January 21, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 8

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    Cousins’ lives harmonize through talents

    By Theresa Carson
    News Office

    University graduate student and composer Ricardo Lorenz and recorder player Aldo Abreu are cousins who finish each other’s sentences. Soon, the public will have an opportunity to hear them complement each other’s work when Abreu and the University Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Barbara Schubert, perform Lorenz’s Recorder Concerto for the first time in Chicago at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, in Mandel Hall.

    Abreu commissioned the concerto––which Lorenz describes as a dialogue––after he won first prize at the 1992 Concert Artist Guild New York Competition.

    “He was very much on my mind when I wrote it,” said Lorenz, who is an advanced graduate student in composition. “The idea of a concerto involves dialogue––back and forth––asking questions. It’s better if you allow for a specific voice that comes from one musician.” While creating the concerto, composer and musician shared many conversations by phone and e-mail.

    Although these cousins tend to share many inside jokes, the pair are staid when they discuss music. “When working, we are very serious,” said Lorenz. “We put aside our family ties. We let the music speak for itself. We let the music guide our conversation,” said Lorenz.

    Earlier this season, Abreu played the concerto with the Billings Symphony in Montana, where Lorenz serves as composer-in-residence. Remembering that premiere, which ended with a standing ovation, Lorenz said he attended the performance with complete confidence in his cousin. “He plays it as though he composed the piece of music,” said Lorenz, who can still recall the day Abreu attended his first recorder lesson.

    An instrument often used to introduce music to young pupils, Lorenz said the recorder is being elevated to a higher level by his cousin’s performances. “It is seen as a perky instrument,” Lorenz said. However, Abreu can play the recorder with such depth and virtuosity that it competes with the violin, piano and flute. “He is helping to end the stereotypical notion of the recorder.”

    Lorenz, whose compositions have been performed by symphonies from San Antonio and Stockholm to Venezuela and Bonn, is building a distinguished career of his own. As acting director of the Indiana University Latin American Music Center, Lorenz compiled a 480-page bio-bibliographical source on Latin American composers. In 1996, the book was nominated for the Best General Reference Source Award by the Association of Recorded Sound Collections.

    Recently, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra appointed Lorenz as composer-in-residence of its Musicians Residency Program. Lorenz also has been a Lecturer in the Department of Music and the College at the University in the past and currently teaches at Richard Daley College.

    In September 1998, he was the first recipient of the Composer for the Next Generation program, sponsored by Fredda and Sidney Hyman. For seven years the Hymans have hosted the Music in the Loft concert series in their West Washington Boulevard home in Chicago. Lorenz, who will hold that post through March, has had four of his compositions performed in the series that showcases potential rising stars.

    As a child, Lorenz had an artistic inclination that first led him to painting. “I knew that I would be involved with some activity that created something from nothing,” Lorenz said. He began studying music at the age of 12, and eventually found it more challenging than painting. “There’s always something new to discover in music. It sparked my curiosity more so than visual arts.

    “If you’re creatively inclined, then you have to be curious. If you’re creatively inclined, then you need to satisfy your curiosity. With music, my curiosity will not be fulfilled for many, many years. It is a lifelong pursuit.”

    Lorenz, who plans to complete his doctorate in March, credits the University with expanding the way he thinks about music. “Thinking itself is an art form,” he said. “Usually, you think that music doesn’t need words, but you learn that you need to verbalize music in a conceptual way. It’s all a metaphor.

    “We borrow from the spatial world. How do you describe sound? Words have not been invented to talk about the physical nature of sound.” Therefore, metaphors must be used, he said. When you can explain the sonic world with words, then “you are locating yourself,” he said.

    Composing contemporary art music “is almost like a lost art, almost like writing novels in Latin,” said Lorenz, who attributes his artistic talent to his mother. Contemporary art music is to music as poetry is to literature, said Lorenz. “The audience for it is very small.”

    He said he is surprised constantly by the magic of music. “Music is such an abstract thing, such a strange language.”

    The language of Lorenz’s music will be spoken when Abreu and the University Symphony Orchestra perform Recorder Concerto at its Chicago premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30. Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Britten’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell (Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra) are also on the program.

    Abreu will also perform with the Chicago Baroque Ensemble as part of The University of Chicago Presents’ Howard Mayer Brown International Early Music Series at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29. Both concerts will take place at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. Ticket information is available by phoning (773) 702-7300.

    Abreu will conduct a free recorder master class at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31. For more information, call (773) 702-8069.