On today's date in the year 2000, at the University of Iowa, the Kalichstein-Robinson-Laredo Piano Trio gave the premiere performance of a chamber work written for them by the American composer Richard Danielpour.
Subtitled, "A Child's Reliquary," this was a musical response to every parent's worst nightmare: the death of a young child—specifically the drowning death of the 18-month old son of Danielpour's friend Carl St. Clair, the conductor of the Pacific Symphony in California.
"I know of nothing more tragic or heartbreaking…" explained Danielpour, adding, "[My Trio] was intended as a kind of 'Kindertotenlieder' without words—and everything in the piece, including references to the Brahms Cradle Song—relates to its initial inspiration."
In the Middle Ages, a reliquary was a container, often made of silver or gold, used to hold holy objects, the "relics" of a saint perhaps. In our own time, concert-goers would recognize emotional allusions to the famous lullaby—or cradle song—by Brahms in Danielpour's score, as well as echoes of Mahler's "Kindertotelieder" song cycle dealing with similar parental loss.
In 2006, Danielpour reworked "A Child's Reliquary" into a concerto for violin, cello, and full orchestra, and this new version was premiered by violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson with the Pacific Symphony led by Carl St. Clair—for the conductor, a remarkable act of loving memory and proof, perhaps, of the healing power of music.