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Reviews Cover of Mozart loves Havana Design: Mayo Bous

Mozart loves Havana

In 2022 I simultaneously listened to two tracks on two discs that link Mozart and Havana. The first, a new version of Mozart a la cubanaby Chucho Valdés and Paquito de Rivera, in the album that brought them together so many years later for the glory of Latin music, I Missed You Too!. The second one was suggested by the application and it played immediately. I remember that I was mopping the floor of the house and I did not pay attention to the first bars until the piano came in. The artificial intelligence played the second movement of Mozart's 23rd piano concerto. 

I usually listen to Maria Joao Pires or Martha Argerich when I feel like some Mozart. The Portuguese pianist's interpretation of the sonatas is a real musical treasure. But in that version that played while I was mopping the floor there was something incredible to my ear. When I finally looked at the credits, I almost died of joy. The performer was Simone Dinnerstein, that wonderful young pianist from New York who had recorded some Bach pieces on several critically acclaimed albums. And she was accompanied by the Lyceum Orchestra of Havana. 

Then I understood.

I have a theory that the great classical performers on this side of the world (the Europeans) have what I would like to call a neutral or unbiased way of playing the classics. This has nothing to do, of course, with skill in technique, it is something inherent perhaps in the teaching of the music or the enormous and terrible weight of tradition.

American performers, on the other hand -and I am referring to the whole of America-, personalize and take the interpretation, beyond the mere perfect representation of the score, to a personal and innovative level. There are the recordings of Glen Gould, his marvelous version of the Goldberg Variations -which Simone Dinnerstein also recorded very fortunately-, or the recordings of Teresa Carreño, or those of so many other performers from America, from north to south. Does anyone remember Frank Fernandez in the Concerto n.1 for piano by Tchaikovsky?

There is something in that way of interpreting that distances it from the European. When I listen to Maria Joao Pires I know that there is no such perfect thing, a perfection that has to do with what is "adequate", with what is in the score that that crazy Austrian wrote at some point in his unfortunate and brief existence without going any further, respecting what, we suppose, was the Mozartian way of interpreting. Without any kind of hybrisThe perfection of the centered in absolute correctness. Listen, if not, to the same version of any Mozart sonata played by Glen Gould and then by Maria Joao Pires. Both will be incredible, but they will differ in the way they face the musical text. 

Mozart's Piano Concertos No. 21 and No. 23 are among the most played and famous pieces in the history of music. The beauty of each of their movements has made them a success in the world of music. hit parade classic of all times. Daring to record them is a difficult task. What fascinates me about Mozart in Havana is the decision and courage, evident in every note of the recording, with which a group of young musicians face the task of accompanying the also young -but already very consecrated- pianist in this adventure.

In an interview I read recently, Dinnerstein talks about the lack of quality musical instruments among musicians on the island. Almost in a denouncing tone, he warns about what could limit the excessive talent of those musicians, of any musician: the lack of a good musical instrument. What would a good cellist be without a good cello? What would have become of Jackeline Dupré without a good musical instrument? And he does so with a certain naivety, without knowledge of the causes, as if it were logical that every good musician should have access to a good instrument. Those of us who have studied music in Cuban schools know the value of those instruments and the excessive care that must be taken with them. 

The critics warned that in this disc we were listening to a Latin American orchestra -in Sony's catalog- with the typical characteristics of these orchestras. I understand that they refer to the fact that they are very young musicians, some still in training and with a markedly popular character. Venezuela and Cuba would be examples of countries with orchestras of this type. I think Mozart needs interpreters like that. I think they are more suited to the spirit of his music than the perfect European orchestras; they endow these scores with such a freshness that it seems as if Mozart himself were walking around. 

Dinnerstein shines with his exquisite technique, somehow related to Cuba: his piano teacher was Salomon Mikowsky, a Cuban émigré to Manhattan who, in turn, was a student of Argeliers León, Luis Pastoret and César Pérez Sentenat. 

Technically impeccable, he interpreted with extreme delicacy the second movement of the Concerto n.21perhaps the best piece of the whole album. And the rest is flavor. Flavor of coffee and sea as you walk down Infanta Street to Havana's Malecón, and from a balcony comes Blanca Rosa Gil with a background of Vikingur Ólafsson, which in turn overlaps with Bola de Nieve, which overlaps with Ella Fitzgerald -who in Cuba was called Elena Burke-, in an infinite layering that makes up the soundtrack of an island given to music like no other place on the planet. 

Never better said: to dance and enjoy with the national symphony, in this case the Orchestra of the Lyceum of Havana, under the baton of José Antonio Mendez Padrón and with the beautiful and young pianist Simone Dinnerstein, in an album that occupied, at the time, first positions in the list of Billboard Classical magazine.

José Félix León More posts

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