March 7, 2013, a date that will remain in my memory for the years to come. In it I happened to have not only one but two world premieres. “Ccantu”, for solo piano was performed by 18-year-old pianist Priscila Navarro during her debut concert at Carnegie Hall in New York and “Lord of the Air”, my concerto for cello and orchestra, was premiered by Jesús Castro-Balbi and the TCU Symphony Orchestra conducted by Germán Gutiérrez in Fort Worth, Texas.
The story goes back to late 2010 when a Swedish pianist commissioned “Ccantu” to include it in an upcoming tour. Upon receiving the piece, he enthusiastically conveyed his excitement and satisfaction to me, so we began exchanging emails and phone calls in the months leading to the premiere. One day, however, I got a baffling message from him explaining his decision not to play the piece at all. This sudden turn of events meant that “Ccantu” would remain unperformed, at least within the foreseeable future. It is always hard for a composer to put a piece back in the drawer and see all that effort stay unrewarded, but as difficult as it was, I nevertheless decided to put all that behind and move on to the next project.
About a year later however, everything changed when Lydia Hung, former Headmaster of the National Conservatory of Music of Peru, contacted me saying that Priscila Navarro and her teacher, Professor Michael Baron, were looking for a piece to premiere during Priscila’s debut concert. This couldn’t be better news; Ccantu would not only be finally played (two years after its completion), but it would be part of the recital of a young and promising pianist who would make her professional debut at Carnegie Hall. I accepted without hesitation and asked my publisher to send a copy of “Ccantu” to her right away. Regrettably, I was unable to attend the concert because I was needed in Texas for the rehearsals of “Lord of the Air”, but I know that among those present was the Peruvian Ambassador to the United Nations and several other prominent figures. Priscila is indeed an incredibly talented pianist who promises to have a brilliant career in the years to come.
The complexities preceding a world premiere cannot be underestimated, especially when involving dozens of people, as was the case in “Lord of the Air”, scored for cello and orchestra. Issues of balance between soloist and orchestra needed to be worked out and a few adjustments here and there had to be made to the solo part. In the end though, everything worked out well and we had a wonderful performance which was attended by some of the most prominent cellists in the US and abroad. Among them Carlos Prieto, who back in 2008 commissioned me the obligatory piece for the competition that carries his name and which takes place in Morelia, Mexico every three years.
“Lord of the air” was the centerpiece of the opening concert of TCU’s 2013 Cello Fest, and it was broadcasted live on the Internet, allowing for a broader audience to witness the performance of this work. The concert began with a few remarks by Jesús Castro-Balbi, Germán Gutiérrez and myself, where I explained the concept behind the piece to a very attentive audience. Germán, our conductor, did an outstanding job, serving as a solid bridge between soloist and orchestra, and Jesús, our soloist and dedicatee, shined showcasing his virtuosity and musicality. This piece is already scheduled to be performed in July during the “Music in the Mountains” Festival in Durango, Colorado and we certainly hope that this will only be the beginning of a long and rewarding life on the concert stage.
During my stay in Fort Worth I also had the opportunity to visit my dear friend, conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who found time within his busy schedule to attend some rehearsals, sharing his views and making valuable suggestions. I will be coming back to Fort Worth in May (17-19) for the world premiere of “Perú Negro”, which was commissioned by and dedicated to Miguel and the Centennial Season of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Exciting times lie ahead of me, but it is unlikely that the remarkable coincidence of having two world premieres on the same night and exactly at the same time will repeat itself any time soon. And, to be perfectly honest, I would prefer for that not to happen that often, that way I won’t be forced to miss one of them!