Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music Showcases Latin American Composers



Audiences in the U.S. and Europe are used to Latin music tours consisting of hip-shaking pop stars and traditional Latin music in the forms of salsa, cumbia, and samba etc. But a new generation of Latin American composers are making headlines across the globe with classical music that resonates beyond borders and brings new sounds to symphonies worldwide. This week one place to take in this wave of Latin music is Brooklyn: this Saturday, the borough’s world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music will be hosting some of the region’s greatest musical talents at the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Nuevo Latino festival.

Saturday’s programming will be conducted by BP’s music director Michael Christie and will feature Gabriela Lena Frank, Enrico Chapela and Paul Desenne, three of the regions “rising star” composers who will come together for the first time to share some of their sounds with Brooklyn.



Frank, who hails from California, will be performing Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout, inspired by her studies in her mother’s native Peru. According to Allan Kozin of the New York Times Leyendas’, mix of “models of European classicism” and prominent South American folk themes give the work “easygoing harmony and periodic bursts of energy”. Chapela, a Mexican composer and guitarist will be debuting for the first time in the U.S. Noctámbulos, a rock trio concerto. The showcase will close with Desenne’s violin concerto The Two Seasons, “an intense meditation on the beauty and destruction of the wet and dry tropical seasons.” Desenne, cut his teeth with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in Caracas, Venezuela—the same orchestra that produced the music prodigy Gustavo Dudamel, now at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Venezuela’s “Sistema,” a music-education program started in 1975 by economist José Antonio Abreu as a way to bring classical training to Venezuelan youth has produced some of the hemisphere’s—if not the world’s—most important classical musicians around. According to a 2007 New York Times profile of Dudamel, El Sistema is “arguably the most ambitious program of music education and orchestra training in the world. Some 250,000 young people take part. The 200 best of them, ranging in age from 15 to 25, are members of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra.”

Frank, Chapela and Desenne’s respective popularity is by no means limited to Brooklyn: the trio can boast among themselves performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Dresden Sinfoniker in Germany, London’s Royal Academy of Music, the Contemporary Music Festival in Mongolia, and the Paris Conservatory, among others. The growing global popularity of these musicians and other classical composers reflects not only the growing popularity of Latin music, but the growing range of Latin music entering the mainstream.

Frank, Chapela and Desenne will meet earlier on Saturday for a discussion to be moderated by Carmen Helena Téllezon on “Crossing Borders: Latin American Identity in Music”.

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