Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Music of Roberto Sierra

Roberto Sierra
Earlier this year I came across a contemporary classical music composer whose music I wasn't previously familiar with but which I've been returning to of late, Roberto Sierra (1953-).  Born in 1953 in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, Sierra studied composition in Puerto Rico and in Europe, including at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg with György Ligeti. Sierra has since gone on to compose in a range of forms, including opera (El mensajero de plata), works for full orchestra (Missa Latina, Júbilo, Sinfonias 1-4, Concierto Barroco), chamber orchestra (Doce Bagatelas for String Orchestra, El éxtasis de Santa Teresa for soprano and Chamber Orchestra), chamber pieces (Flower Pieces, Concierto de Cámera), and works for solo performers (Ritmorro for clarinet, Bongo O for bongo), and orchestras all over the world have both played and commissioned his music.

His Missa Latina, premiering in 2006 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, with Leonard Slatkin conducting the National Symphony Orchestra, garnered tremendous praise, and he's received a range of awards, including the 2004 Kenneth Davenport Competition for Orchestral Works, for his Sinfonia No. 1, commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Albany Records received the Serge and Olga Koussevitzky International Recording Award (KIRA), for its recording of his Sinfonia No. 3, "La Salsa."  I like the way Sierra's music synthesizes many different influences, ranging from the Spanish, Indian and African of his native Puerto Rico, to contemporary Spanish and European, and American art music, to jazz. In the Sinfonia No. 3, "La Salsa," or the Fandangos, one can hear links with popular Puerto Rican and Caribbean music, and the musical currents of predecessors like Joaquín Rodrigo, Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados. He wrote several of his most recent compositions, the Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra and Caribbean Rhapsody, for the saxophonist James Carter. Like nearly all classical composers these days, he also teaches, and is professor of music at Cornell University.

You can find Sierra's music on labels such as Naxos, EMI, New World Records, Albany Records, Koch, New Albion, Koss Classics, BMG, Fleur de Son, and others. I often listen to the few offerings directly available on the Naxos site, which I subscribe to, and have purchased some of his CDs and selected works from iTunes too. Most are available on the iTunes store. If you are a practicing musician and want to play his works, you can get them directly from Subito Music Publishing, G. Schirmer, or Editions Orphee depending upon the piece.

Here are a few videos from YouTube featuring excerpts of Sierra's work. Enjoy!

Piano Trio #3, 4th movement, played by Trio Arbós
Mambo 7/16, played by Cuarteto Latinoamericano

Concierto Barroco (part 2), guitar soloist, Rémi Barrette, with orchestra

Tumbao, from Sinfonia No. 3, "La salsa," performed by the Eastman Wind Ensemble
Fandangos (excerpt), Robert Franz, conductor, Mansfield Symphony

Flower Pieces (excerpts), Valerie Potter, flute, and Anne Eisfeller, harp
Concierto de Cámera (premiere), Imani Winds, Miami String Quartet

Bongo o

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