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Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (string quartet) (2001)
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
24 Minutes
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Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (string quartet) (2001)

"Toyos" from Leyendas
Chiara String Quartet
Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout for string quartet draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by the 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.

"Tarqueada" 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 flatly so that overtones ring out on top, hence the unusual scoring of double stops in this movement.

"Chasqui" depicts a legendary 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

Sample Pages

  • Ensemble
    Chiara String Quartet
    New Voice Singles:
  • Ensemble
    Del Sol Quartet
    Sono Luminus:
This suite of six movements is Frank’s attempt to imitate the sound of Andean singing, and Andean instruments like panpipes and bamboo flutes, through the medium of the string quartet, and she pulls no punches in doing so. This is not the Muzak version of Peruvian music. Almost the entire work, it seems, is written to be played with light bowing on the bridge of the instrument, producing dry, metallic, spectral sounds, high wailings, and rapid tapping patterns that disintegrate and die away. Strummed pizzicato chords and tappings of the bow on the strings abounded. Long-held notes and ghostly melodies in the quietest possible volume at the very highest tip of the violin’s range sounded spooky and distant. So, despite jagged rhythms and sudden outbursts, the work bore the same air of introspective tentativity as the other works on the program.
David Bratman, San Francisco Classical Voice,26/01/2011
“Leyendas” offered a shining example of the way in which honesty and genius can combine in the relatively recent hybrid genre of “world-music” composition to create music of lasting value that speaks with a truly individual artistic voice. The “bravos” and immediate standing ovation that greeted the premiere – a rarity in the world of new music – gave eloquent evidence of the work’s communicative power.
Clifton J. Noble Jr., Springfield Union News,31/07/2001
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