Modarelli’s ‘Frankenstein’ to debut at symphony concerts

October 9, 2018


Writing a piece of music based on the Frankenstein legend was a nightmarish experience for Sebastian Modarelli — literally.

“The first thing I did was read the novel, and I was reading the book at night before I went to sleep,” Modarelli said. “One night I had a nightmare about Frankenstein. So I started reading in the mornings.”

Modarelli, director of music at the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Rochester, composed “Frankenstein” for the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, which will debut the piece at its concerts Saturday and Sunday at Lourdes High School.

The composition came about after Modarelli and Jere Lantz, director of the symphony, agreed that a previous project they were working on wouldn’t be part of this season. When Lantz mentioned that the first concert of the season would have a spooky theme to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of the “Frankenstein” novel, Modarelli had a brainstorm.

“All of a sudden, I thought, ‘Wait a second, what if I do something on Frankenstein?’” he said.

Lantz agreed it was a good idea and Modarelli started reading Mary Shelley’s book.

“It’s a beautiful and tragic story of this creature who is rejected by his creator,” Modarelli said. “He just wants to be loved.”

Originally, Modarelli figured he’s write a four-minute piece. ’It turned out to be three times that long,” Lantz said.

Modarelli’s “Frankenstein” consists of four movements covering Dr. Frankensten’s construction of the creature, the creature walking, the sadness of the creature as he feels rejected, and finally the persecution and death of the creature.

“Each of them takes up an aspect of the Frankenstein story,” Lantz said.

The piece does not feature Modarelli’s instrument of choice: the organ. So often used to lend an air of fright or horror, the organ just didn’t fit into the the traditional structure of an orchestra, he said.

The orchestra was presented with the piece at its first rehearsal last weekend. “We’ll just play through it because no one has heard it yet,” Lantz said.

Modarelli, a native of Argentina who studied music composition in Italy, said he had to change gears to write “Frankenstein.”

“It wasn’t a subject I felt called to write about,” he said. “I’ve been writing beautiful music, sacred music. Now I had to write about a monster.”

The concert will also feature the “Stitched-Together Symphony,” which consists of disparate music selections suggested by orchestra associates and sewn together by Lantz.

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