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Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Cuatro Bosquejos Pre-Incaicos (Four Pre-Inca Sketches) (2006)
Commissioned by the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble with funding from the Jerome Foundation
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Mixed Ensemble
Year Composed
9 Minutes
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Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank Cuatro Bosquejos Pre-Incaicos (Four Pre-Inca Sketches) (2006)
Composer Note:
This piece was commissioned by St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble with funding from the Jerome Foundation.

Whenever I visit Perú, I make a point to visit its museums. While the museos nacionales of Lima are gorgeous, I actually prefer the smaller collections scattered throughout the coastal, highland, and tropical regions. These sometimes feature no more than a dozen pieces, but even the humblest presentation of broken ceramics, warped metalwork, and faded textiles provides a tantalizing glimpse of the myriad of cultures that thrived before the dominant Incas. It is the Inca from whom many Peruvians today trace their heritage, but I’m always wondering what lies before the Inca and how much the racial soul of so many past cultures still persists… in me? In this composition for flute and cello duo, bosquejos, or sketches, portray four pre-Inca cultures. Indigenous tunes and performance mannerisms found in Peruvian music make brief appearances throughout.

I. Flautista Mochica (Mochica Flautist): The Moche civilization inhabited the north coast of Perú between approximately 100 and 800 AD. Most of what we have left of this culture exists in ceramics such as vessels forming shockingly lifelike heads with headdresses somewhat like turbans. Even simple pots are decorated with fine line drawings, and this musical sketch finds its inspiration in one such pot depicting flautists. A typical flute style entails the tenuto pulsing of held notes, which is done here.

II. Hombre-Pájaro de Parácas (Bird-Man of Parácas): This movement is inspired by one of the most important artifacts we have of pre-Colombian culture, the “bird-man” mantle from the Parácas culture (600-175 BC). As a culture that found hospitable the arid climate of the southern coast of Perú, its textiles are brilliantly preserved. The “bird-man” mantle features a dizzying repeating motif of figures that appear to be falling up AND down, the energy of which especially inspires the cello part.

III. Mujer Lambayeque (Lambayeque Woman): A series of sculptures featuring women calling out while striking an hourglass-shaped drum is prominent among what exists of the Lambayeque (700 to 1100 AD), a culture that inherited the northern coast from the Moche. In this movement, the sound of a Lambayeque woman calling in the cello is interrupted by the desert wind of the coast.

IV. Zampoña Rota de la Nazca (Broken Panpipe from Nazca): At the Cahuachi Temple of southern coastal Perú, broken panpipes have been found, suggesting a ritualistic smashing of instruments by the inhabitants of this region, the Nazca (200 BC – 500AD). A typical panpipe performance style is presented in this movement – glissing tenuto fourths (in the cello part) punctuated by an opening attack of air stream (in the flute part). The ending is somewhat abrupt, suggesting where the last pipe of the panpipe has been broken off.

— Gabriela Lena Frank

Sample Pages

Short picturesque scenes for flute and cello entitled Four Pre-Inca Sketches from 2008 finds her unearthing the Moche civilization’s flute, a pre-Colombian culture’s “bird-man,” a Lambayesque woman calling out in the desert wind, and panpipes that would have sounded in the Cahuachi Temple in southern Peru. With but two instruments, one, the cello, being a real foreigner to this time and these cultures, Frank conveys Latino fare often through perpetual fired up rhythms and off-kilter tonalities familiar to us through European tradition.
David Patterson, The Boston Music Intelligencer,03/05/2015
Some of the scores had narrative or picturesque themes, like Cuatro Bosquejos Pre-Incaicos (“Four Pre-Inca Sketches,” 2006) by Gabriela Lena Frank, whose Peruvian, Jewish, Chinese and Lithuanian heritage often inspires her music. Vividly performed by the flutist Patricia Spencer and the cellist André Emelianoff, the work weaves indigenous Peruvian tunes and evocations of the panpipe into its four colorful movements.
Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times,25/01/2011
Ms. Frank has long been fascinated with pre-Columbian art. In one captivating section of this ruminative yet organic work, murky modal oscillating cello riffs and spiraling melodic flights on the flute evoke an image the composer saw on an ancient textile in a museum in Peru, showing birdlike human figures suspended weightlessly.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times,01/01/0001
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