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Multi-ethnic composer Gabriela Lena Frank incorporates own heritage into her music

April 17, 2013|By KATE COLEMAN | katec@herald-mail.com

Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Three Latin American Dances” is the second work on the MSO’s weekend program.

The Berkeley, Calif.-born pianist and composer’s multicultural heritage has always been at the center of her music, according to biographical information. Her mother is of mixed Peruvian-Chinese ancestry, and her father of Lithuanian-Jewish descent.

“She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin-American folklore,” Frank’s bio says, “incorporating poetry, mythology and native musical styles into a Western classical framework that is uniquely her own.”

Frank, 40, just completed a two-year stint as composer-in-residence with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.

“I got to know the players in the orchestra and definitely had specific faces and ways of playing in mind as I wrote my new pieces for the ASO,” she wrote in “on-the-fly” late-night emails last weekend. “That’s always a joy!”

And, she added, in her off hours, she was able to compose and complete a couple of big projects, drawing inspiration from her bayside view.

The ASO performed Frank’s “Three Latin American Dances” as well as four others of her compositions, including two large premieres.

“Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout” will have its Spanish premiere Thursday, May 23, and, including one in Philadelphia last weekend, seven of Frank’s compositions will premiere by mid-May. Four will debut in California, others in Indianapolis and Miami. They feature a variety of vocal music, orchestral music, solo piano and chamber music.

“One of those projects involves indigenous Andean instruments played with classical instruments,” Frank wrote.

“What makes this all unbelievable is that nearly all of these projects involve my dearest friends, including those that I even went to school with,” she added. She’s very pleased that the MSO is able to perform “Three Latin American Dances,” and wishes it were possible for her to attend.

“I have an old schoolmate (percussionist Julie Angelis) involved in the performance, so I’m sure I’ll get a full report from her, though,” Frank said.

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