Tania León

Tania León born in Cuba, a vital personality on today?s music scene,  is highly regarded as a composer and conductor recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations.  She has been the subject of profiles on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, Telemundo and independent films.  Ms. León is currently featured on Univision?s ?Orgullo Hispano? series which celebrates living American Latinos whose contributions in society have been invaluable.

León was the subject of a Composer Portrait concert at Columbia University?s Miller Theatre which the New York Times noted that ?A hidden Latin American dance rhythm provides a fixed point upon which she attaches other overlapping and enormously varied rhythmic patterns.  Ms. León animates her tart atonal harmonies?. intense,  hard-driving yet elusive? the concert attracted a large, mostly young and encouragingly diverse audience.?  For the full review, click here.

Aaron Davis Hall presented "Tania León Piano Works: The Composer?s Sonic Environment" which was featured in ARTFORUM's Best of 2005.  Upcoming commissions include a new work as part of the WaterWorks initiative for the inauguration of Aaron Davis Hall's new facility The Gatehouse.   Ms. León was recently awarded a Fromm Music Foundation commission for the creation of a work for the Del Sol String Quartet.

In March 2005, Ms. León joined forces with Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka, with whom she collaborated on her award-winning opera Scourge of Hyacinths.   Based on Soyinka?s ?Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known?, the new work celebrated the opening of the Shaw Center for the Performing Arts in Baton Rouge,  Louisiana.

Two of León?s piano works, Rituál and Mistica, were featured in the Chicago Symphony?s MusicNow "Pierre Boulez's 80th Birthday Celebration".

Duende, for Baritone, Bata ensemble and Orchestral Percussion premiered in September 2003 at the Fest der Kontinente in Berlin, Germany.  Commissioned by the Fest in honor of Gyorgy Ligeti?s 80th birthday.  Another new work, Mistica, for solo piano, was commissioned and premiered by Ursula Oppens.  

In the past few years, León has appeared as guest conductor throughout Europe, including subscription series concerts of the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of Marseille, France, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Santa Cecilia Orchestra (Rome), Gewaundhausorchester, Germany, as well as the Orquesta de la Comunidad y Coro de Madrid, Spain.

In March 2001, León?s opera Scourge of Hyacinths received three performances during the Festival Centro Historico in Mexico City.  Staged and designed by Robert Wilson and conducted by the composer, the work is based on a radio play by Wole Soyinka.  The opera was commissioned in 1994 by the Munich Biennale, where it won the BMW Prize as best new opera of the festival.  In 1999, it was given seventeen performances to great acclaim by the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland, the Opéra de Nancy et de Lorraine in France and the St. Pölten Festspielhaus, Austria.   The aria Oh Yemanja ("Mother?s Prayer? from Hyacinths was recorded by Dawn Upshaw on her Nonesuch CD ?The World So Wide?.

León?s orchestral work Desde... was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra March 2001 in Carnegie Hall conducted by Dante Anzolini.  Its composition was supported by a grant from the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation.  Horizons for orchestra was written for the  NDR Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg and premiered there at the July 1999 Hammoniale Festival, with Peter Ruzicka conducting.  In August 2000, the work had its United States premiere at the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival, Stefan Asbury conducting.  León herself conducted the work with the Orchestre Symphonique de Nancy (France) in March 2001.  

León?s hour-long multimedia work Drummin?, juxtaposes ethnic percussion ensembles with a large chamber orchestra. Presented with video and dance, the work has received spirited performances in Miami and Hamburg, highlighting percussionists from around the world.

Collaborations with award winning poets include ? or like a with John Ashbery,  Love After Love with Derek Walcott, Singin? Sepia with Rita Dove,  A Row of Buttons with Fae Myenne Ng and Rezos with Jamaica Kincaid.  

Since 2000, a selection of commissioned chamber works by León were premiered in venues including the Library of Congress (Fanfarria, celebrating the Copland Centennial), the Kennedy Center (At the Fountain of Mpindelela, in the festival ?Africa! Spirit Ascending?), New York City?s Merkin Concert Hall (Canto, for baritone Tom Buckner and Continuum), and Joe?s Pub at the Public Theater (Ivo, Ivo, for Sequitur).

León is the recipient of a  2005 commission from The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University.  In 1998 she was awarded the New York Governor?s Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1999 received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Colgate University. León has received awards for her compositions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, NYSCA, the Lila Wallace/Reader?s Digest Fund, ASCAP and the Koussevitzky Foundation, among others. In 1998 she held the Fromm Residency at the American Academy in Rome.

In 1969 León became a founding member and first Music Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem establishing the Dance Theatre?s Music Department, Music School and Orchestra. She instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series in 1978 and in 1994 co-founded the American Composers Orchestra Sonidos de las Americas Festivals in her capacity as Latin American Music Advisor. From 1993 to 1997 she was New Music Advisor to Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic.  She has made appearances as guest conductor with the Beethovenhalle Orchestra, Bonn, the Gewandhausorchester, Leipzig, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Rome, the National Symphony Orchestra of South Africa, Johannesburg, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Holland, and the New York Philharmonic, among others.

In 2002, León served as President of the Concorso Internationale di Composizione ?2 Agosto? in Bologna, Italy.  León also traveled to  the ISCM World Music Days 2002 in Hong Kong for the World Premiere of Axon.

León has been Visiting Lecturer at Harvard University, Visiting Professor at Yale University, the University of Michigan and the Musikschule in Hamburg. She has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University and Oberlin College.  In 2000 she was named the Claire and Leonard Tow Professor at Brooklyn College, where she has taught since 1985
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