Often called the "Woman in White" or the "Weeping Woman," this stunning specter of a distraught female so shattered by her death or that of her children is a forceful, ghostly archetype found throughout Latin America. It is also the inspiration behind Gabriela Lena Frank's new viola concerto La Llorona: Tone Poem for Viola and Orchestra. Premiering on 23 February, the work (in seven continuous movements) features soloist Wayne Brooks as he joins the Houston Symphony, led by Hans Graf.
"I've cobbled together ideas from various ‘crying woman' myths to make this programmatic piece," Frank shares. "There are many existing spirit myths; and they are similar to female ghosts from other cultures (such as the Russian 'rusalka' or the Japanese Kuchisake-onna). La Llorona generally appears as the result of a violent death: drowning, suicide, childbirth, or murder at the hands of a lover; and, the riverbanks are typically the places where one might encounter her, for these are frequently the sites of the tragedies that took away human life. This work is a portrait of the internal shift that happens as La Llorona accepts her new existence."
From the SoloistLa Llorona: Tone Poem for Viola and Orchestra
I'm very much looking forward to presenting the premiere of this dramatic and emotionally moving work. Frank's La Llorona has been judiciously written with the soloist's projection in mind and ample opportunity to showcase the sonority of the viola. It is, without a doubt, an important addition to our repertoire.
Wayne BrooksComposer's Insight
While "La Llorona" usually refers to the myth, it also refers to professional crying women (in Peru, for instance) who are hired to cry and make funeral services even sadder. I've heard them and they are always altos if not contraltos with a husky quality to their voices. I think I subconsciously made the connection between the viola's own alto/dark timbre and the "real" Lloronas; and, here, I'm drawing on both meanings of "La Llorona."
Gabriela Lena Frank
Duration: c. 18'
Solo Viola: 2(pic).2(ca).2(bcl).2/2.2Ctpt.2.0/timp.3perc/pf(cel).hp/str
Illustration from La Llorona/The Weeping Woman by Joe Hayes, illustrated by Vicki Trego Hill and Mona Pennypacker © 2004 Cinco Puntos Press, www.cincopuntos.com