January 21, 2010

Cornell Music Prof Earns Grammy Nomination

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This story was originally published on Jan. 7, 2010.

A Cornell professor has been nominated to receive an award at the 52nd Grammy Awards, held at the end of this month.

Prof. Roberto Sierra, chair of the Department of Music, is a contender in the category of Best Classical Contemporary Composition for his work, “Missa Latina Pro Pace.”

“Missa Latina,” which translates as “Latin mass for peace,” is a 75-minute orchestral composition calling for a full choir and both soprano and baritone soloists. Its 2006 premier at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. was met with critical acclaim, and was described 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.”

While the piece was commissioned in 2006 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the National Symphony Orchestra, its recording last season by the Milwaukee Symphony was selected for this year’s nomination. Unlike the categories of Best Orchestral Performance and Best Classical Album, Contemporary Composition is known as a “composer’s award,” recognizing the work’s composer or librettist specifically.

It took Sierra over a year to write “Missa Latina,” but the professor avoided focusing on its future reception during that time. “I had to juggle teaching and writing and everything else,” he told the University. “When I write music, I don’t think of things like nominations, I just write the best I can, and it’s up to others to decide about it.”

Originally from Puerto Rico, Sierra studied music around the world before coming to teach composition at Cornell in 1992. According to the University, after attending Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, Sierra received his Masters in Musicology from the Royal College of London University. He then performed postgraduate work at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, before continuing on to study programmatic composition under Gyorgi Ligeti in Hamburg.

Sierra returned to Puerto Rico in 1982 and served as Chancellor at Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, before becoming the composer-in-residence at the Milwaukee symphony orchestra in 1989, and joining the Cornell faculty three years later.

The Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on Jan. 31st at the Staples Center in Los Angles. It will be televised at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Original Author: Dan Freedman