Listen: Catán

Listen: Catán
April 3rd would mark the 67th birthday for the late composer Daniel Catán. Catán, born in Mexico, was known for his lyrical, romantic style, and for his lush orchestrations. He studied philosophy at the University of Sussex in England before enrolling at Princeton as a PhD student in composition, where he studied under Milton Babbitt, James Randall, and Bejamin Boretz. Catán’s opera Florencia en el Amazonas was the first opera in Spanish to be commissioned by a major American company.

In remembrance, this week we are featuring Catán’s Mariposa de Obsidiana, or Obsidian Butterfly, for solo voice, chorus, and orchestra. Composed in 1984, the text for Catán’s work came from a poem of the same title by Mexican poet Octavio Paz, depicting a goddess who is reminiscing the past, confronting the present, and contemplating the future. Catán suggested that each time period is accompanied by a characteristic sound. "Music is, after all," Catán described, "the sound that time makes as it passes; sometimes it moves slowly and anxiously, at other times fluently, like a waterfall; it can be muffled and somber, and it can glitter."

Catán’s works have shared a concert program with works by his fellow composers André Previn, Peter Lieberson, John Corigliano, and Lee Hoiby. In this playlist, we feature excerpts from Mariposa de Obsidiana with similar works including André Previn’s Violin Concerto "Anne-Sophie", Neruda Songs by Peter Lieberson, Gazebo Dances by John Corigliano, and an excerpt from Lee Hoiby’s opera, The Tempest.

"When my students ask my advice, I tell them to be sure to go to all the rehearsals of their works because that is a composer’s learning process. The composition is most definitely not finished just because you put a double bar on the page! You need to make changes as you see your piece evolving on the stage." — Daniel Catán


This playlist was contributed by Liam Alves