Joan Tower, Gabriela Lena Frank: Fall Harvest

Joan Tower, Gabriela Lena Frank: Fall Harvest
Joan Tower
© Noah Sheldon
November is harvest-time, and our harvest is an abundant feast with three world premieres that offer glimpses into the worlds of color and language.

On the 4th, Paul Neubauer and the Omaha Symphony introduce Joan Tower's new viola concerto Purple Rhapsody, led by JoAnn Falletta. Written expressly for Neubauer, the 18-minute work was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Kansas City Symphony, Peninsula Festival Orchestra (FL), Virginia Symphony, Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra (OH) and the Chautauqua Symphony (NY). This concerto continues Tower's "purple" theme for Neubauer, as she previously composed the solo work Wild Purple for him. He premiered it in 1998 during her 60th birthday celebrations at Merkin Concert Hall in New York.

Gabriela Lena Frank also gleans this month's bounty as she invokes the voice of the ancient Incas, with two pieces - a string quartet and orchestral work - inspired by the Quechua language. On the 5th, the Kronos Quartet premieres Inkarrí (Inca Rey) at the Lied Center at the University of Kansas. The work is a co-commission with Stanford University. Frank observes that the five-movement, 23-minute work is "named after a Spanish-Quechua term meaning 'Inca King.' It is based on the post-Spanish Conquest indigenous millennial belief in the 'dying and reviving Inca,' and concludes with the prophecy of the return of the King, who ushers in a new age as supreme ruler and returns justice to the world." Frank continues the Inca vein with the Seattle Symphony's 10 November premiere of Manchay Tiempo (Time of Fear), conducted by Jun Märkl.

Joan Tower
Purple Rhapsody c.18'

The sound of the viola has always reminded me of a deep kind of luscious purple...I tried to make the solo viola "sing" by taking advantage of its inherent melodic abilities. This is not an easy task since the viola is one of the tougher instruments to pit against an orchestra...I've thinned out the background to allow the viola to come forward [and given it] rhapsodic and energetic lines.

— Joan Tower

Photo by Sabine Frank
Gabriela Lena Frank
Inkarrí (Inca Rey) 23'
string quartet

Manchay Tiempo (Time of Fear) c. 13'
(in one movement)

As a young child, I was in the habit of coining my own labels for feelings and sensations especially vivid to me. Manchay Tiempo (actually 'mancha-dempo') was my word for the strange mix of terror and tenderness that my nightly dreams visited upon me. I associated it with one recurring dream involving my Peruvian-born mother, who in the dream is but a hair's-breadth away from some unspeakable danger...Years passed, and I forgot about 'mancha-dempo.' But as a college student, I caught a TV documentary about Sendero Luminoso, a Maoist-inspired group wreaking murderous havoc in my mother's country during the late 1970's and 1980's... I realized that at some earlier point, I had seen this program and interpreted it with a child's imagination...And there it was - Manchay Tiempo, a hybrid of Spanish and Quechua signifying a 'time of fear.'

— Gabriela Lena Frank

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