Andreia Pinto Correia. A Talent to Discover. (March 1, 2013)
Written by Luciana Leiderfarb
Published by Gulbenkian Foundation Newletter
On one of the most unique concerts of the season by Gulbenkian Music, the Gulbenkian Orchestra, conducted by Joana Carneiro, will perform three works by Andreia Pinto-Correia, a Portuguese composer based in the United States of America, author of a great number of works commissioned by prestigious American and Portuguese institutions. Elegia a Al-Mu’tamid, Xántara and Alfama form a trilogy inspired by ancient memories connected to the Iberian Peninsula, and that will receive its European Premiere on April 11 and 12.
On the second half of the concert, the Orchestra, in its chamber version, will accompany pianist Uri Caine on one of his very personal interpretations of concert repertoire. This time, he will improvise over the Diabelli Variations by Beethoven. In this written interview, Andreia Pinto-Correia speaks about her background and how an accident made her choose a career that she would not have chosen otherwise.
What made you travel to the United States in the first place, and when did you acknowledge your career as a composer?
I left for the United States in the year of 1994 with a soloist scholarship in saxophone, but unfortunately had an accident during the first months after my arrival. At the time I returned to Portugal and interrupted my musical studies for a period of six years while I underwent several surgeries and treatments for my right arm. Fortunately the institution that had offered me a scholarship, the Berklee College of Music, maintained its offer and, although unable to perform as a soloist, I decided to return to the United States and study orchestration, theory, conducting and composition.
And where did you study?
I started my composition studies with legendary composer Bob Brookmeyer at the New England Conservatory, the institution where I graduated from the Master’s program and where I currently teach and am finishing my doctorate in classical concert composition. I should add that I was a scholarship recipient from both the New England Conservatory and from the Luso-American Foundation for Development. I began to receive commissions very early in my career, right after the premiere of my first work – Aljezur – and after that my career as a composer started to develop very naturally.
In this concert you will present a trilogy: Elegia a Al-Mu’tamid, Xántara and Alfama. What are the elements that unite these three works?
First of all, I would like to add that all of these three pieces will have their European premieres. The works Elegia a Al-Mu’tamid, Xántara and Alfama are inspired by themes related to our History and in particular by the history of Al-Andalus (Iberian Peninsula). There is a connecting element between them, a nostalgia, a memory, or more precisely an emotional atmosphere that surrounds a memory. This use of the idea of memory is certainly one of the aspects that influences my music the most.
In what way is this idea of memory reflected in the last work that you wrote, Alfama?
Alfama is the result of a construct of memories about a specific place. That also includes the significance of that particular place for me, a native from Lisbon. It is an ode to my city and also to the close relationship that we have with water, since Alfama is an area of Lisbon that has a very strong presence of the element water not only due to its proximity to the Tagus river, but also due to the presence of its historical fountains and baths. In this work, water flows continuously and is represented by the string section. The composition, divided into two sections, develops through “echoes” that appear at different speeds. The central part of the work is the barest part, in which the essential skeleton is revealed. The idea of a mirror image is also present, as the first and last sections are reflections, inversions.
This is a work that also includes text…
Correct, from the moment that I started to compose Alfama, I felt the need to add a vocal part. Hearing the premiere in California, I confirmed my initial instinct, and at Gulbenkian the work will be performed with a soprano part. The text is developed in a way in which the sonority of the words has authority over their meaning. Thus, it is an invented language, most of the time built upon the inversion of certain words, raising the issue of reflection, and a mirror is also present on a smaller scale. As a point of departure, I used fragments from the poem “Immersed City” by my father, João David Pinto-Correia, and also, as I already mentioned, words invented by myself. I should mention that Alfama is the result of a Fromm Music Foundation Commission at Harvard University for the Gulbenkian and Berkeley Orchestras, a great honor for me. This work is dedicated to Joana Carneiro.
The second part of the concert will feature North American pianist Uri Caine. What does this coexistence suggest?
First of all, I know Uri Caine personally, and it will be great to share a concert with someone for whom I have great respect and esteem. It is a happy coincidence. I began my studies at the Academia de Amadores de Música and at the Escola do Hot Clube in Lisbon, and initially left for the United States to continue my studies in jazz. For these reasons, this concert has a connection with my musical past. I think it will be an interesting pairing also because my works are usually included in more traditional and conservative programs.
What kind of projects are you currently working on?
I am currently preparing a couple of solo works to premiere in May as part of the Boston Portuguese Festival, in a profile concert of my music. I will also premiere the work The Tree, a result of my collaboration with the Russian-American painter Darina Karpov whom I met at MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. I am also writing Cantigas da Côrte, an extended work commissioned by the soloists of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Brass Quintet), to be premiered during the next season. This work is inspired by troubadour songs from the Middle Ages. Other projects for this season include a new work for flute and cello, commissioned by Culturgest for its twentieth anniversary celebration, to be premiered in October by the soloists of OrchestrUtópica.
But my largest project for this year is Olhos, espelho e luz (Eyes, Mirror, and Light) with texts from the Sermão da Sexagésima by Priest António Vieira, for tenor soloist and woodwind ensemble, a commission from the University of Minnesota. The premiere will be on December 4 and it will include a composer residency at the University of Minnesota, a top music institution. Other American universities will join in this project for next season and so I will be traveling along with the soloist to other institutions in the United States of America.