Sierra: Another Superb Piece

Sierra Duo Concertante MoMA logo

On July 20, Roberto Sierra’s new Duo Concertante premieres at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, performed by members of the New Juilliard Ensemble. Written for violin and viola, Elizabeth Derham and Jiwon Kim will present the work as part of the museum’s Summergarden concert series held at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.

Sierra Duo Concertante 2 Sachs New Juilliard Ens

Music director Joel Sachs conducts the New Juilliard Ensemble. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito; courtesy: The Juilliard School

“The theme of my MoMA concerts is ‘Music New to New York,’ for which everything must be at least a New York premiere,” shares Joel Sachs, founding director and conductor of the ensemble. “Since I love Roberto’s music, I asked him if his most recent quartet had been done in New York. Roberto replied that it had been performed, but he then told me about his Duo Concertante and that it was available for a world premiere. One look at the score showed that it was just the right length and another superb piece.”

“…We’ve been having a great time preparing Mr. Sierra’s fiery score. All the movements seem to have very clear characters as suggested in [their] titles; the outer movements dance but drive [forward], with mysterious middle movements that are also ethereal, sweet, and quirky. The textures are very gratifying to play. The whole piece almost feels like a festival; we hope the audience enjoys his music as much as we do.”

— Elizabeth Derham and Jiwon Kim

Sierra provides some insight into his newest work. “The combination of violin and viola duo is not unusual, but most of the known repertoire is from the classical era, e.g., the two duos by Mozart, which inspired me to compose for this particular combination. My Duo Concertante has four movements that contrast in mood, speed and texture; however, their harmonic and melodic materials are derived from a limited number of pitches and intervals. The first movement is characterized by uneven rhythmic groupings of two and three notes, evocative of Afro-Caribbean salsa rhythmic structures. The dreamy character of the second movement explores the harmonic possibilities of the pitch material, and the scherzo that follows contains uneven subdivisions of two and three notes rhythms, with a trio that establishes a more even pulse. Clave rhythms dominate the rhythmic structures of the closing movement ‘Danzante.’”

More Sierra Summer 2014: On July 29, soprano Leela Subramaniam sings Sierra’s vocal work Beyond the Silence of Sorrow at the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maximiano Valdés; and, Sierra’s popular Fandangos will be performed in Brazil July 31 through August 2 by the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo led by Giancarlo Guerrero, and Leonard Slatkin also conducts the work at the Aspen Music Festival on August 2.