Roberto Sierra Premieres New Version of ‘Missa Latina’ This Sunday at Hunter College
Composer Roberto Sierra will unveil a brand new version of his acclaimed choral symphony, "Missa Latina," this Sunday at New York's Hunter College. Originally commissioned by the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the National Symphony Orchestra, the initial work premiered in 2006 at the Kennedy Center.
Upon its debut, the Puerto Rican symphonist's seven-movement concerto was claimed by The Washington Times as "the most significant symphonic premiere in the District since the late Benjamin Britten's stunning War Requiem was first performed in the still-unfinished Washington National Cathedral in the late 1960s."
"Missa Latina" was first composed by Sierra from 2003-2005. After a version was recorded by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 2008, the piece was nominated for Best Classical Contemporary Composition at the 2009 Grammy Awards.
Sunday's revised version of the symphony (rearranged for two pianos, five percussionists and soloists) will feature members of the New York Virtuoso Singers along with the Canticum Novum Singers led by conductor Harold Rosenbaum, founder and artistic director of both choirs. Soloists for the performance will be baritone Daniel Teadt and soprano Sharla Nafziger.
Sierra, an accomplished composer and professor at Cornell University, studied under György Ligeti, best known for his contributions to the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack. In an interview with Latin Jazz Corner, Sierra spoke of his admiration for Ligeti and recalled the musician's motivating talent:
"[H]e is one of the great composers of the second part of the twentieth century. One of the things that was inspiring to me was the concept of absolute mastery of technique. It was the highest possible standard for technical skills. He was a man of great curiosity, interested in all cultures."
The world premiere of Sierra's new version of "Missa Latina" takes place at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 15 at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in Manhattan. The concert is presented by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and Canticorum Virtuosi, Inc.
Below, watch a version of "Missa Latina" performed by the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and San Juan Philharmonic Chorale at the 51st Casals Festival in 2007.