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Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (string orchestra) (2001),
G Schirmer Inc
Sub Category
String Orchestra
Year Composed
24 Minutes
Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (string orchestra) (2001),
This piece was written for string quartet in 2001 and arranged for string orchestra in 2003.

Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can coexist without the subjugation of one by the other. As such, this piece mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions.

“Toyos” depicts one of the most recognizable instruments of the Andes, the panpipe. One of the largest kinds is the breathy toyo which requires great stamina and lung power, and is often played in parallel fourths or fifths.

“Tarqueda” is a forceful and fast number featuring the tarka, a heavy wooden duct flute that is blown harshly in order to split the tone. Tarka ensembles typically also play in fourths and fifths.

“Himno de Zampoñas” features a particular type of panpipe ensemble that divides up melodies through a technique known as hocketing. The characteristic sound of the zampoña panpipe is that of a fundamental tone blown fatly so that overtones ring out on top, hence the unusual scoring of double stops in this movement.

“Chasqui” depicts a legenday figure from the Inca period, the chasqui runner, who sprinted great distances to deliver messages between towns separated from one another by the Andean peaks. The chasqui needed to travel light. Hence, I take artistic license to imagine his choice of instruments to be the charango, a high-pitched cousin of the guitar, and the lightweight bamboo quena flute, both of which are featured in this movement.

“Canto de Velorio” portrays another well-known Andean personality, a professional crying woman known as the llorona. Hired to render funeral rituals even sadder, the llorona is accompanied here by a second llorona and an additional chorus of mourning women (coro de mujeres). The chant Dies Irae is quoted as a reflection of the comfortable mix of Quechua Indian religious rites with those from Catholicism.

“Coqueteos” is a flirtatious love song sung by gallant men known as romanceros. As such, it is direct in its harmonic expression, bold, and festive. The romanceros sing in harmony with one another against a backdrop of guitars which I think of as a vendaval de guitarras (“storm of guitars”).

—Gabriela Lena Frank

  • Ensemble
    Sphinx Virtuosi
    Damon Gupton
    White Pine Music:
Leyendas is a catalog of sound bound together by melodic material whose profile and rhythm hint at a South American origin. My notes on the music are mostly adjectives: astringent, swooping, vigorous, slashing, scratching and sparkling.
Brian Shuth, The Boston Musical Intelligencer,29/09/2015
The 16 so-called Criers opened with Gabriela Lena Frank's Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout, a musical exploration of identity across continental borders. With vigor and vitality to spare, the talented virtuosos — skillfully led by violinist Jae Cosmos Lee) — probed multi-religious, multicultural themes within a storyline that recalls Andean legends ("leyendas"). Throughout the six-part work, the Criers navigated complex harmonies with zealous enthusiasm and unwavering confidence. "Leyendas" merges classical motifs with Andean folk flourishes for a playful, exciting effect that is at once familiar and foreign. The Criers' engaging representation of pan pipes, the charango (a lute-like stringed instrument from South America) and other unusual sounds showcased their versatile technique, while the sensual final movement, "Coqueteos," evidenced a strong emotional cohesion among the players.
Sabine Kortals , Denver Post,08/02/2011
California native Gabriela Lena Frank comes from a Peruvian, Chinese and Lithuanian-Jewish heritage. Her 2001 Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout is a "Bartók goes to Peru" affair. Its six movements variously evoke traditional Andean panpipes and guitars, a mythic runner, a mourner and a flirtatious love song.
Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News,20/07/2009
" sounds like Peruvian Bartók, quite attractively so. The movements variously evoke folk instruments and dances, a couple of legendary figures (a running messenger and a professional mourner), and ends with a flirtatious love song. Much is made of duets in parallel motion and special effects including pluckings (some hard enough to snap strings against fingerboards), wispy high harmonics, slappings of strings with bows. Harmonies are pleasantly piquant."
Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News,17/11/2007
"...expressed a rich range of timbres and colors in just the strings. It proved a remarkable showcase for the orchestra's stellar string section, which seemed to bask in the inventiveness and vivacity of Frank's music. With movements that sought to capture various aspects of Andean culture -- from its musical instruments to people -- Leyendas had an unmistakable Bartok-like impulse, particularly in its fleeter sections. But a strong, unique personality showed through elsewhere, including the plaintive Canto de velorio, which portrayed the "professional crying women" of the Andes."
Matthew Erikson, Fort Worth Star Telegram,17/11/2007
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