Houston Symphony

Metaphors And Shadowy Crime Fighters: Young Composers At The Symphony

Joshua Zinn speaks with the two winners of the Houston Symphony’s first Young Composer Competition.

(L-R) Benjamin Krause and Victor Agudelo
(L-R) Benjamin Krause and Victor Agudelo

This weekend, the Houston Symphony presents a symphonic “Titan” from the late nineteenth century alongside two works from the newest generation of composers. Benjamin Krause and Victor Agudelo were both the winners of the symphony’s first Young Composer Competition, which was open to upcoming composers from Medellín, Bogota, and Houston. And though they’ve both had their pieces performed elsewhere, they’re excited to hear them in the hands of the Houston Symphony musicians. 

“It sounds absolutely incredible, just in their first run through… the level they can bring it at so quickly… it’s exciting, it’s a new experience…” says Krause, and Agudelo says it’s “fun to see [the piece] from a more serious point-of-view,” compared to its first performance at a concert for children. “It’s amazing how this orchestra sight reads… they make music immediately on the spot,” he elaborated.

Krause’s piece Pathways is purely an abstract piece. As he says, “this is one of those titles that comes up well after the fact of the composition, so it was more of like a metaphor of what I felt like I was doing musically.” Musically, Krause sought to write a piece with a lot of energy and a diverse amount of material that gets recycled throughout and connects in different ways, or through different paths.

Agudelo’s piece is much different, and is full of programmatic imagery. His work El Sombrerón is based on a Colombian legend that also has counterparts in Mexico and Guatemala. El Sombrerón is something of a shadowy crime fighter who wears dark clothing and rides around on a horse, “trying to chase gamblers, drunkards, these kind of people who make trouble outside…” in Agudelo’s words.

Listen to my full conversation with the two composers above. You can catch Benjamin Krause’s Pathways and Victor Agudelo’s El Sombrerón in their first Houston Symphony performances alongside Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 throughout the weekend. Friday’s and Saturday’s concerts are at 8 PM and Sunday’s matinee is at 2:30. Go to the Houston Symphony website for more information and tickets.

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