Composers Datebook®

Roberto Sierra

Composers Datebook - Jan. 29, 2024


In the early 1990s, flutist Susan Morris de Jong and guitarist Jeffrey Van commissioned Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra to write three sets of chamber works that have become classics for their combination of instruments. Sierra titled these Crónicas del Descubrimiento, or Chronicles of Discovery, and said they were his vision of the bewilderment the native Indians of Puerto Rico must have felt during first interactions with the Spanish conquistadores, and vice-versa.

Each of the three sets contains two contrasting pieces in which flute and guitar seem to observe, excite and provoke each other, with the first slow atmospheric piece followed by a more rhythmic second one. On today’s date in 1994 in Minneapolis, De Jong and Van presented the third and final set of Sierra’s Chronicles of Discovery, containing two pieces: the first titled Song, and the second, more ominously, Battle.

Sierra left his native Puerto Rico to study composition with György Ligeti in Hamburg in the late 1970s, served as the composer-in-residence of the Milwaukee Symphony in the 1980s and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2021.

Music Played in Today's Program

Roberto Sierra (b. 1953) – Battalia, from Tercera Crónica del Descubrimiento (Marcelo Barbozab, flute; Fabio Zanona, guitar) Somm CD-0669

On This Day


  • 1715 - Austrian composer Georg Christoph Wagenseil, in Vienna;

  • 1782 - French composer Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, in Caen;

  • 1852 - British composer Frederic Hymen Cowen, in Kingston, Jamaica;

  • 1862 - English composer Fritz (Frederick) Delius, in Bradford, Yorkshire;

  • 1876 - English composer Havergal Brian, in Dresden, Staffordshire;

  • 1924 - Italian composer Luigi Nono, in Venice;


  • 1946 - British composer Sydney Jones, age 84, in London, age 84;

  • 1962 - Austrian composer and violinist Fritz Kreisler, age 86, in New York City;


  • 1728 - Gay & Pepusch: ballad-opera, “The Beggar’s Opera,” at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London; This work, mounted by the London impresario John Rich, proved so popular that it was staged 62 times that season; As contemporary wags put it, the wildly successful work “made Gay Rich and Rich Gay&rdquo(Gregorian date: Feb. 9);

  • 1781 - Mozart: opera, "Idomeneo" in Munich at the Hoftheater;

  • 1826 - Schubert: String Quartet in D minor, "Death and the Maiden," as a unrehearsed reading at the Vienna home of Karl and Franz Hacker, two amateur musicians; Schubert, who usually played viola on such occasions, could not perform since he was busy copying out the parts and making last-minute corrections;

  • 1882 - Rimsky-Korsakov: opera "The Snow Maiden," in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Feb. 10);

  • 1892 - Chadwick: “A Pastoral Prelude,” by the Boston Symphony. Arthur Nikisch conducting;

  • 1916 - Prokofiev: "Scythian" Suite ("Ala and Lolly"), Op. 20, at the Mariinsky Theater in Petrograd, with the composer conducting (Julian date: Jan. 16);

  • 1932 - Gershwin: "Second Rhapsody" for piano and orchestra, in Boston, with the Boston Symphony conducted by Serge Koussevitzky and the composer as soloist;

  • 1936 - Constant Lambert: "Summer's Last Will and Testament" for chorus and orchestra, in London;

  • 1981 - John Williams: first version of Violin Concerto (dedicated to the composer's late wife, actress and singer Barbara Ruick Williams), by Mark Peskanov and the St. Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin; Williams subsequently revised this work in 1998; This premiere date is listed (incorrectly) as Jan. 19 in the DG recording featuring Gil Shaham;

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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®