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Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Milagros (2010)
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
22 Minutes
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Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank Milagros (2010)
Composer's Note:

Milagros (“Miracles”) is inspired by my mother’s homeland of Perú. It has been a remarkable, often difficult, yet always joyous experience for me to visit, again and again, this small Andean nation that is home to not only foggy desert coasts but also Amazonian wetlands. Usually a religious and marvelous occurrence, milagro here refers to the sights and sounds of Perú’s daily life, both past and present, that I’ve stumbled upon in my travels. While probably ordinary to others, to me, as a gringa-latina, they are quietly miraculous, and are portrayed in eight short movements as follows:

I. Milagrito — Capilla del Camino (“Shrine by the Road”): A brief, earnest, and somewhat austere solo violin opening pays homage to the ubiquitous tiny Catholic shrines erected along the highways throughout the altiplano, or highlands, silently honoring those who have been killed in roadside accidents. These shrines are humble standouts against large expansive landscapes, seemingly unchanging through time.

II. Milagrito— Zampoñas Rotas (“Broken Panpipes”): A depiction of ceramic panpipes found at the Cahuachi Temple that were ritualistically broken by a fiery pre-Inca civilization, the Nazca (200 BC to 500 AD), this movement has a violent, jagged-edge quality, employing motifs commonly found in panpipe and other wind instrument music.

III. Milagrito — Mujeres Cantando (“Women Singing”): Inspired by the sound of indigenous women singing, this movement exaggerates their “clustery” pitch and how their voices separate and converge.

IV. Milagrito — Danza de Tingo María (“Dance of Tingo María): As one who avoids the largely impenetrable selvas, or jungles, I did take away a strong impression of this border jungle town as lively and cacophonous. The relentless rhythm and the melodic line of pizzicatos inspired by water drums drive this movement.

V. Milagrito — Sombras de Amantaní (“Shadows of Amantaní): The remarkable starry nights of this barren island in Lake Titicaca between Perú and Bolivia made for eerie shadows that I could not dodge on my nocturnal walks.

VI. Milagrito — Adios a Churín (“Goodbye to Churín): Churín is a small city on the side of a mountain with seemingly little horizontal ground, famous for its healing bath waters. I visited during a time when it was on the verge of becoming a ghost town as its youth were migrating in droves to urban coastal cities. Allusions to guitar music are made against a melancholy singing cello line.

VII. Milagrito — Danza de los Muñecos (“Dance of the Dolls”): Playful in character, this movement is inspired by the brightly colored, almost mannequin-like dolls from the colonial era that are found in small museums and private collections.

VIII. Milagrito — Capilla del Camino: Throughout my travels over the years, these capilla sightings have been constant and unyielding, as I expect they will always be as I continue to travel in the future. Where the second violin introduced the piece with una capilla, it is the first violin who takes up the capilla theme and ends our journey for now.

— Gabriela Lena Frank

Sample Pages

  • 03 NOV 2018
    Shriver Hall Concert Series
    University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD
    Harlem Quartet
  • 15 AUG 2018
    Staunton Music Festival
    Staunton, VA
  • 13 AUG 2017
    Maverick Concerts
    Woodstock, NY
    Harlem Quartet
  • 16 APR 2016
    Walla Walla, WA
  • 22 FEB 2016
    Washington DC
    Last Stand Quartet
  • 18 APR 2015
    Rice University, TX
  • 17 OCT 2013
    Portland, OR
    Third Angle New Music Ensemble

    Other Dates:
    18 October - Portland, OR
  • 03 APR 2011
    Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY
    Chiara String Quartet
  • 17 OCT 2010
    Milagros New York Premiere
    Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY
    Chiara String Quartet
  • Houston Friends of Chamber Music Series
    Chiara String Quartet

Frank’s Milagros was inspired by her time in Peru (her mother’s native country), and is organized into eight movements titled “Milagritos” (“Little Miracles”). Her writing reveals influences of Bartók and Shostakovich, combined with a rather Latin-sounding musical style. The result is a unique and well-constructed quartet that this listener hopes will become a part of the chamber music repertoire. These miniature movements were crafted with such fine detail you might have thought Schubert had wandered into the 21st century.
Neil McCalmont, Cleveland Classical,07/07/2016
The program, part of the Lied Center of Kansas’ Live Performing Arts series, included a work by contemporary American composer Gabriela Lena Frank couched between high-quality interpretations of pieces from Schubert and Brahms. The ensemble vividly rendered Frank’s Milagros (Miracles). Each movement had visual, aural and emotional stimulation: starry nights, lonely beaches, impenetrable jungle, indigenous folk song. This hybrid of influences manifested into eight vignettes with an exotic harmonic language and extended techniques that emulated folk idioms. Frank, who attended Sunday’s performance, used her experiences and observations from travels in Peru and Bolivia to create the work. The piece began and ended with a violin solo, first played by Yoon and later by Fischer. Each solo was at once sorrowful and defiant, with short, thematic snippets interrupted by harsh double-stops. The melody blended into a second movement that conjured Andean panpipes with sweeping sforzandi, shimmering slides and soaring harmonics. Aggressive pizzicatos ranged through the voices in one section for a high-energy, insistent percussive effect. In another, the cello solo wound a long, beautiful line, punctuated by bold plucking on an open string.
Libby Hanssen, Kansas City Star,29/01/2012
The musical news was the premiere of another fascinating, stylish and haunting work by Gabriela Lena Frank, a Rice alumna whose mother was born in Peru. Milagros made me very happy that composers were freed from the constraint of rigid formality at the end of the 19th century. If a listener were searching for a musical antecedent for Frank’s work, it might be the so called character pieces that are a feature of 19th century piano music. (An example is Robert Schumann’s Carnaval with titles for individual movements such as Pierrot and Arlequin, after the commedia dell’arte characters.) “Usually a religious and marvelous occurrence, ‘milagro’ here refers to the sights and sounds of Peru’s daily life, both past and present that I’ve stumbled upon in my travels,” Frank wrote in her program note. The slice-of-life snippets were highly personalized, starting with the opening solo lament/ monologue for the second violin. My favorite was Adios a Churin about a near-ghost town, sketched in music through melancholic imitations of guitar music and aching cello solo music. Frank writes in a distinctly modern yet communicative style. Milagros was a wonderfully evocative set of freewheeling reactions that could be appreciated for its human impressions or its strictly musical skill.
Charles Ward, Houston Chronicle,14/10/2010
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