USC Thornton Symphony Concert Program
Celebrated guest conductor Tito Muñoz leads the USC Thornton Symphony in Gabriela Lena Frank’s Elegia Andina and Mahler’s Symphony #1, Titan.
Tito Muñoz is an internationally recognized conductor, now in his ninth season as the Virginia G. Piper Music Director of The Phoenix Symphony.
Gabriela Lena Frank
(1972 – )
Symphony No.1 in D major, Titan
I. Langsam schleppend
II. Kräftig bewegt
III. Feierlich und gemessen
IV. Stürmisch bewegt
(1860 – 1911)
Gabriela Lena Frank
Elegia Andina (2000)
Elegia Andina for orchestra is dedicated to my older brother, Marcos Gabriela Frank. As children of a multicultural marriage (our father being Lithuanian-Jewish and our mother being Chinese-Peruvian-Spanish), our early days were filled with Chinese stir-fry cuisine, andean nursery songs, and frequent visits from our New York-bred Jewish Cousins. As a young piano student, my repertoire included not only my own compositions that carried overtones from Peruvian folk music but also rags of Scott Joplin and minuets by the sons of Bach. It is probably inevitable then that as a composer and pianist today, I continue to thrive on multiculturalism. Elegia Andina (Andean Elegy) is one of my first written-down compositions to explore what it means to be of several ethnic persuasions, of several minds. It uses stylistic elements of Peruvian arca/ira zampona panpines (double-row panpines, each row with its own tuning) to paine an elegiac picture of my questions. The flute part was particularly conceived with this in mind but was also inspired by the technical and musical master of Floyd Hebert, principal flutist of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. In addition, as already mentioned, I can think of none better to dedicate this work to than to “Babo”, my big brother – for whom Peru still waits.
-Gabriela Lena Frank
Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Titan (1888)
“Actually everything that will characterize him is already present in the First Symphony,” Arnold Schoenberg wrote of Gustav Mahler. Completed in the year of his appointment to the Budapest Opera in 1888, Mahler started writing his first symphony in 1884, the same year he started creating his song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer.) The premiere of the symphony took place in Budapest in November of 1889 with Mahler conducting the piece himself. The symphony was not well received by the audience at first, and Mahler’s constant revision of the piece might have been an indication of his attempt to appease the audience. The most noticeable change was in the name of the symphony: the symphony was first called the Symphonic Poem in Two Parts, but by 1896 Mahler started calling the piece as Symphony in D Major. Later on Mahler added the title “Titan,” inspired by a novel of the same name written by Jean Paul Richter. Although Mahler eventually withdrew the title, it has made its way back to be associated with the symphony, perhaps to refer to the “promethean spirit of the symphony,” as journalist Paul Myers describes it.
Despite his distaste for the explanations in music, Mahler provided a program for the symphony for the second performance of the piece where he described the first movement as “the awakening of nature from its long winter sleep” and the third movement as “ inspired by a humorous engraving well-known to all Austrian children: ‘The Huntsman’s Funeral,’”; “the mood expressed…sometimes ironic and merry, sometimes gloomy and uncanny, then suddenly (the last movement breaks in) like the last despairing cry of a deeply wounded heart.”
The symphony contains many of the themes from Mahler’s song cycle Songs of a Wayfarer, which he composed as an expression of his frustrated love for a singer. By the time he began composing his first symphony Mahler was in love with a different woman, and afraid the audience would take too literal approach to his symphony, Mahler wrote: “I should like to stress that the symphony goes far beyond the love story on which it is based, or rather, which preceded it in the emotional life of its creator. The external event was only the occasion–so cannot b e the subject of the work…I know, for my part, that as long as I am able to express my experience in words, I would never do so in music. My need to express myself musically, symphonically, begins only in the realm of obscure feelings, at the gate leading to the ‘other world,’ where things are no longer destroyed by time and space.”
The first movement starts with the sustained note A, followed by the theme in fourths, a trumpet call, and a cuckoo song–so-called Mahler trademarks. About its rather abrupt ending Mahler wrote: “My hero bursts out laughing and runs away. I am sure that no one will notice the theme that, at the end, is given to the timpani!” The second movement uses the same theme in fourths from the first movement and carries it throughout “a typical Mahler scherzo.” The third movement starts with a double bass solo over the timpani playing the same interval of a fourth, setting a very different mood as the first two movements. In the final movement of the symphony Mahler turns the theme from the first movement into a heroic resolution, asking seven horns to stand up for the final statement of the theme, to “drown everything, even the trumpets.”
-Jeongwon Bae (MM 2024)
About the Artists
Tito Muñoz, guest conductor
Praised for his versatility, technical clarity, and keen musical insight, Tito Muñoz is internationally recognized as one of the most gifted conductors on the podium today. Now in his ninth season as as the Virginia G. Piper Music Director of The Phoenix Symphony, Tito previously served as Music Director of the Opéra National de Lorraine in France, as well as Assistant Conductor positions with The Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the Aspen Music Festival. Since his tenure in Cleveland, Tito has celebrated critically acclaimed successes with the orchestra, among others stepping in for the late Pierre Boulez in 2012 and leading repeated collaborations with the Joffrey Ballet, including the orchestra’s first staged performances of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in the reconstructed original choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky.
Tito has appeared with many of the most prominent orchestras in North America, including those of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee, as well as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. He also maintains a strong international conducting presence, including recent and forthcoming engagements with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, SWR Symphonieorchester, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, a tour with Orchestre National d’Île de France, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier, Opéra de Rennes, Auckland Philharmonia, Sydney Symphony and Sao Paolo State Symphony.
As a proponent of new music, Tito champions the composers of our time through expanded programming, commissions, premieres, and recordings. He has conducted important premieres of works by Christopher Cerrone, Kenneth Fuchs, Dai Fujikura, Michael Hersch, Adam Schoenberg, and Mauricio Sotelo. During his tenure as Music Director of the Opéra National de Lorraine, Tito conducted the critically-acclaimed staged premiere of Gerald Barry’s opera The Importance of Being Earnest. A great advocate of the music of Michael Hersch, he led the world premiere of Hersch’s monodrama On the Threshold of Winter at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014, followed by the premiere of his Violin Concerto with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in 2015, a piece they also recorded with the International Contemporary Ensemble on the New Focus label, released in summer 2018. Most recently he gave the world and European premieres of I hope we get a chance to visit soon at the Ojai and Aldeburgh Festivals.
A passionate educator, Tito regularly visits North America’s leading conservatories, universities, summer music festivals, and youth orchestras. He has led performances at the Aspen Music Festival, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Cleveland Institute of Music, Indiana University, Kent/Blossom Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, New England Conservatory, New World Symphony, Oberlin Conservatory, Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, University of Texas at Austin, and National Repertory Orchestra, as well as a nine-city tour with the St. Olaf College Orchestra. He maintains a close relationship with the Kinhaven Music School, which he attended as a young musician, and now guest conducts there annually. Tito also enjoys a regular partnership with Arizona State University where he has held a faculty position and is a frequent guest teacher and conductor.
Born in Queens, New York, Tito began his musical training as a violinist in New York City public schools. He attended the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, the Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, and the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Division. He furthered his training at Queens College (CUNY) as a violin student of Daniel Phillips. Tito received conducting training at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen where he studied with David Zinman and Murry Sidlin. He is the winner of the Aspen Music Festival’s 2005 Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize and the 2006 Aspen Conducting Prize, returning to Aspen as the festival’s Assistant Conductor in the summer of 2007, and later as a guest conductor.
Tito made his professional conducting debut in 2006 with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, invited by Leonard Slatkin as a participant of the National Conducting Institute. That same year, he made his Cleveland Orchestra debut at the Blossom Music Festival. He was awarded the 2009 Mendelssohn Scholarship sponsored by Kurt Masur and the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Foundation in Leipzig, and was a prizewinner in the 2010 Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition in Frankfurt.
*=Principal on Frank
+=Principal on Mahler
Charlie Lin, concertmaster
Sarah Beth Overcash
Sofia Llacer Chamberlain
Qiaorong Ma, principal
Bradley Adam Bascon
Nico Valencia, principal
Jeremy Tai, principal
Ji Sun Jung
Ethan Moffitt, principal
Ha Eun An*
Jorge Araujo Felix+
Jazzmine Van Veld