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Tania León  |  Worklist  |  Audio  |  Discography  |  Press Information  |  Two Cuban Folksongs
Tania León

Tania León

"Aboundingly earthy, rhythmic and embellished by deeply moving nostalgia, [Scourge of Hyacinths] stands at the crossroads of every musical emotion. The constant pulsation and incessant murmur that seethes under the pure lines of song weave these different genres into magnificent bouquets....The direction by Robert Wilson creates a distance which, far from chilling the intention, makes it incandescent." Tribune de Genève
"[Indígena] is art of the highest order." The Boston Phoenix

Recent and upcoming events

May 25, 2012 - Ácana, Guanajuato University Symphony Orchestra (Mexico), conducted by Tania León. Main Hall, Guanajuato University.

June 7 - WORLD PREMIERE of Origenes, Monarch Brass, in the International Women's Brass Conference, conducted by Victoria Bond. Dalton Center Recital Hall, Kalamazoo, MI

July 12  - Swiss premiere of Abanico for violin and interactive computer; Airi Yoshioka, Festival de la Cité de Lausanne, Cathédrale.

Summer, 2012 - Appointed Mellon Distinguished Scholar at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in residence at the Wits School of Arts.

Sept. 14 - going...gone, a piano work based on “Merrily We Roll Along”, included in “Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano”. Anthony De Mare, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Sept. 21 - going...gone, Anthony de Mare, the University of Maryland.

Oct. 27 - Á Tres Voces (For Three Voices) for string trio premiered at St. James Church, Chatham, NY.


A vital personality on today's music scene, Tania León is highly regarded as a composer and conductor and is recognized for her contributions as an educator and advisor to arts organizations.

In March 2003, the Los Angeles Master Chorale premiered León's Rezos (Prayers), in Los Angeles and New York City. The work sets the words of Jamaica Kinkaid. 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 Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka. The opera was commissioned in 1994 by the Munich Biennale, where it won the BMW Prize as best new work of opera theatre in the festival. In 1999, it was given seventeen performances to great acclaim by the Grand Théâtre de Genève in Switzerland, the Opèra de Nancy et de Lorraine in France and the St. Pálten Festspielhaus in Austria. The aria "Oh Yemanja" (Mother's Prayer) from Hyacinths was recorded by Dawn Upshaw on her Nonesuch CD "The World So Wide." She most recently performed it at the Ojai Festival in June 2001, where Ms. León was a featured composer.

León's Desde... was premiered by the American Composers orchestra in March 2000 in Carnegie Hall. Its composition was supported by a grant from the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation. Horizons for orchestra was written for the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg and was 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 in March 2001.

Seven commissioned chamber works by León were premiered in the year 2000, 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).

A brief discography of León's music includes Indégena, an all-León collection of chamber music on CRI; the orchestral works Batá and Carabalá on the Louisville Orchestra's First Edition Records; Rituél, a solo piano work, on Albany Records; an arrangement of the Cuban song El Manisero for Chanticleer on Teldec; Journey for the Jubal Trio, also on CRI. Her music is also featured on Cendim, Newport Classic, Leonarda, Mode Opus One, and Urtext.

Born in Havana, León has lived in New York City since 1967. At the invitation of Arthur Mitchell, she became a founding member and the first musical director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, establishing the Dance Theatre's music department, music school, and orchestra. She instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series in 1978. From 1993 to 1997 she was New Music Advisor to Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic. She served as Latin American Music Advisor to the American Composers Orchestra until 2001, during which time she co-founded the award-winning Sonidos de las Americas festivals.

León has received awards for her compositions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Fund, NYSCA, ASCAP, and Meet the Composer, among others. In 1998 she held the Fromm Residency at the American Academy in Rome; she has also been a resident at Yaddo (supported by a MacArthur Foundation Award), and to the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy.

León was the recipient in 2000 of the Tow Award at Brooklyn College, where she is Professor of Music. She received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Colgate University in 1999. She has held master-classes at the Hamburg Musikschule in Germany, and has been Visiting Lecturer at Harvard University and Visiting Professor of Composition at Yale University.