Roberto SierraOn Our Show: July 23, 2011
Birth Year: 1953
Origin: Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
About Roberto Sierra:
Classical composer Roberto Sierra and jazz saxophonist James Carter came together to create Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra—a four-part concerto that seamlessly integrates the forms and harmonic language of contemporary classical music, Latin rhythms, and jazz’s improvisational imperative. The work was commissioned by the saxophonist’s hometown Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Written for soprano and tenor saxophones, Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra doesn’t just represent a new musical synthesis, it embodies a state-of-the-art open-source collaboration in which Carter and Sierra worked through the piece’s details together up until they recorded the piece last year in Poland with a world-class orchestra under the direction of Costa Rican–raised conductor Giancarlo Guerrero (music director of the Nashville Symphony). Other artists who performed include master violinist Regina Carter, and cellist Akua Dixon’s String Quintet.
A protégé of the late, legendary Hungarian composer György Ligeti, Roberto Sierra first gained national attention in 1987 when his breakthrough orchestral composition, Júbilo, earned strong reviews after a Carnegie Hall performance by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Since then, an international array of leading orchestras and ensembles has interpreted his music, from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the American Composers Orchestra to Kronos Quartet and England’s BBC Symphony.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, Sierra absorbed folk music and dance tunes, and he feels the rhythmic connection with Carter is the foundation of their collaboration. While Sierra didn’t listen widely to straight-ahead jazz in his formative years, the era’s most advanced salsa bands fascinated him, particularly Eddie Palmieri. “Caribbean Rhapsody” draws inspiration from the sounds Sierra heard growing up in Puerto Rico, where music is woven into the fabric of everyday life.
For more than three decades, Sierra’s works have been part of the repertoire of many of the leading orchestras, ensembles and festivals in the USA and Europe. He is also a professor of composition at Cornell University. Other works include Concerto for Orchestra commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Fandangos and Missa Latina commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC.
In 2003 he was awarded the Academy Award in Music by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The award states: ”Roberto Sierra writes brilliant music, mixing fresh and personal melodic lines with sparkling harmonies and striking rhythms. . .” His Sinfonía No. 1, a work commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, won the 2004 Kenneth Davenport Competition for Orchestral Works. In 2007 the Serge and Olga Koussevitzky International Recording Award (KIRA) was awarded to Albany Records for the recording of his composition Sinfonía No. 3 “La Salsa.” Roberto Sierra has served as Composer-In-Residence with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and New Mexico Symphony. In 2010 he was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In the spring of 2004 he released his two guitar concertos Folias and Concierto Barroco with Manuel Barrueco as soloist.