Composers Datebook®

Gabriela Lena Frank's "Hilos"

Composer's Datebook - October 1, 2023


On today’s date in 2010, at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music in Nashville, the ALIAS ensemble gave the premiere performance of a new chamber world by American composer Gabriela Lena Frank. It was titled Hilos — the Spanish word for “threads” — and scored for piano, violin, cello and clarinet.

Now, it’s not unusual for composers to tap their particular cultural background for inspiration, but Gabriela Lena Frank has a pretty wide variety of options in that regard: Her father is an American of Lithuanian Jewish heritage and her mother is Peruvian of Chinese descent. They met when her father was a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru in the 1960s, and Frank herself grew up in Berkeley, California.

"There's usually a story line behind my music," says Frank. Regarding Hilos, she noted, “There are similarities to [Mussorgsky’s] ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ in that each movement tells a different story … Hilos refers to the ‘threads’ that make up Andean textiles and how these threads weave together.”

Each movement of Hilos has an evocative title, such “Canto del Altiplano” (Song of the Highlands), “Zumballyu” (Spinning Top), or “Juegos de los Niños” (Games of the Children).

Music Played in Today's Program

Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972) Hilos Lee Carroll Levine, cl; Zeneba Brown, vn; Matt Walker, vcl; Gabriela Lena Frank, p. Naxos 8.559645

On This Day


  • 1832 - American composer Henry Clay Work, in Middletown, Conn.; A printer by trade, he wrote some famous popular songs, including "Grandfather's Clock," "Father, Come Home," and "Marching Through Georgia";

  • 1865 - French composer Paul Dukas, in Paris;

  • 1931 - Italian composer Sylvano Bussotti, in Florence;


  • 1708 - British composer John Blow, age c. 59, in London;

  • 1964 - Austrian-born American composer Ernst Toch, age 76, in Santa Monica, Calif.; He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for his Symphony No. 3;

  • 1979 - American composer Roy Harris, age 81, in Santa Monica, Calif.;


  • 1733 - Rameau: opera, "Hippolyte et Aricie," in Paris at the Palais Royal Opéra;

  • 1913 - Elgar: symphonic poem, “Falstaff,” at the Leeds Festival, with the composer conducting;

  • 1937 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 18, in Moscow, Alexander Gauk conducting;

  • 1961 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 12 ("The Year 1917"), by the Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting;

  • 1967 - Sessions: Symphony No. 7, in Ann Arbor, Mich., by the Chicago Symphony, Jean Martinon conducting;

  • 1975 - Shostakovich: Viola Sonata, in Leningrad, by Fyodor Druzhinin (viola) and Mikhail Muntyan (piano);

  • 1992 - Michael Torke: “Chalk” for string quartet, at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (U.K.), by the Balanescu Quartet;

  • 1998 - Ives (arr. David G. Porter): "Emerson Overture," for piano and orchestra, with soloist Alan Feinberg and the Cleveland Orchestra, Christoph von Dohnányi conducting;

  • 2005 - John Adams: opera "Dr. Atomic,," in San Francisco by the San Francisco Opera, Donald Runnicles, cond;


  • 1880 - John Philip Sousa, age 25, is appointed 17th Leader of the U.S. Marine Band, a post he would hold for 12 years; During this time, the band made its first concert tour, premiered many of Sousa's most famous marches, and produced some of the first phonograph recordings ever made;

  • 1924 - Opening of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, funded by a gift of $12.5 million from the American patroness Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who had inherited her fortune from the Curtis Publishing Company; The faculty, providing instruction for 203 students, includes Leopold Stokowski and Josef Hofmann heading conducting and piano departments, respectively; Polish-born coloratura Marcella Sembrich; Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch; French-born harpist/composer Carlos Salzedo; and Italian composer Rosario Scalero.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®