Elegía Andina

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            Possessed of a remarkably reflective, practical, and articulate persona, Frank is one of American’s most praised and respected young composers.  Born forty-six years ago in Berkeley, California to a Lithuanian-Jewish father and a Peruvian-Spanish mother, (her grandfather was Chinese) she enjoys and thrives upon her multicultural heritage.  She recounts that her early days were “filled with Oriental stir-fry cuisine, Andean nursery songs, and frequent visits from our New York bred Jewish cousins.”  Her musical training was diverse, enjoying and mastering Mozart, Beethoven--and Scott Joplin.  Visits to her mother’s large family in Peru were crucial to her musical development, but she takes pains to not be categorized too narrowly.  She points to compositions that seem likely to reflect her “latina” side, as well as those that reflect what she cheerfully calls her “gringa” self.  She is equally inspired by the works of both the Hungarian Béla Bartók and the Argentine Alberto Ginastera.  Deeply interested in literature, she studies Latin American poetry, mythology, and folklore.  In a time when multiculturalism is often an assumed political construct for some artists, it is refreshing to see one whose vision and voice is a joyful amalgam of deep personal experience and natural affinities.

            Her almost four dozen acclaimed compositions have brought her near the top of the “young American composers’ heap.”  She is represented exclusively by the prestigious music publisher, G. Shirmer, works with the top orchestras of the world, and is the recipient of numerous important awards for music composition.

            Written in 2000, Elegía Andina (Andean Elegy) is a modest tone poem that evokes the majesty and strength of the towering Andes Mountains.  Native Peruvian sounds are alluded to in the wood blocks, as well as sonic imagery of the traditional zampoña panpipes—and so, the flute plays an important part.  Frank has dedicated the work to her older brother, Marcos Gabriel Frank.           

            The powerful opening begins with stentorian, ascending clusters that aptly conjure the eponymous craggy mountains.  They are soon joined by aphoristic interjections from the woodblocks, clarinets, and flutes.   Gradually, after ominous low moans in the strings, a steady pulse is established, driven by rhythmic woodblocks.  During this throbbing allegro a variety of gestures are contributed from every section of the orchestra.  It doesn’t last long, leading to silence and a lengthy, cadenza-like passage for the two flutes.  The virtuosic interchange between them contrasts significantly with the muscular beginning, but gradually leads back to the abbreviated intimation of the opening craggy, dissonant landscape.  Finally, two solo clarinets eerily take us to the quiet conclusion.  It’s clearly program music, but the details are for the listener to provide--artfully suggested by the composer’s masterful orchestration and stimulating, but abstract, ideas.

--Wm. E. Runyan

© 2018 William E. Runyan