Sierra: Evoking Lost Voices


UPDATE: Recently, Roberto Sierra’s new choral work Cantares premiered at Carnegie Hall, and was performed by the Cornell University Glee Club and Chorus, with Leon Botstein conducting the American Symphony Orchestra. Performing arts blog Oberon’s Grove calls Cantares “panoramic…mystical…heavenly…[and] truly brilliant.” Read the complete review here:

Sierra Cantares Oberon graphic

Sierra Cantares Cornell Glee logo unedited 2

“When I was asked to write Cantares, my initial impulse was to compose music that would evoke lost voices in time.” And so, Roberto Sierra shares his inspiration for Cantares, his new choral work, which premieres on April 19th at Carnegie Hall performed by the Cornell University Glee Club and Chorus (under the leadership of Robert Isaacs), and the American Symphony Orchestra. Leon Botstein conducts. Written in three movements with an additional orchestral interlude, the 25-minute work was commissioned by Cornell University in celebration of its sesquicentennial.

Cantares’ first movement – “Hanacpachap cussicuinin” — was a drawn from a 17th-century hymn of the same name and was found in a Peruvian manuscript of Quechua prayers. Sierra explains, “The text combines both the ideas and Cornell Univ Chorus logoconcepts from the Quechua culture and the Christian concept of the mother of God…This early syncretic attempt is fascinating and triggered in my mind many questions about how this music may have unfolded…[However] I decided not to reconstruct the sound or the way the hymn would have been played, but created my own modern reflection on a 400-year-old, beautiful text and four-voice polyphony.”

Sierra continues, “‘Canto Lucumí’ traces its Afro-Cuban ancestry to ritual music of West Africa. The text coSierra Cantares ASO logonsists of incantations that have been phonetically transcribed into Spanish. The meaning of the words is sometimes obscure, but what really interested me was how the words sounded and their fascinating rhythmic quality…The orchestral interlude is a meditation on the two previous movements…[The final movement], ‘Suerte lamentosa,’ [features] a 1528 poem superimposed [with] another 16th-century text by the Spaniard Bernal Diaz del Castillo…It tells of tragic events that occurred during the conquest of the Aztec Empire. These narratives offer two perspectives: one from the viewpoint of the invader and another from those fighting the invasion.” Cantares receives its second performance on May 2nd — this time at Ithaca College as both choral ensembles join the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, led by Lanfranco Marcelletti.

More April news: guitarist Marcin Dylla continues his international tour of Sierra’s Sonata for Guitar with performances in Istanbul and San Francisco; and on the 24th, the Netherlands Philharmonic performs Fandangos at the Concertgebouw, championed by conductor Giancarlo Guerrero.

Learn more about Roberto Sierra.

Purchase Roberto Sierra’s music.