Currently the CD devoted to piano chamber works composed by Gabriela Lena Frank is being edited. We expect to release it in 2013!
Works on CD:
Selected Audio Tracks:
1. Tres Homenajes - Scherzo
2. Suenos de Chambi - Harawi de Chambi
3. Suenos de Chambi - Marinera
1. Tres Homenajes: Compadrazgo
The word compadrazgo refers to a quintessentially Latin American idea. It signifies a special kind of camaraderie such as the bond between godparent and godchild or the friendliness between neighbors who might borrow sugar from one another. I find that this spirit is also essential to chamber music in all styles and genres as players depend on one another to bring their performance to life. In honor of compadrazgo, I’ve composed three tributes (tres homenajes) that are all inspired by Latin American idioms, yet explore different ways in which the players relate to one another. They are:
I. Scherzo para Sipan: This fleet movement is in homage to the windy northern plains of Peru made famous by the discovery of an ancient Moche royal tomb for El Senor de Sipan (Lord of Sipan).
II. Adagio para Amantani: The extended slow movement is in homage to the island of Amantani that I visited in the summer of 2006. Situated in the middle of Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia, the island is both beautiful and barren, and its inhabitants absolutely depend on their relationships of compadrazgo in order to survive the cold and arid climate.
III. T’inku: This aggressive and dissonant finale is inspired by the oddly violent form of compadrazgo where people from two different communities ritualistically engage in a fight. Stemming from pre-Colombian beliefs where young men fought to the death, sacrificing themselves so that their villages would receive a good harvest or a season free from illness, the combative spirit of the ‘t’inku’ actually results in people coming together for a common good. Throughout all three movements, melodic and rhythmic motifs from Peru and Bolivia abound.
Sueños de Chambi: Snapshots for an Andean Album is inspired by the work of Martín Chambi (1891-1973), the first Amerindian photographer to achieve international acclaim, albeit posthumously. In a career spanning half a century, he recorded as much of Peruvian life, architecture, and landscape as possible, having had the good luck to train with Max T. Vargas in the southern Peruvian town of Arequipa as a young boy. In 1920, he opened a studio in Cuzco, the original capital of the Inca empire, which became the base for his examination of indigenous culture. In his documentation of both the Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas and the mestizo (mixed-race) elite, Chambi produced more than 18,000 glass negatives depicting the customs and festivals, the working lives and public celebrations of twentieth-century Peruvians. Chambi was notable for his lack of interest in the industry of touring and exhibiting, buying and selling, and obtaining listings in foreign photography collections and catalogues. As far as he was concerned, his subjects were his constituency. Chambi’s desire to integrate his Indian heritage with his artistic talent, his unassuming nature and ease in meeting people regardless of class, caste or race, and his natural curiosity meant that he avoided exoticizing the inhabitants of the high altiplano of Peru. His pictures are consequently direct but not at the expense of pictorial concerns – Throughout his life, Chambi experimented heavily with light sources, which can be directly related to his interest in Rembrandt’s paintings.
Sueños de Chambi (“Dreams of Chambi”) is my musical interpretation of seven photos from Chambi’s vast collection of pictures. I was first introduced to Chambi’s work at the encouragement of compadre and friend Rodney Waters, a fine pianist and photographer himself. Having watched me explore my Peruvian heritage (in music and otherwise) for some time, Rod purchased a slim volume containing some of Chambi’s work for me one day… and I fell in love with the images. It was with great difficulty that I picked just seven to muse on in this duo for violin and piano!
The violin part has been arranged for Alto Fl./Fl. in C for the CD. The movements are:
I. Harawi de Quispe: Based on the photo, “Portrait of Miguel Quispe, Cuzco, Peru, c. 1926,” this opening movement frames a Cusqueño religious tune (collected by the Peruvian ethnomusicologist Daniel Alomia Robles) in a harawi, a melancholy and emotional song played by a solo quena flute, the quintessential wind instrument of the Andes. Nicknamed “El Inca” for hiking these mountains barefoot, Miguel Quispe was famous for his nonviolent organizations against the deplorable economic conditions of Indians. Here, he is photographed in profile, the lines of his face and Inca outfit quietly brilliant.
II. Diablicos Puneños: This picture (“Danzarin de la Diablada, 1925″) features a single dancer dressed as a devil from the southern Peruvian region of Puno. The piano flows attacca into this second movement from the first, setting the scene for a dance number with a singing melody on repeated notes. Black note clusters imitate shacapa percussion (seed rattles strapped to the dancers’ thighs) while the violin plays in legato and connected parallel fourths to imitate the tayqa, an extremely large and breathy panpipe.
III. Responsorio Lauramarqueño: In this picture (“Shepherds Piping in their Flocks, Lauramarca, Peru, 1929-33″), two shepherds, presumably father and son, are portrayed with their flutes against the backdrop of the Peruvian highlands, calling in their sheep. The music is structured as antiphonal responses between short solo piano interludes and the serrana cantilena melody sung by the violin. The cantilena melody is set against a swinging piano backdrop meant to convey the sound of the wind in the regional trees.
IV. P’asña Marcha: This picture (“The P’asña Marcha, Cuzco, Peru, 1940″) features women, known as bastoneras de Quiquijana, who dance for one another. In a game testing their skill, they balance large poles on their hands while performing intricate dance steps. After a capricious opening evoking the tremolo and pizzicato sounds of charangos (instruments similar to the mandolin) and guitars, a karnavalito rhythm persists throughout as an ostinato ground in the piano. The tinya drum is alluded to as well – Small in size, it is one of the only musical instruments commonly played by women in indigenous Peruvian culture.
V. Adoración para Angelitos: As a piano solo, this movement sets a Peruvian nursery rhyme (collected by Peruvian ethnomusicologist/composer Andre Sás) to reflect “Dead Child Displayed for the Mourners, Cuzco, Peru, 1920s,” a photograph of a deceased child laid out among flowers and candles on a bed, ready for burial.
VI. Harawi de Chambi: The sixth photo is a self-portait of Chambi which caught my eye for its similarity to the first portrait of Miguel Quispe. Both photos are in profile, in tranquil repose of quiet strength, and bathed in a halo of intertwining light and dark. Consequently, the same harawi melody from the introduction is set in the finale. Considering Chambi’s penchant for posing in disguise in his pictures in an attempt to get “inside” the setting, I like to think he would have appreciated my linking him to Quispe. I also pay tribute to the folk-influenced music of Bela Bartók by alluding to his second sonata for violin and piano.
VII. Marinera: “Folkloric Musicians, Cuzco, Peru, 1934″ is the inspiration for this finale in an enlivened marinera style, a coastal dance popular among folk musicians throughout
[Bio and caption notes for Chambi and his photos draw heavily on "Chambi" published by Phaidon Press Limited and annotated by Amanda Hopkinson]
Thanks must go to Rodney Waters who introduced Martin Chambi to me. In addition, my gratitude goes to the commissioning violinist, Sergiu Luca, who has generously interested himself in my work as a classical composer of mestiza persuasion; pianist Brian Connelly who premieres the work along with Sergiu at the Cascade Head Music Festival; and Wendy Olson – It is not every day that a composer gets to befriend, perform with, and be roommates with a gifted musician who gamely whips out her violin while still in pajamas to – ever so gently – test out and correct my “questionable” string passages…
This piece is dedicated to my grandmother Griselda Cam. It draws inspiration from the idea of “mestizaje,” as envisioned by the Peruvian writer Jose María Arguedas, whereby cultures can co-exist without the subjugation of one by the other. In such a spirit, Sonata Andina para piano solo mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions. “Allegro Aymara” suggests drums from Bolivia (such as the large TAMBOR, the medium WUANKARA, and the smaller TINYA) and flutes (such as the PINKILLO, made of thick jungle reed, and the less typical TARKA, a heavy wooden end-blown duct flute that produces a hoarse overblown tone). “Himno Inca” mimics an ensemble style common to the Andes where a number of players stand around in a semi-circle with panpipes known as ZAMPOÑAS that each have a constricted range of notes which may be preceded, accompanied, and followed by brief percussion. “Adagio Illariy” presents another typical flute, the QUENA. The title refers to the dawn light that outlines the edge of the planet as it curves out of sight just before the sun appears. The Finale Saqsampillo, written in homage to Alberto Ginastera, is a dance that features “warrior devils” or jungle dwellers considered savages. Instruments imitated are two kinds of guitars (the six-stringed Spanish version and the CHARANGO, a higher-pitched ten-stringed instrument made out of an armadillo shell), the ZAMPOÑA flutes, and the MARIMBA.
As a child, I enjoyed an active dream life, which I’ve sought in vain to reclaim as an adult. So frequent were my night excursions into fantasy that I grew accustomed to actually naming the ones that visited me on a recurring basis. “Amadeoso” was one of these. It grew out of the strong impression made upon me by the film “Amadeus” released in 1984, especially the story’s many less-happy and humorous moments. Canto de Harawi: “Amadeoso” is a short tone poem that attempts to portray my childhood dream where I walk hand-in-hand with Mozart, passing through such unlikely scenes as my old backyard garden, a deserted playground, and an ominous cavern that frightened me during a family camping trip. The dream is peculiar in that there is coolness — even distance — intermingled with a sense of impending menace that I, with the naiveté that little children have, want to lead Mozart away from.
This short tone poem takes on the mood and two-part form of a song style native to my Peruvian heritage, that of the melancholy harawi, the quintessential music of the South American Andes. It is particularly distinctive for how the final part of the song sometimes finds its main melody stripped of most of its former accompaniment, starkly dissipating much as a dream might.
about Gabriela Lena Frank:
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Identity has always been at the center of Gabriela Lena Frank’s music. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Frank is something of a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own. She writes challenging idiomatic parts for solo instrumentalists, vocalists, chamber ensembles, and orchestras. Moreover, she writes, “There’s usually a story line behind my music; a scenario or character.” While the enjoyment of her works can be obtained solely from her music, the composer’s program notes enhance the listener’s experience, for they describe how a piano part mimics a marimba or pan-pipes, or how a movement is based on a particular type of folk song, where the singer is mockingly crying. Even a brief glance at her titles evokes specific imagery: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout; Cuatro Canciones Andinas; andLa Llorona: Tone Poem for Viola and Orchestra. Frank’s compositions also reflect her virtuosity as a pianist — when not composing, she is a sought-after performer, specializing in contemporary repertoire.
Frank is a member of G. Schirmer’s prestigious roster of artists, exclusively managed and published. Among numerous awards, she has also received a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2009 Latin Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and a 2010 United States Artists Fellowship given each year to fifty of America’s finest artists across eight disciplines. In 2010, she also received a Grammy nomination nod in the category of Best Classical Crossover album for her work with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble.
Frank’s compositions have been described by critics as “luminous… bursting with fresh originality” (Los Angeles Times), “of unearthly beauty” (Miami Sun-Sentinel), and “brilliant” (Chicago Tribune). In 2011, the all-Frank Naxos CD “Hilos” broke into the top 100 classical recordings on Billboard in the first week of its release while garnering a rare 10/10 rating review from Classics Today. Recent premieres include New Andean Songs for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella new music series, ¡Chayraq! for Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Quijotadas for the Brentano String Quartet,Tres Mitos de Mi Tierra for the King’s Singers, and La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove) for soprano Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Joana Carneiro (based on original new texts by frequent collaborator and Pulitzer Prize playwright Nilo Cruz). Frank is currently at work on new compositions for the Berkeley Symphony (in collaboration with soprano Jessica Rivera and the San Francisco Girls Chorus), the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Master Chorale (in collaboration with the Andean music group Huayucaltia), and guitarist Manuel Barrueco, among others. In 2009, Frank was the subject of an Emmy-winning PBS documentary about her residency with the Indianapolis Symphony where she composed Peregrinos which was inspired by the stories of Indianapolis Latinos. She is prominently featured in the new release Women of Influence in Contemporary Music: Nine American Composers (Scarecrow Press) and an upcoming W.W. Norton anthology, Musics of Latin America.
Born in Berkeley in 1972, Frank holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Rice University, and a doctorate from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She currently resides in Oakland and travels often to Latin America.
Interviews & Links: