The Dalí Gallery
Although Frank Proto attended the Manhattan School of Music, graduating with degrees in both double bass and music education in 1966, he is completely self-taught as a composer. Thirty-one years as a bassist and Composer-in-Residence in the Cincinnati Symphony (he retired in 1997) surely taught him something as well. Proto has in his catalogue some thirty orchestral compositions (including three concertos for his instument) and about two dozen works for chamber ensemble (many including double bass). His "folk tale for narrator and orchestra," Casey at the Bat, has had over five hundred performances in the 35 years since it was written and has been recorded twice. He is currently writing another sports-related work, a full-length opera - his first - about boxer Joe Louis.
Proto is no stranger to LPO (Louisiana Philharmonic) audiences. Among other works, it played My Name is Citizen Soldier in 2000, and in 2006 his Fiesta Bayou and Kismet won the Grand Prize at the First New Orleans International Composers Competition. This prize included the commission to write a new work for the orchestra, which is what we hear tonight.
Proto has long been fascinated by the great Spanish painter Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and feels a kindred spirit with him in the sense that neither creator adheared to any fashionable school or ism, preferring to mix styles and create whatever suited him at the moment. "He constantly went his own way regardless of what was currently in vogue," says Proto. "He was an original. Mad, some would say, and certainly quite full of himself, but still an original."
Structurally, The Dalí Gallery bears some resemblance to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in that the listeners is taken through a series of musical depictions of various paintings. The opening number, The Arrival serves as an introduction, portraying not a painting but Dalí,s entrance into the world. It also presents a Spanish-sounding motif that helps unify the entire composition, somewhat in the manner of Mussorgsky's Promenade theme. The five paintings Proto chose all come from Dalí's early years. He revealed his genius early, with Port of Cadaquès (Night), introduced by flute and harp and Portrait of the Cellist Ricard Pichot (Naturally Proto features the cello section here) painted in his mid-teens in a somewhat impressionist vein. Then come three surrealist works, Apparatus and Hand (beginning with a great, surging flourish ending in the Spanish motif for strings and woodwinds), Illuminated Pleasures (a cadenza of ferocious difficulty for the piccolo trumpet) and Dalí's most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory (with stereophonically positioned harps). Thus ends Proto's Gallery, but the composer is already pondering which of Dalí's paintings will go into his next Gallery.
Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra