Periodically Walter-Simmons.com will feature a particular
composer whose music we think you will enjoy. There will be a
brief description, a sample of his work, and some links that will
help you pursue further information. You may also search our database
for my writings on the composer. If you have any questions or
comments, we’d love to hear from you.
Previous Featured Composers: Lee
Hoiby, Robert Muczynski, and
composer we are currently featuring is Daniel Catán. Catán,
a Sephardic Jew, was born in Mexico City in 1949. At the age of 14 he
went to England to study, earning a degree in philosophy from the University
of Sussex in 1970, and a degree in music from the University of Southampton
in 1973. He then came to the United States, earning a PhD in composition
at Princeton, under the tutelage of such apostles of 12-tone dogma as
Milton Babbitt, Benjamin Boretz, and J.K. Randall. Then, in 1977, he
returned to Mexico City, where he occupied himself with teaching, composing,
and writing articles on the arts.
Despite his rigorous training in the principles and techniques of serialism,
most of Catán's music is readily characterized as "neo-romantic."
Although he has composed in many different forms, he has devoted particular
attention to opera, and it is his works in this genre that have been
building his reputation. Rappaccini's Daughter, based on Octavio
Paz's poetic adaptation of a disturbingly haunting story by Nathaniel
Hawthorne, was introduced in Mexico City in 1991, and subsequently produced
in San Diego in 1994. Its resounding positive reception has led to subsequent
performances, and in 1997 a complete recording of the opera was released
by Newport Classics.
In 1996, on commission from the Houston Grand Opera, Catán composed
Florencia en el Amazonas, inspired by the writing of Gabriel
García Márquez. An overwhelming success with the Houston
audiences, Florencia was subsequently produced in Los Angeles
and Seattle. Houston Grand Opera produced it again several years later,
and Seattle has programmed the work again for February, 2005. A complete
recording of this opera was released last year on the Albany label,
and was identified as a "best-of-the-year" selection by a
number of critics. An orchestral suite from Florencia was premiered
in Wisconsin in late 2003.
Catán is now completing his fourth opera, Salsipuedes,
for production by the Houston Grand Opera later in 2004.
Writing operas in the "neo-romantic" style is not unusual
for composers today---most new operas these days attempt to incorporate
tonal melody and a sense of dramatic immediacy. But in many cases the
music is tentative, half-hearted, and lame, or even inept. What distinguishes
Catán's writing from theirs is its boldness and flair in embracing
and mastering a style often derided as "old-fashioned" or
Listen to a brief excerpt from Florencia
(Act II, Scene 15)
version (good for slower connections)
You will need Real Player
or Winamp on you computer.