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Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Will-o’-the-Wisp (2013)
G Schirmer Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
18 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank Will-o’-the-Wisp (2013)
Composer note:
As a child, I loved classic fairy tales as collected and told by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and others. They conflated easily with the stories my mother would tell me of beautiful Perú, her homeland which seemed so wild and otherworldly to me as I grew up in urban northern California. It was thus that Cinderella was really a long-lost Inca princess, Rumpelstiltskin was actually an Andean fat-sucking giant known as a pistaqo, and the goose that laid a golden egg was a sullen llama of golden wool that also spat silver on unsuspecting yet lucky bypassers…

As a composer, I’ve often enjoyed using some of my childish and fancifully personalized re-interpretations of myths to inspire pieces, with varying degrees of overt Latin American musical (especially indigenous Indian) influences. Will-o'-the-Wisp: Tone Poem for Piccolo and Orchestra, written for Mary Kay Fink and the Cleveland Orchestra, is one such piece. It stems from my vague recollection of a picture book from the public library about a benign yet enigmatic flickering light which danced to a simple "humble song, song humble" before enticing lost travellers ever deeper into a weirdly unsettling forest. This landscape was my youthful fantasy of what my mother's homeland was like, and Will-o'-the-Wisp makes allusions to Peruvian flute music, albeit subtle.

— Gabriela Lena Frank

Just one instrument, by contrast, the piccolo, was the focus of Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Will-o’-the-Wisp,” a gorgeous tone poem commissioned by the orchestra and premiered Thursday by flutist Mary Kay Fink. Only here, the instrument shed all its shrill, fife-like stereotypes and became instead the protagonist in a series of adventurous episodes. Inspired by fairy tales from Peru, the composer set Fink in an aromatic environment laden with marimbas and dusky solos by first associate concertmaster Peter Otto. At times, the artist simply flitted and preened, like a colorful bird of paradise. At others, she scampered as if being pursued, all the while displaying boundless agility. Utterly different from the Mozart, “Will-o’-the-Wisp” was nonetheless every bit as intoxicating. The timing, too, was perfect. Music like that is always welcome.
Zachary Lewis, Cleveland Plain Dealer,02/05/2014
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