Press Room

Mozart Requiem Choir

Houston Symphony Presents World Premiere of “Conquest Requiem”

HOUSTON (April 20, 2017) – The Houston Symphony will perform the world premiere of Conquest Requiem from Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank at 8 p.m. May 5-6 and 2:30 p.m. May 7 at Jones Hall. Considered Frank’s most ambitious project to date, the requiem is the composer’s musical interpretation of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire composed for orchestra, chorus, soprano and baritone soloists.

The work is inspired by the true story of Malinche, a Nahua woman from the Gulf Coast of Mexico, who played a key role in this pivotal era in history, first as a young slave and later as an advisor and lover. Her ever-evolving prowess as an interpreter of her native Nahuatl, various Mayan dialects and Spanish elevated her position to such that she would convert to Christianity and become a mistress to Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés during his war against the Aztecs.

“I’ve long been a collector of the testimonials of the conquest’s many chroniclers – the conquistadores, the priests and friars, and the natives,” Frank said. “Tackling one aspect of the conquest for this piece comes from a personal connection to an event of such magnitude. At the same time entire societies were decimated, we witnessed the birth of new music, literature, food, political philosophies and, yes, even religions.”

Malinche, viewed in various legends as a feminist hero, treacherous villain, conflicted victim, and symbolic mother of the mestizo people, will be interpreted by Peruvian-American soprano Jessica Rivera. The role of her son Martín, one of the first mestizos of the New World, will be sung by American baritone Andrew Garland, who will be making his Houston Symphony debut.

The seven-movement requiem fuses European and Native American influences and incorporates the rhythms and inflections of three different languages: traditional Latin, Aztecan Nahuatl and Spanish. Frank commissioned Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Nilo Cruz to link the Latin and Nahuatl text with original Spanish text that tells the story of Malinche and Martín. The requiem is the seventh collaboration between Cruz and Frank.

Following intermission, the orchestra will perform Shostakovich’s gripping and powerful Symphony No. 5.

The concert will take place at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street, in Houston’s Theater District. For tickets and information, please call (713) 224-7575 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center in Jones Hall (Monday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). All programs and artists are subject to change.

Andrés Conducts Shostakovich 5

  • Friday, May 5, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 6, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 7, 2017, 2:30 p.m.

Andrés Orozco-Estrada Conductor
Jessica Rivera Soprano
Andrew Garland Baritone
Houston Symphony Chorus: Betsy Cook Weber, Director

OnStage Insights with Andrés
Gabriela Lena Frank: Conquest Requiem
Houston Symphony Commission/World Premiere
Includes commissioned text from Nilo Cruz
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5
Tickets from $25

About Andrés Orozco-Estrada

Houston Symphony Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada began his tenure in the 2014–15 season. He immediately established a dynamic presence on the podium and a deep bond with the musicians of the orchestra. Andrés carefully curates his programs to feature engaging combinations of classical masterworks paired with the music of today, significant artistic collaborations with composers and guest artists, and innovative use of multimedia and visual effects, all in order to make meaningful connections with the audience.

In the 2016–17 season, Andrés continues to engage with audiences both with casual commentary from the stage and discussions with guests in “Behind the Scenes with Andrés” videos. On the recording front, Andrés and the Symphony released the third disc in their critically-acclaimed series featuring Dvorák’s last four symphonies. The series marks Andrés’ first commercial recording project with the orchestra.

Born in Medellín, Colombia, Andrés began his musical studies on the violin and started conducting at age 15. At 19, he entered the Vienna Music Academy, where he studied with Uroš Lajovic (pupil of the legendary Hans Swarowsky) and completed his degree with distinction conducting the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Musikverein. Andrés burst on the international scene with two substitutions with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra: the first, his debut in 2010, standing in for Esa-Pekka Salonen, and then in 2012, substituting for Riccardo Muti at the Musikverein. Andrés now regularly appears with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic and Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome and the Orchestre National de France.

Recent debuts have included the Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic in New York. In the summer of 2014, he also made his debut at Glyndebourne Festival Opera conducting Don Giovanni, which immediately led to an invitation to conduct La traviata in 2017. The 2016–17 season includes debuts with the San Francisco Symphony, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to his post in Houston, Andrés is chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

About Gabriela Lena Frank

Identity has always been at the center of Gabriela Lena Frank’s music. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Béla Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, she is something of a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America, and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.

She says, “There’s usually a story line behind my music; a scenario or character.” Even a brief glance at her titles evokes specific imagery: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout; Cuatro Canciones Andinas and La Llorona: Tone Poem for Viola and Orchestra. Her compositions also reflect her virtuosity as a pianist—when not composing, she is a sought-after performer, specializing in contemporary repertoire.

This premiere of Gabriela’s Requiem is the culmination of her tenure as the Houston Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence. This multi-cultural work interweaves traditional Latin and Meso-American texts with contemporary text by Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban-American writer Nilo Cruz. Gabriela has developed a number of projects with Cruz, among them La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove), a song cycle for Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Journey of the Shadow for the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.

Other recent premieres include Iberian Songs for Music From Angel Fire; Five Scenes for the San Diego Symphony and Malashock Dance; Cuentos Errantes: Four New Folk Songs written for The Sphinx Virtuosi; My Angel, His Name is Freedom for the Library of Congress and the Handel and Haydn Society; Karnavalingo for the Houston Symphony; Will-o’-the-Wisp for piccolo player Mary Kay Fink and the Cleveland Orchestra; Saints for the Berkeley Symphony, soprano Jessica Rivera and the San Francisco Girls Chorus; and Concertino Cusqueño for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gabriela earned a B.A. and M.A. from Rice University. At the University of Michigan, she received a D.M.A. in composition. Her music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer, Inc.

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