About this Recording
GP758 - Piano Music (Cuban) - LECUONA, E. / FARIÑAS, C. / ALÉN, A. (Piano Cubano) (Y. Cruz Montero)
English  Spanish 



In offering listeners a selection of some of the finest, and most stylistically diverse, classical piano works written by Cuban composers, Piano Cubano provides a historical snapshot of the composition and performance of piano music in Cuba.

Cuban music is a fusion of a variety of African and European—primarily Spanish—musical traditions. The piano was introduced to the island in the colonial period and, over time, was adopted as a means of musical expression by all levels of Cuban society. Local composers began to incorporate elements from folk music into their works in the 19th century, a process that reached its height in the 20th century.

Ernesto Lecuona was born in the Guanabacoa district of Havana in 1895 and died on the island of Tenerife in 1963. An internationally famous pianist in his lifetime, he is also now thought of one of the finest Latin-American composers of piano music—his works in the genre are perhaps the most widely known of all such Latin American compositions. The album opens with two movements from his Danzas afro-cubanas, a collection published in 1930. They reflect the African influence on his music, not just in their titles but in their means of rhythmic and melodic expression. Next, we hear a complete rendition of Lecuona’s six-movement Suite Andalucía, a work which reveals the composer’s intimate knowledge of different Spanish musical traditions. The final movement, Malagueña, is perhaps the most powerful representation of Spain in Cuban music. It is also one of Lecuona’s best-known works.

Carlos Fariñas Cantero was born in Cienfuegos on 28 November 1934 and died in Havana on 14 July 2002. After successful studies in Cuba, he went on to take classes with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood and, later, with Alexander Ivanovich Pirumov and Dmitry Kabalevsky at the Moscow Conservatory. He wrote orchestral and chamber music, works for piano and for guitar, ballet scores, incidental music for the theatre and film soundtracks. His Sones sencillos for piano were written between 1954 and 1998, while Alta Gracia dates from 1984-1985. These works feature stylistic elements borrowed from the Cuban genres of son and canción, presenting a wonderful depiction of these two different facets of Cuban music. Cruz Montero draws on her own innate Cuban spirit to highlight these elements in her performance.

Andrés Alén Rodríguez, one of the most talented pianists to come out of Cuba in the second half of the 20th century, was born in Havana on 7 October 1950 and now lives in Madrid, where he teaches piano at the Escuela de Música Creativa and at the Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio (UAS), as well as continuing to compose Cuban music. His compositions move between a number of different spheres, including classical, jazz and Cuban and Latin-American popular music. The Tema con variaciones of 1999 was inspired by a song called La vida by Cuban folk-singer Silvio Rodríguez. The theme is set out first, like a song without words, and is followed by three variations in the European manner of prelude, study and three-part invention. Next comes a Cuban contradanza with its characteristic habanera rhythm, then a variation loosely inspired by the melody of the theme. The sixth variation is a jazz-like harmonic progression which turns into a dazzling chachachá. The finale is reserved for a Cuban toccata, crowned by a concluding coda. Alén’s Emiliano, the last work on this disc, is dedicated to Emiliano Salvador, the eminent Cuban pianist who was such a master at blending son with American jazz. That hugely successful fusion is reflected throughout Alén’s work, a prime example of the central role played by the piano in Cuban music. Cruz Montero plays her own improvisation at the point indicated in the score.

Olavo Alén Rodríguez
Translation by Susannah Howe

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