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»Happy New Ears«

John Cage's special greeting to see in the new year lends its name to this wonderful series of workshop concerts, of which there have been well over 100, which was brought to life by the Ensemble Modern and Oper Frankfurt in 1993. The series continues this season and take place either at Oper Frankfurt, the Bockenheimer Depot or the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Frankfurt. You can enjoy a concert featuring four young Polish composers organised by Simon Steen-Andersen, which corona put paid to last season, a portrait of the Cuban, born in Havanna in 1943, composer Tania León, who still influences American music life today and a concert concentrating on the Czech composer Ondřej Adámek, born in Prague in 1979, who came to Berlin, where he still lives today, in 2010 on a DAAD scholarship. Details about the fourth concert will appear here when known.

Portrait of Tania León

Tanja León: Singin’ Sepia - Five songs based on texts by Rita Dove (1996)
Tanja León: Rítmicas for chamber orchestra (2019)

Bianca Tognocchi soprano
David Niemann conductor
Tania León in conversation with
Konrad Kuhn

The composer, professor and conductor Tanja León, who comes from Cuba and has been living in the USA since 1967, is one of the leading representatives of Afro-diasporic music. She has developed a very personal tonal language with her idiosyncratic mixture of New Music and Cuban esprit. This becomes evident in two works from two creative phases and - as usual at "Happy New Ears" events - in conversation. 

Rítmicas is a five movement work based on rhythmical patterns, typical for sub-Sahara and Caribbean music - music that found its way from West and Central Africa to Central and South America because of slavery and became mixed there with Spanish elements, among others. This rhythmical pattern: »Clave« (Spanish for »Key«), comes from Latin American dances such as the Rumba or Bossa Nova. In this case it is the foundation rhythm of a Son, or Guaguancó out of which Tania León creates – in her own words – a »rainbow of poly-rhythmical discovery«. 

This is joined by Singin’ Sepia for soprano, violin, clarinet and piano for four hands, first performed in 1996. The five songs in this cycle are based on texts by the US American, black poet Rita Dove. A winner of prizes including a Pulitzer, this author combines in books, such as her collection of poems Mother Love, the Greek Demeter Persephone myth with the story of her ancestors who, as freed slaves, moved from the south of America to the north to build a new life for themselves. In interviews Tania León regularly defends herself against defining ethnic attributions. She describes the things which have influenced her personality and music as diverse. Her Singin’ Sepia demands virtuosity from instrumentalists and singer.