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Sku.: NAX8555887
TAMAYO, MARCO
$8.98
Cancion de Cuna - Guitar Music from Cuba
CONTENTS
REVIEWS and QUOTES

Cuban culture is essentially an amalgam of three dominant factors: 400 years of Spanish colonial rule, ending in 1901; the impact of religion as a result of white and African slave immigration; and the 60-year exposure to North American culture, ended by the 1959 revolution. Latin-American flexibility facilitated the assimilation of all these elements into the national culture. It is easy to see how these influences have shaped Cuban music, which now incorporates Afro-Cuban rhythms, twentieth century harmonies, characterized by the juxtaposition of major and minor modes, and elements of jazz and impressionism  typically in the music of José Antonio Rojas  as well as traditional European forms of composition  as in the melancholy Suite breve of Harold Gramatges. One of the finest solo instruments for best giving expression to this unique aspect of Cuban musical culture is the guitar. The music on this recording ranges from the popular appeal of the son montuno, the country dance form found especially in the Oriente region, to the contemporary harmonization of Yoruba melodies by Hector Angulo. All the pieces convey a diverse picture of Cuba in music that is nostalgic yet fresh-sounding, elaborate yet pure in its relative simplicity of expression.

José Antonio (Ñico) Rojas Beoto was born in Havana in 1921. A civil engineer, guitarist and composer, he is one of the exponents of the so-called Feeling trend in Cuban music, which brought about a revival in Cuban popular song in the 1940s. His works combine the sonority of the guitar with the complex rhythmic and melodic elements of Cuban traditional music. His language is defined by an improvisatory influence, and this is noticeable in re-expositions of themes and in passages where the melody combines with a free rhythm.

Carlos Fariñas was born in Cienfuegos in 1934 and studied first at Santa Clara. In 1948 he entered the Conservatorio Municipal de Música in Havana, where he studied with Harald Gramatges. He joined the Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo in 1950, an organization for the promotion of contemporary Cuban music, and in 1956 studied composition at Tanglewood with Aaron Copland, and conducting with Eleazar de Carvalho and Seymour Lipkin. He completed his studies at the Havana Conservatorio in 1957. His early compositions were strongly influenced by nationalism and neo-classicism. From 1961 to 1963 he studied in Moscow, and in 1969 won a prize at the Fourth Paris Biennale for his Tiento II, an example of avantgarde work of the time. He was involved in the establishment of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and served as director of the Conservatorio Alejandro García Caturla. From 1966 to 1976 he was director of the music section of the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, and held the chair of composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte. In 1989 he set up the Estudio de Música Electroacústiva y por Computadora (EMEC), a reflection of the later direction his music took. He died in 2002. The Preludio here recorded was performed first in Cuba by Jesús Ortega for the sound-track of the film Soy Cuba (I am Cuba) by Mikhail Kalatozov, and is in the repertoire of almost every Cuban guitarist.

Aldo Rodríguez was born in 1955 and studied the guitar with Isaac Nicola and Martha Cuervo. He also attended master-classes with Alirio Díaz, María Luisa Anido and Frank Fernández. He has given master-classes in Poland, France, Colombia, Bulgaria and Chile, and teaches at the National School of Music in Havana. He has received various honours from the Cuban Government, including the Medalla por la Cultura Nacional, and the Medalla Alejo Carpentier, awarded by the government in 2003.

One of the leading figures in Cuban musical life, Harold Gramatges was born in Santiago in 1918 and had his early studies there with Zoila Figueras, followed by study with Dulce María Serret at the Conservatorio Provincial de Música de Oriente, where he completed his course in 1936. He went on to study at the then Conservatorio Municipal de Música in Havana as a pupil of Amadeo Roldán and José Ardévol. He was associated with the Grupo de Renovación Musical from its foundation in 1942, the year in which a scholarsship took him to Tanglewood, where he worked with Aaron Copland and Sergey Koussevitzky. He studied further with Copland in 1948-49 and attended seminars by Elliott Carter. He founded and directed the Havana Chamber Orchestra and until 1958 taught at the Conservatorio Municipal, and for ten years, from 1951, was president of the Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo. He has held various other positions of importance in the official cultural life of Cuba and from 1960 to 1964 was Cuban ambassador to France. From its foundation in 1976 he held the chair of composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte, and is now Professor Emeritus. He has been the recipient of various national and international prizes, with the highest Cuban honours and, among the latter, the Premio Tomás Luis de Victoria of the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores de España. His earlier compositions were largely neo-classical in style, developing over the years as a result of external influences.

The composer, guitarist and conductor Leo Brouwer Mezquida was born in Havana in 1939 into a family of musicians. He had his first music lessons from his father, Juan Brouwer, and his aunt, Caridad Mezquida, and his first guitar lessons in 1953 with Isaac Nicola, who established the modern school of Cuban guitar-playing. In 1959 he was awarded a scholarship for further study of the guitar in America at Hartford University and of composition at the Juilliard School in New York, where his studies were with Vincent Persichetti, Stefan Wolpe, Isadore Preed, J.Diemente and Joseph Iadone. In 1960 he was appointed director of the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, a position that, over the years, brought the composition of a large number of film scores both in Cuba and abroad. From this time onwards he was associated with the Cuban musical avant-garde, serving as adviser to Radio Havana Cuba and teaching at the Conservatorio Nacional, and, as occasion demanded, in universities abroad. He established the biennial Cuban Guitar Competition and Festival and since 1981 has been general director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba. Conducting engagements have taken him to a number of countries.

The first of the three discernible periods in Brouwers creative career started in 1954, with a series of pieces that explored the resources of the guitar in works that combined traditional classical forms with Cuban inspiration. In the 1960s, after the Cuban revolution, he came to know the work of avant-garde composers such as Penderecki and Bussotti, when he attended the 1961 Warsaw Autumn Festival, absorbing these influences and those of leading contemporary composers who visited Cuba from abroad, into a very personal style that made use of modern techniques of various kinds, including elements of post-serialism and the aleatoric. The late 1970s brought a third period that Brouwer himself has described as national hyper-romanticism, a return to Afro-Cuban roots coupled with elements of traditional technique and of minimalism. Many of his guitar compositions have won an international reputation, with a firm place in current repertoire, played and recorded by guitarists throughout the world. He is here represented by his Berceuse (Canción de cuna), the Zapateo, one of a pair of popular Cuban airs, and Ojos brujos (Bewitching Eyes).

Another aspect of Cuban music is heard in the Cantos Yoruba de Cuba by Hector Angulo, who now enjoys a very considerable reputation.These arrangements of melodies of African origin are an important part of the Afro-Cuban legacy.

Keith Anderson (Adapted from a note by Marco Tamayo)

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