Sierra: One of the Most Exciting Pieces

Roberto Sierra’s Concierto Virtual is one of the most exciting pieces I’ve seen in years.”

Joel Sachs, music director of the New Juilliard Ensemble, introduces Sierra’s new work on the eve of its January 20 world premiere at Lincoln Center. The premiere is a highlight the 2017 FOCUS! Festival, and is part of this year’s celebration of the vast diversity of Latin American composers and their music. Sierra’s 14-minute work is scored for Yamaha Disklavier, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion and strings.

Joel Sachs leads the New Juilliard Ensemble

Sachs continues. “Roberto’s concerto is an incredible combination of compositional craft and visceral communication. While packed with the most intricate workmanship, the concerto instead hits the listener with its raw energy growing from elements of Afro-Caribbean popular music. The ‘solo’ part of Concierto Virtual was originally to be played with pure electronics, but the version for Disklavier created for this world premiere concert renders the mesmerizingly virtuosic ‘pianism’ visible to the audience, which can watch the piano’s keys fly manically up and down.”

Sierra shares some insight about his new work. “With Concierto Virtual (for piano and chamber orchestra), I created a work that transcends what is physically possible in terms of speed and complexity, and the number of notes to be played by any human performer. I have never input as many notes as I did in this work! Composer Conlon Nancarrow’s work is an important precedent for this musical approach, as he wrote a series of etudes for player piano. In my concerto, I used MIDI technology to realize the solo part, which in turn, will be performed by a Yamaha Disklavier.”

Upcoming: next month, the Tucson Symphony performs Sierra’s ever popular work Fandangos, conducted by James Judd.