Composers Datebook®

Garcia's Requiem

Composer's Datebook - September 22, 2023


In the 1970s, the Afro-American Music Opportunities Association collaborated with Columbia Records to create an audio anthology of works by underrepresented Afro-American composers.  Dubbed The Black Composer Series, this became a famous series of LPs devoted to recent works by then-contemporary composers as well as notable works from the 18th and 19th centuries.

One of the earliest composers represented in Columbia’s Black Composer Series was José Maurício Nunes Garcia, who was born in Brazil on today’s date in 1767. His grandparents had been African slaves, but his parents were Brazilians of mixed race. Since their young son showed great musical abilities, he was encouraged to pursue musical studies, and eventually secured a prestigious position as master of music at the Royal Chapel in Rio. By that time, he also had become a Roman Catholic priest.

Sacred music in 18th-century Brazil was heavily influenced by the symphonic mass settings of Haydn and Mozart. Garcia, in fact, had conducted the first performance of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in Rio de Janeiro.  Garcia’s own Requiem Mass proved to be one of his most famous and often-performed works, and the one selected for inclusion in Columbia’s Black Composer Series.

Music Played in Today's Program

José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767 - 1830) – Sanctus, fr Requiem Mass (Morgan State College Chor; Helsinki Philharmonic; Paul Freeman, cond.) Columbia Masterworks LP S33431/Sony CD G010003978687N

On This Day


  • 1875 - Lithuanian composer Mikolajus Ciurlionis, in Varena (then the Kaunas province of the Russian Empire; Julian date: Sept. 10);

  • 1933 - Spanish composer Leonardo Balada, in Barcelona;

  • 1961 - American composer Michael Torke, in Milwaukee, Wisc.;


  • 1989 - American song composer Irving Berlin, age 101, in New York City;


  • 1869 - Wagner: opera, "Das Rheingold," in Munich at the Hoftheater, Franz Wüllner conducting; The opera was performed at the Bavarian emperor Ludwig II's request, but against the composer's wishes;

  • 1938 - Webern: String Quartet, Op. 28, at South Mountain, Pittsfield, Mass., during the Berkshire Chamber Music Festival; This work was commissioned for $750 by the American music patron, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge;

  • 1964 - Jerry Bock: musical "Fiddler On the Roof" opens on Broadway: It would run for 3,242 performances before closing;

  • 1971 - Barber: "The Lovers" for solo voice and chorus (after a poem by Pablo Neruda), in Philadelphia;

  • 1989 - Bernstein: "Arias and Barcarolles" (orchestrated version prepared by Bright Sheng), at the Tilles Center of Long Island University with the New York Chamber Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz and featuring vocalists Susan Graham and Kurt Ollmann; The first version of this work, for soloists and piano four-hands, premiered on May 9, 1988, at Equitable Center Auditorium in New York City;

  • 1990 - James MacMillan: "The Beserking" (Piano Concerto), at Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow by pianist Peter Donohoue and the Royal Scottish Orchestra, Matthias Bamert conducting;

  • 1990 - Christopher Rouse: "Jagannath" for orchestra, by the Houston Symphony Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach conducting;

  • 2000 - Philip Glass: “Tirol Concerto” for piano and orchestra, by Dennis Russell Davies (piano and conductor) with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, at the 7th annual Klangspuren Festival in Schwaz, Tirol (Austria);

  • 2000 - Zwilich: "Millennium Fantasy" for piano and orchestra, by the Cincinnati Symphony, Jesús Lopez-Cobos conducting with soloist Jeffrey Biegel;


  • 1937 - During the Spanish Civil War, Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas conducts his 1935 composition “Homage to Federico Garcia Lorca” in Madrid while the city was under siege by Spanish fascist forces; The Spanish poet Lorca had been killed by the Falangists;

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®