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Spotlight On: Composer Gabriela Lena Frank | Using Music to Break the Glass Ceiling


Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Brahms -- all well-known composers, all male. It is so rare we hear about the achievements of female composers in the classical music era, especially nowadays. That's not to say they do not exist, there are just far fewer female composers than there are male in the realm of contemporary classical music. That, however, is changing.

Background

Gabriela Lena Frank is an American composer from Berkeley, California. Although born in the US, her roots also align with the nationalities of her parents: her father, a Jewish Lithuanian, and her mother, who is of Peruvian and Chinese decent. The two met during Frank's father's visit to Peru with the Peace Corps in the 1960s.

Frank received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Rice University and a doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan. She has studied composition with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, and Samuel Jones.

Style and Inspiration

Frank's compositions often draw from her multicultural background--particularly her mother's Peruvian heritage. Frank is admired for using sounds of Latin American instruments (such as Peruvian pan flute or charango guitar) throughout her compositions, though her works are typically scored for Western classical instruments and ensembles such as the symphony orchestra or string quartet. "I think the music can be seen as a by-product of my always trying to figure out how Latina I am and how gringa I am," she has said.

Accomplishments

Not only is Frank known for her interesting work, but she is also one of the most awarded female contemporary composers of our time. In 2009, Frank received her first Guggenheim Fellowship as well as a Latin Grammy Award for best Contemporary Classical Music Composition for Inca Dances. She has also won a Joyce Foundation award, United States Artists Fellow award, and a Medal of Excellence from Sphinx Organization.

In addition to these accolades, Frank's music has been commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Chanticleer Ensemble, the Chiara String Quartet, the Brentano Quartet, Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, the Marilyn Horne Foundation, guitarist Manuel Barrueco with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the King's Singers, directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Wu Han and David Finckel, soprano Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, among others. She has also received multiple commissions from Carnegie Hall.

Frank is a Grammy Award-nominated pianist and a member of the prestigious roster of G. Schirmer, exclusively published and managed.

Image source: http://www.screecher.com/schedule/2017/3/19/creative-academy-for-music Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, composer, women composers.

9 things you should know about Beethoven's Symphony No. 9



Did you know Beethoven was completely deaf when his Ninth Symphony premiered? Check out more facts about his greatest work before you experience it performed live by your CSO, May 20-22 at Belk Theater.

1. It was the last of Beethoven's symphonies, completed three years before his death in 1824.

2. It premiered in Vienna on May 7, 1824.

3. By the time of its premier Beethoven was completely deaf. At the end of the piece, the crowd burst into applause but Beethoven, who had been a few measures behind the symphony, continued to conduct. The contralto, Caroline Unger, walked over to Beethoven and turned him around so he could accept the rousing applause.

4. It is the first symphony to incorporate vocal soloists and chorus into what, until then, had been a purely instrumental genre. Words are sung in the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus.

5. The words in the final movement were taken from the "Ode to Joy" poem written by Friedrich von Schiller in 1785. The poem has a strong message to all mankind: it is about living in peace and harmony together. 

6. It's the most epic of Beethoven's symphonies, both in length and performers utilized. The piece is scored for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, mixed chorus, piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and strings. 

7. It was adopted as the European National Anthem in 1972. In 1985, it became the official anthem of the European Union.

8. When Philips started work on their new audio format known as a compact disc, many groups argued over what size it should be. They planned on having a 11.5 cm diameter CD while Sony planned on 10 cm. One bright chap insisted that one CD ought to have the capacity to contain a complete performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The duration ranges from about 65 to 74 minutes which requires a 12 cm diameter, the size of a CD.

9. Beethoven was a compositional rebel, rejecting standard classical practices in order to write with emotion. While many of his contemporaries were disgusted, if not intimidated by this, his influence on composers to come after him, like Brahms, Dvorak, and Mahler, shows how important a figure he was. 
Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Beethoven, Classical, composer.

5 Questions With … Steve Hackman, conductor and creator of Brahms v. Radiohead

 
Conductor and Brahms v. Radiohead creator Steve Hackman

Composer, conductor, and producer Steve Hackman joins us Friday, January 27 for an exciting, one-night-only performance of his popular mash-up, Brahms v. Radiohead. Here, we chat with Mr. Hackman about how he created this interesting concept, why he chose Brahms, and what we can expect from this performance. 

How and why did you think of this cool mash-up concept?
I have always been passionate about both classical and popular music, equally. It doesn't matter to me if it is a Mahler symphony or a Kendrick Lamar song; if it's great, it's great. Mashing up Brahms and Radiohead is a way of illustrating this point, and even more, to show that this music is not as dissimilar as many people may think. Categorizing things and judging them based on those categories or labels is dangerous and destructive and a performance like this works against that.

Tell us about these soloists. How did you select them?
The soloists really make every performance of this show a total joy, and I know the audience is going to love them. Bill Prokopow is an old friend of mine, and one of the most talented and versatile musicians I know. He and I sung in the same a cappella group at the University of Illinois, where I went to undergrad, called The Other Guys. We have been collaborating ever since. Andrew Lipke was coming into prominence as a singer/songwriter in Philadelphia when I was in grad school there at the Curtis Institute of Music. I wanted to be like him, such an incredible songwriter and performer! We got to know each other and I learned he was a true student and lover of classical music, and again, a musician of extreme versatility. And Kérén heard about the show because of an ad I posted on Stagebill and boy did we luck out with her! She is a brilliant artist and writer.

Why Brahms specifically? Why not, say, Mozart or Beethoven?
Brahms took 20 years to write this First Symphony. You can feel all that tension and earnestness and toil and struggle in the piece (and he creates unbelievable release in the fourth movement). That balance towards tension is something this music shares with Radiohead. They also share a density and weight--each music is extremely substantial--and they can stand alongside each other. But there are specific musical reasons, too: The harmonic language is much more similar than you would think; the time signature of the first movement (6/8) allows for a mash-up with a very important song from OK Computer ("Subterranean Homesick Alien") and the overall key of C Minor was perfect for the seminal Radiohead song "Paranoid Android."

What can concertgoers expect? Walk us through the evening.
The most important thing regarding expectation is that the music of Radiohead will be presented through the lens of Brahms. I use only Brahms's orchestration. There are no electric guitars or ondes Martenot or any of the Radiohead synthesizers and keyboards. I have treated Radiohead's music with the same kind of scoring, voice leading and counterpoint that Brahms uses in his music. In that way, it is sometimes hard to distinguish if a theme came from Radiohead or Brahms! There are times when the singers are floating Radiohead melodies over the pure music of Brahms; there are many times when Brahms's melodies are superimposed over the songs of Radiohead.

This is a really cool way to engage new symphony audiences. Do you find the attendance to skew younger/more diverse?
Absolutely. Radiohead fans are the best. They are passionate about music, and they tend to be very creative, open-minded and adventurous folks. Beyond that, I think this concert is perfect for people that love music but have yet to really be introduced to classical music for whatever reason. It is such a pleasure and honor to share symphonic repertoire and the experience of seeing a symphony orchestra. Read more

Posted in Classics, Pops. Tagged as composer, conductors, guest artists.

Strauss vs Strauss

In our current season, we are celebrating the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss by performing his works throughout the Classics series. In this weekend's KnightSounds concert, A Waltz to Remember, we fill the program with works from Johann Strauss II, "The Waltz King." Learn more about these composers which shared the same occupation, the same last name, and absolutely no relation!
 
Full name Johann Strauss II Richard Georg Strauss 
Life 1825-1899 1864-1949
Nationality  Austrian German
Born Vienna Munich
Father Johann, composer of more than 250 works Franz, principal horn player of the Bavarian Court Opera
Known for  Waltzes Symphonic poems and operas 
Age of first composition 6 6
Famous piece  On the Beautiful Blue Danube Don Quixote
Works in CSO 2014-15 season Overture to Die Fledermaus, Annen Polka, The Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus, Emperor Waltz, The Audition Song from Die FledermausOn the Beautiful Blue Danube Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life)Don Quixote, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme

Posted in Classics. Tagged as composer, Strauss.

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