Composer note:Concertino Cusqueño
, written to celebrate the fine players of the Philadelphia Orchestra on the eve of Yannick Nézet-Ségun’s inaugural season as Music Director, finds inspiration in two unlikely bedfellows: Peruvian culture and British composer Benjamin Britten. As a daughter of a Peruvian immigrant, I’ve long been fascinated by my multicultural heritage and have been blessed to find western classical music to be a hospitable playpen for my wayward explorations. In doing so, I’ve looked to composers such as Alberto Ginastera from Argentina, Béla Bartók from Hungary, Chou Wen Chung from China, and my own teacher William Bolcom from the US as heroes: To me, these gentlemen are the very definition of “cultural witnesses,” as they illuminate new connections between seemingly disparate idioms of every hue imaginable.
To this list, I add Britten, who I admire inordinately. I wish I could have met him, worked up the nerve to show him my own music, invited him to travel to beautiful Perú with me... I would have shared chicha morada (purple corn drink) with him, taken him to a zampoña panpipe instrument-making shop, set him loose in a mercado (market) streaming with immigrant chinos and the native indio descendants of the Incas. I would have loved showing him the port towns exporting anchoveta (anchovies), the serranos (highlands) exporting potatoes, and the selvas (jungles) exporting sugar. And I know Britten would have been fascinated by the rich mythology enervating the literature and music of this small Andean nation, so deeply similar to the plots of his many operas, among other works. Concertino Cusqueño
melds together two brief musical ideas: The first few notes of a religious tune, Ccollanan María
, from Cusco (the original capital of the Inca empire Tawantinsuyu, and a major tourist draw today) with the simple timpani motif from the opening bars of the first movement of Britten’s elegant Violin Concerto. I am able to spin an entire one-movement work from these two ideas, designating a prominent role to the four string principle players (with a bow to the piccolo/bass clarinet duo and, yes, the timpanist). In this way, while imagining Britten in Cusco, I can also indulge in my own enjoyment of personalizing the symphonic sound by allowing individuals from the ensemble to shine.
It is with further joy that I dedicate this piece to my nephew Alexander Michael Frank, born in Philadelphia on February 25th, 2011.
Gabriela Lena Frank