Recent recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor and a Pulitzer Prize, León will hold the post for two seasons, beginning in September 2023
León will also be the next Composer Mentor for the LPO Young Composers – applications for the 2023/24 programme open today
The London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) is thrilled to announce that Cuban-American composer Tania León will be its next Composer-in-Residence, succeeding Brett Dean. The appointment will span two seasons, beginning in September 2023, and will include a world premiere in 2023/24 and a UK premiere in 2024/25.
Tania León said: “I am delighted to have been appointed the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s next Composer-in-Residence. Over the two years, I will be able to really get to know the Orchestra and the personalities of each player; to write specifically for this group of talented musicians will be a joy. I am also really looking forward to mentoring the LPO Young Composers and I would strongly encourage anyone thinking about applying to go for it. It is so important that mentoring is available to young artists and I’m so glad I can play a small part in developing the next generation.”
Having been recognised with two high-profile awards in America in recent years, the LPO is amongst the first to bring León’s fresh compositional voice to the UK in a major way. In December 2022 she received a prestigious Kennedy Center Honor, awarded annually to figures in the performing arts for their contributions to American culture. She was recognised alongside the likes of soul singer Gladys Knight, Irish rock band U2 and actor George Clooney.
In addition, León won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her work Stride, part of the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19, an initiative featuring commissions by 19 female composers in honour of the centenary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920. León was inspired by suffragist Susan B. Anthony for Stride. The LPO will give the UK premiere of the work on Friday 31 March 2023.
As part of her LPO residency, León will also be involved in the Orchestra’s education and community work, including mentoring the LPO Young Composers. The scheme aims to support the progression of talented early-career orchestral composers, who join the Orchestra for a season and each create a new eight-minute work for chamber orchestra. The new pieces are performed by Foyle Future First musicians (the Orchestra’s graduate scheme for aspiring orchestral players) and LPO players in the annual Debut Sounds concert at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.
As well as invaluable general mentoring, León will be involved in the selection of the composers; the creation of the brief for the year; one-to-one and group sessions; and detailed feedback in a mid-year workshop with the composers and ensemble. She will also conduct the final Debut Sounds concert on in June 2024. Applications for the 2023/24 cohort are open today and close on Friday 10 March.
León arrived in the US from Cuba in 1967, speaking barely any English, as an accomplished pianist who had won three major competitions and earned degrees from the Carlos Alfredo Peyrellade Conservatory in piano and theory/solfège. She began studies at the New York College of Music just months later. Her big break came in 1968 when a pianist friend was unwell and she agreed to fill in for her at a ballet class in Harlem. There she impressed ballet dancer and choreographer Arthur Mitchell – the first soloist of colour with the New York City Ballet – and soon became resident composer and music director of Mitchell’s newly formed Dance Theatre of Harlem.
León 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. Between 1994 and 2001, she was Latin American music advisor for the American Composers Orchestra. In this role she co-founded the Sonidos de las Américas, which aimed to highlight the contribution of Latin America to America’s culture, as well as encouraging orchestras to broaden their repertoire. In 2010 she became the founder and artistic director of Composers Now, an organisation with the mission of empowering living composers and celebrating their diverse voices.
More details of León’s 2023/24 LPO programmes will be announced in the spring with the Orchestra’s season announcement. Tickets for the concert featuring Stride on Friday 31 Marchare available here.
Applications for LPO Young Composers are open from today until Friday 10 March. More information and application form here.