With a poised stroke of her bow, Gabriella Diaz sent a drawn-out note reverberating through the room, setting the sinister tone for “Nocturne” by Kaija Saariaho. A mix of dissonant pitches and abrupt pauses contributed to the eerie atmosphere.
The Guest Violin Recital featuring Diaz took place this past Sunday afternoon in the Timken Room of Graves Hall. While most of the program was solo pieces, several were accompanied by Diaz’s mother, Betty Anne Diaz, on the piano.
Although the pieces ranged from the 19th century to modern day compositions, the common theme was that all of the pieces had female composers.
“I teach at Wellesley College, which is is an all-women’s college. Over the years there, you’re surrounded by a really wonderful sense of the power of women,” said Diaz.
Diaz aimed to incorporate this concept of female power into her performance, despite the fact that she had rarely played pieces by female composers before.
She got the idea of creating this program after assigning pieces by female composers to her students.
“I got to thinking, ‘How many female composers, number one, can I think of in my brain, and for how many have I actually played their music?’ And I realized that’s a pitifully small number. So I just started doing research. I thought, ‘Who are the great female composers of the 19th century, and before, and then also our current day?’” said Diaz.
As part of the performance, Diaz and her mother told the stories of the composers. For example, one composer mentioned was Lili Boulanger, who was considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Diaz hoped to introduce new composers to the audience through her concert.
“One of my favorite things is playing a program like this and people saying, ‘Oh, I had never heard of that composer before, but now I’m going to go look up her music on YouTube.’ And that to me is the most exciting part, because if one person decides to go listen to Lili Boulanger’s music, then that feels super exciting to me,” said Diaz.
Audience member Alisa Crueger-Cain ’20 said that she appreciated how the concert focused on female composers, and that the concert piqued her interest in the composers whose work was featured.
“I thought it was so cool that her program was centered around female composers, and also that she told us about their stories. Now I just want to go research them all. I love that,” said Crueger-Cain.
According to Diaz, one challenge was ordering the program so that the pieces would complement each other.
“In the programming sometimes you want to make sure that pieces kind of flow nicely, and that it makes sense as a program. So, you know, starting with a piece that sets the tone for the rest of the recital, and ending with something that’s really fun and flashy,” said Diaz.