Today, a letter: written on this date in 1615 by the Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi to a friend at the court of the Duke of Mantua.
The letter accompanied a vocal score that Monteverdi hoped would convice the Duke to commission a much larger work. After detailed instructions regarding the positioning of the singers and the instruments Monteverdi adds—almost as an afterthought—this line: “If you could let the singers and players see the music for an hour before His Highness hears it, it would be a very good thing indeed.”
Talk about “authentic performance practice!”
It probably took more than an hour’s rehearsal for the U.S. premiere of American composer Steve Reich’s intricate setting of four Hebrew psalm fragments—titled “Tehillim”—which took place in Houston, Texas, on today’s date in 1981. Back then, Reich was already famous as one of America’s leading “minimalist” composers, but a search for fresh directions coincided with Reich’s rediscovery of his Jewish heritage, and “Tehillim” was the result.
“For me,” says Reich, ”the most important aspect of a piece of music, mine or someone else’s, is its emotional and intellectual effect on performers and audiences—I find it basically impossible to separate the emotional and intellectual aspects of a piece of music.“
Music Played in Today's Program
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)OrfeoMonteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists; John Eliot Gardiner, cond.Erato 88032
Steve Reich (b. 1936)TehillimSchoenberg Ensemble; Percussion group The Hague; Reinbert De Leeuw, Cond.Nonesuch 79295