Composers Datebook®

A John Adams Christmas oratorio

John Adams (b. 1947) — excerpts from El Niño (soloists; Kent Nagano, cond.) Nonesuch 79634

Composer's Datebook - January 11, 2022


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January 11, 2022


As 1999 drew to a close it was a matter of debate whether – chronologically speaking – the new Millennium really began in 2000 or 2001.  As far as the musical world was concerned, why wait? The shift from 1999 to 2000 occasioned hundreds of celebratory concerts and special commissions worldwide.

While not originally intended as a Millennium commission, a major new work of the American composer John Adams had its European premiere in December of 1999 and its American debut in January of 2000.  Years before, the San Francisco Symphony had asked Adams to write a big work for their chorus and orchestra. Then came a request from the Châtelet Theater in Paris for a new opera.  Adams combined both requests, folding in a dream of his own. As he put it: “I wanted to write a Messiah.” The result was a Nativity oratorio titled “El Nino” – a work for soloists, chorus and orchestra that could be performed as either a concert hall piece or a fully staged theatrical work.

Kent Nagano conducted El Nino’s world premiere in Paris on December 15, 1999, and the same cast and conductor gave its American premiere in San Francisco on today’s date in 2000.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Adams (b. 1947) — excerpts from El Niño (soloists; Kent Nagano, cond.) Nonesuch 79634

On This Day


  • 1856 - Norwegian composer Christian Sinding, in Kongsberg;

  • 1875 - Russian composer Reinhold Glière, in Kiev, Ukraine (Julian date: Dec. 30, 1874);

  • 1902 - French composer and organist Maurice Duruflé, in Louviers;

  • 1944 - German composer York Höller, in Leverkusen;

  • 1975 - American composer Daniel Nass, in Buffalo, Minnesota;


  • 1801 - Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa, age 51, in Venice;

  • 1901 - Russian composer Vassili Sergeievitch Kalinnikov, age 34, in Yalta (Julian date: Dec. 29, 1900);

  • 1954 - Austrian composer Oscar Straus, age 83, in Bad Ischl;


  • 1754 - Rameau: opera "Castor and Pollux" (2nd version), in Paris at the Palais Royal Opéra;

  • 1895 - Brahms: Clarinet Sonata, Op. 120, no. 1 (first public performance), in Vienna, by clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, with the composer at the piano, as part of the Rosé Quartet's chamber music series; The first performance ever of this work occurred on September 19, 1894, at a private performance in the home of the sister of the Duke of Meiningen at Berchtesgaden, with the same performers; Brahms and Mühlfeld also gave private performances of both sonatas in Frankfurt (for Clara Schumann and others) on November 10-13, 1894; at Castle Altenstein (for the Duke of Meiningen) on Nov. 14, 1894; and on Jan. 7, 1895 (for members of the Vienna Tonkünstler Society);

  • 1906 - Rachmaninoff: two one-act operas "The Miserly Knight" and "Francesca da Rimini" in Moscow (Gregorian date: Jan. 24);

  • 1925 - Copland: Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, at Aeolian Hall in New York City by New York Symphony conducted by Walter Damrosch, with Nadia Boulanger the soloist;

  • 1940 - Prokofiev: ballet, "Romeo and Juliet," in Leningrad;

  • 1968 - Shchedrin: "Chimes" by the New York Philharmonic;

  • 1976 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical "Pacific Overtures";

  • 1992 - John Harbison: song "The Flute of Interior Time" (text by Kabir, translated by Robert Bly), at the Shauspielhaus in Berlin, by baritone William Parker and pianist Allan Marks; This song became part of "The AIDS-Quilt Songbook" compiled by the late William Parker;

  • 1997 - Henze: opera "Venus and Adonis," in Munich at the Bavarian State Opera;

  • 2001 - American premiere of John Adams: oratorio "El Niño" at Davies Hall, San Francisco with Kent Nagano conducting the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Piedmont Children's Choir and the same soloists as the Paris world premiere performance at. Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris on December 15, 2000.


  • 1946 - German composer Paul Hindemith becomes a U.S. citizen.