently-married Frederick, Prince of Wales (Gregorian date: May 23);

  • 1832 - Donizetti: "L'Elisir d'Amore" (Elixir of Love), in Milan;

  • 1894 - R. Strauss: opera "Guntram," in Weimar , with Strauss conducting;

  • 1917 - Bartók: ballet "The Wooden Prince," in Budapest;

  • 1926 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1, by Leningrad Philharmonic, Nikolai Malko conducting;

  • 1937 - Walter Damrosch: "The Man Without a Country," in New York at the Metropolitan Opera;

  • 1938 - Honegger: opera "Joan of Arc at the Stake" (concert performance) in Basel, Switzerland, at the Grosser Musiksaal; The first staged production occurred in Zürich on June 13, 1942;

  • 1938 - Korngold: premiere showing of Warner Brothers' film "The Adventures of Robin Hood";

  • 1943 - Glière: Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, in Moscow;

  • 1944 - Ginastera: "Overture to the Creole Faust," in Santiago, Chile;

  • 1980 - John Harbison: Concerto for Piano, at Alice Tully Hall in New York, with soloist Robert Miller and the American Composers Orchestra, Gunther Schuller conducting;

  • 1983 - Earle Brown: "Sounder Rounds" for orchestra, in Saarbrücken, Germany;

  • 2002 - Steve Reich & Beryl Korot: multi-media presentation "Three Tales" ("Hindenburg," "Bikini," and "Dolly") at the Vienna Festival in Austria, by members of the Ensemble Moderne and Synergy Vocals, directed by Bradley Lubman.