Donna Coleman | Don't Touch Me

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Classical: Piano solo Latin: Cuban Moods: Featuring Piano
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Don't Touch Me

by Donna Coleman

Cuba's answer to Frédéric Chopin in sultry, habañera-infused miniatures that play like the precursors of Scott Joplin's rags.
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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1. Zigs-Zags (Zig-Zags)
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2. Un Recuerdo (A Recollection)
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3. La Encantadora (The Enchantress)
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4. Siempre Sí (Always Yes)
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5. Amén! (Amen!)
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6. La Celosa (The Jealous Woman)
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7. ¡No Bailes Más! (Dance No More!)
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8. Ilusiones Perdidas (Lost Illusions)
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9. Vuelta al Hogar (Return to the Hearth)
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10. Adíos a Cuba (Farewell to Cuba)
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11. El Velorio (The Wake)
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12. Decisíon (Decision)
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13. Se Fué y No Vuelve Más (If You Leave and Never Return)
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14. ¡Lejos de Ti! (Far From You!)
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15. La Cortesana (The Courtesan)
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16. Intima (Intimate)
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17. Homenaje (Homage)
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18. Mensaje (The Message)
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19. ¡Te Quíero Tánto! (I Love You So Much!)
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20. No Me Toques (Don't Touch Me)
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21. Picotazos (The Fighting Cock Attacks)
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22. La Glorieta (The Arbor)
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23. Interrumpida (Interrupted)
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24. Los Tres Golpes (The Three Strikes)
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25. Invitacíon (Invitation)
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26. "¡PST!" (The Whisper)
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27. Duchas Frías (Cold Shower)
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28. Por Qué, Eh? (Why, Eh?)
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29. Cri-Crí (Cri-Cri)
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30. Improvisada (Improvised)
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31. La Carcajada (The Laughter)
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32. Almendares (Almendares, Cuba)
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33. Gran Señora (The Grand Lady)
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34. Amistad (Friendship)
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35. Tiene Que Ser (What Must Be)
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36. No Llores Más (Weep No More)
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37. Soledad—La Solitaria (The Solitary)
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Reflections on Ignacio Cervantes and the Danzas Cubanas
Donna Coleman, Melbourne 2009
My discovery of the music of the relatively (and unfairly) obscure, nineteenth-century Cuban maestro Ignacio Cervantes was, as with so much of my repertory, the result of my quest to understand how that era produced the extraordinary Charles Ives and his ragtime-infused works. When I first acquired, probably in the early 1980’s, the 1976 Charles Hansen publication of the Danzas recorded for this disc, I was captivated by the sultry habanera rhythms and the languid sensuality of this music, and the occasional blatant cakewalk figure (semi-quaver/quaver/semi-quaver/quaver/quaver—think the opening five notes of Golliwogg’s Cakewalk) earned three of them a place in my Rags to Riches programs, demonstrating their lineage to Scott Joplin. Meanwhile, forays into the world of Louis Moreau Gottschalk started turning up more links in the ragtime chain.
The name Gottschalk was familiar to me as a composer somehow linked to Ives, but on first inspection (and compared to the music of Ives, Carl Ruggles, Ruth Crawford, Aaron Copland & co. that was the backbone of my repertory in those days), his music seemed rather fluffy. I did, however, fall in love with Souvenir de Porto Rico—its sexy version of the Afro-Cuban son clave rhythm (one-two-three/one-two-three/one-two) and stunning architectural thrust developed in a series of variations on a peasant theme make this one of his strongest works—and it became another important element in my Rags to Riches programs that established the 19th century context for Ives’s use of ragtime in his Piano Sonata No.1.
S. Frederick Starr’s colorful biography of Gottschalk was a revelation, as rich in description of the places he lived in and visited, including Cuba (1854-55, 1857, 1859-62), as of the composer himself. Gottschalk’s own diaries and journals, published as Notes of a Pianist, brilliantly complete the picture of the sojourns in Paris and Havana that brought him into contact with Frédéric Chopin, Manuel Saumell Robredo (considered the father of Cuban art music, and master of the miniature contradanza that is the prototype for Cervantes’s danzas) and ultimately, Ignacio Cervantes. Musical seeds were sown in all directions. Gottschalk’s roots in New Orleans, a culture already a Crí-Crí of flavors drawn from Afro-French Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), African-American slave songs, marches and dances, street songs and Italian opera (among others) seasoned the rich Afro-Cuban stew. The fact that Manuel Saumell dedicated at least one of his contradanzas to Gottschalk and that Gottschalk composed several works he calls contradanzas (including O, Ma Charmante, Épargnez-Moi!) confirms the cross-fertilization. Gottschalk’s exhaustive tours of the United States during the years of the Civil War, in which he introduced his Havana = habanera-infused music from sea to shining sea, in concerts and in a trail of sheet music left behind, no doubt left their stamp on the evolving ragtime style that was a generation away from bursting upon the US musical scene.
When I first started writing these notes three years ago, I had yet to unearth evidence of formal ragtime music from the Civil War era, but thanks to the Petrucci Music Library (http://imslp.org) I discovered that once again, Louis Moreau Gottschalk is a crucial, if not the missing link between Cervantes and Joplin and Ives (and we might as well throw in Chopin while we’re at it). Dating from 1859—five years removed from his first visit to Cuba—Reponds Moi, “Di Que Sí.” Caprice Brillant—Danse Cubaine, opus 50, consisting of exactly one 16-bar phrase that is repeated nearly ad nauseatum (ok, there are some embellishments in alternate appearances), may well be one of the composer’s most boring works from a structural point of view, but those 16 bars are packed with so many elements that we will find in the A phrases of so many pieces published as “ragtime” thirty-odd years later that we have to wonder if Moreau was up to a bit of time travelling! It boasts the most blatant and extended occurrence of the cakewalk (and its lazier version, triplets followed by quavers) south of Scott Joplin, there’s enough oom-pah bass to pass for a march, double thirds (occasionally decorated with grace notes) and gospel-inflected sixths—if only he hadn’t gotten stuck in the 19th century habit of extending his forms through simple variation rather than development (perhaps the worst aspect of “salon” style), we could almost have the first ever rag composed.
These events took place not long before Cervantes began writing his Danzas Cubanas, at least some of which date from the period of exile in New York City (1875-79 according to Carpentier; 1876-78 according to Hernandez/de Blanck). Carpentier and Béhague both mention 21 danzas composed between 1875-1895; Hernandez/de Blanck and Mikowski work with 40. At that point in time, “ragtime” was yet a gleam in yer daddy’s eye, its formal structure (blatantly borrowed from the march along with its I-IV key relationships, repeated 16-bar phrases and ‘oom-pah’ bass) and distinctive rhythmic patterns including the one that welds it to the hip of the Cuban contradanza—the cakewalk—had not yet been discovered by publishers eager to exploit the young African-American musicians seeking recognition as composers in post-Emancipation Proclamation USA (is it a coincidence that Thomas “Million” Turpin’s Harlem Rag, the first published piano “rag,” hit the streets in 1895? Like a bride being handed over at the alter by her father?) There can be no doubt that Ignacio Cervantes and Scott Joplin shared many common musical ancestors going back hundreds of years, and that Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s sojourns in Cuba and his contact with musicians like Saumell and Cervantes effected a profound influence on the course of American (and world) musical history.
How far back and to what places do we go to begin unraveling and examining the individual threads of this ornate tapestry?—certainly to Africa and the long, sad history of the Transatlantic slave trade, and to Cuba, itself the largest slave port in the world in the 19th century (according to Hugh Thomas, in his monumental The Slave Trade, the total number of Africans brought to Cuba between 1502 and 1886 was 2,500,000, second only to Brazil at 4 million, and well above the number imported to mainland North America (500,000). And what of the Indigenous peoples of the island, most of whom could not cope with the new fangled diseases carried on shore by the European settlers?—their music was in the soil. We must also look to France where the English country dance morphed into the contradanse that traveled to the Caribbean via Saint Domingue, and consider the mix of humanity on board the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria when the first “land-ho” was sung out on 12th October 1492. Whatever was going on in the 1500’s in Cuba would have made, however slight, an impression on the constantly evolving music of the “old” country.
And so we have the miraculous Danzas Cubanas. Steeped in Afro-Cuban rhythmic verve, Chopin-ian pathos (draped upon Bach-ian precision in contrapuntal detail and chorale-inspired voice leading), sumptuous French harmony, and last but certainly not least, that certain—je ne sais quoi—overt sensuality redolent of rum, cigar smoke, sea air, sweat and tears that screams tropical (not yet having visited Cuba, I reckon my experiences “gone troppo” in Darwin, where the temperature rarely drops below 86 degrees Fahrenheit, have given me a rough idea of what Havana’s summer evenings might be like), this music clearly pronounces Ignacio Cervantes, if not the grandfather, then at least one of the great uncles of the music that turned Scott Joplin into a household name.
A tracklist with thirty-seven items looks daunting, but these danzas are miniatures—structurally precise children of the contradanzas perfected by Cervantes’s mentor Manuel Saumell Robredo a generation earlier. In a mere thirty-two bars (with a few exceptions), and not venturing beyond the range of the keyboard that Mozart would have played, each reveals its rich, individual saga in two acts of sixteen bars (the prima and segunda).
All but one (The Lady in Waiting, track 15) of the danzas are in 2/4 time (another element in common with ragtime and the march—and—how significantly?—with the oeuvre of Scott Joplin, all of whose rags are in 2/4 save the lone Bethena Waltz), and all but nine end in the key in which they began. These include five that begin minor and end in the parallel major (Lost Illusions (8), Decision (12), I Love You So Much! (19), The Three Strikes (24), and Invitation (25)), but never the other way around (apparently in Cuba one can’t be melancholy for long!) The Message is unique in that it begins minor and ends in the relative major. The segunda phrases of four of the danzas (The Departed One Who Will Never Return (13), Don’t Touch Me (19), discussed further below, The Arbor (22), and Improvised (30)) are in the subdominant key (= march = ragtime). Interrupted (23), The Great Lady (33) and Weep No More (36) “conclude” enigmatically on the dominant, leaving a sense of something unfinished.
Cervantes distinguishes himself as a composer of exceptional craft and imagination in the way he sets the gestural material of the segunda against that of the prima in these exquisite works, taking advantage of a host of opportunities to create contrast and to establish balance between the two halves of each danza. In addition to obvious shifts of color from minor to major or from languid to lively rhythm from one strain to the next, he almost invariably changes direction at both motivic/gestural and structural/phrase levels. Taking the title track, Don’t Touch Me (20), as an example, we note the initial upward two-note sweep that staggers back down (employing a perfect cakewalk rhythmic pattern) through a series of small jumps, and the entire prima is effectively a descending line F-E-Eb-D-Db-C-Bb-A-G. The segunda reverses trajectory, opening with a nearly perfect linear ascent from F to the G a ninth above before it leaps down a seventh, the largest interval so far introduced, and one of the many masterstrokes that enlivens this music and demonstrates the genius of its composer. I am reminded of the way traditional Scottish fiddle tunes set the high phrase against the low, and thence to the ultimate origins of these danzas in the country dances of the British Isles.
In other danzas the contrast between the character of the prima and segunda is more blatant, as for instance, in The Fighting Cock Attacks (21), with four bars of dramatic crotchet chords giving way to four bars of running semi-quavers (providing great contrast already between the two halves of the prima). The segunda lapses into a more laconic conga, “con grazia,” the aftermath commencing in the minor key but ultimately returning to the major (a not uncommon device, with three other occasions of prima = major, segunda begins minor, ends major: Zig-Zags (1), Amen (5) and PST! (26)). Almost without exception, the segunda is announced by a series of three quavers or some variant thereof (i.e., two semiquavers—two quavers), in some cases well sustained to create a sense of anticipation as we enter the second half of the story.
The only score to which I had access at the time of the recording sessions was the 1976 Hansen publication that contains 37 danzas (one for four-hands that is not included on this disc) edited by Edmundo Lopez. Since that time (and admittedly out of order), I have acquired new materials that confirm my belief that the Danzas as published by Hansen (and others) have been substantially edited. A 2001 Zen-on publication from Japan contains 13 of the Danzas, some bearing different tempo markings, dynamics, etc. A Masters Music printing of six of the Danzas edited by Max Vogrich also contains markings different from both the Hansen set and the Zen-On edition. Even more remarkable and mysterious are the different titles given to five of these Danzas: Los Tres Golpes (The Three Strikes) = Mis Amores (My Loves), Invitación = La Tarde Está Amorosa (The Evening is Lovely), “PST!” = Ditirámbica (Homage to Bacchus), Se Fué Y No Vuelve Más (The Departed One Who Will Never Return) = Tintilla de Rota (The Wine of Rota), and Te Quiero Tánto! (I Love You Very Much!) = De Mil Amores (With All My Heart). Recently, my excavations have turned up a PhD dissertation by Solomon Mikowski that includes transcriptions of 40 Danzas Cubanas, of which three are for 4-hands (La Camagüeyana, Los Delirios de Rosita, Los Muñecos), and one is a beautiful solo, Soledad, that didn’t make it into the Hansen edition. Last but by no means least is the publication created between 1949-59 by Gisela Hernandez and Olga de Blanck entitled Cervantes: 40 Danzas, another very recent discovery (see below under “published editions”).
To illustrate the extent of the inconsistency between versions, we can examine four different editions of Te Quiero Tánto. The most significant and striking discrepancies are the tempo indications, ranging from Moderato melanconico—no with metronome marking—in the Masters’ Music version (in which it also bears a different title, De mil amours [With all my heart] to Allegro [crotchet = 88] in the Zen-on edition and Allegro appassionato [crotchet = 92] in Hansen. Zen-on bears only a single dynamic p for the final strain, with only hairpin indications of relative dynamic level for the previous 28 bars. Dynamics in Masters Music and Hansen editions vary considerably, and while all editions suggest con passione for the soaring three-note turnaround at bar 23, Hansen holds things up temporarily with fermata over the a-flat chord at the beginning of the bar while Zen-on and Masters plow straight through. Other terminology appears inconsistently: Masters—rubato at bar 5, con abandon at bar 28, dim. e rall. at bar 30; Hansen—rit. at bar 22, p sub. meno mosso at bar 28 (see above), and rit. for the final two crotchets only; this last marking is exactly the same in the Zen-on version. Many other variants with regard to the placement of accents, hairpins and slurs further confuse the matter. What exactly did Cervantes himself want? Only the manuscripts will tell this story, and I hope to soon be able to visit the Museo Nacional de la Música in Havana where they apparently live.

And now to Soledad. The search for this piece held up the final mastering of this disc for an entire year while I pestered everyone I could think of for clues to guide me to a transcribed version (or the manuscript) of it. Finally, a Photostat reproduction of Cervantes’s original manuscript for this work (that may have been composed as early as 1857 when the composer was only ten years old!) surfaced, clearly depicting its relationship to the contradanzas of his teacher Saumell. If this manuscript is an indication of what we would find in the manuscripts for the other Danzas, my concerns about the editorial commentary found in all the published versions would be confirmed, for the composer has indicated neither tempo nor dynamics, and the rhythmic notation is substantially altered. The Hernandez/de Blanck version has been admittedly “tidied up” (including the change of title that turns it into an homage to Ignacio’s mother, Soledad) for inclusion with the other Danzas Cubanas. Significantly, its original title was La Solitaria, and it was recorded, all alone, in completely different circumstances to the others, on New Year’s Eve 2009. In the end, the inclusion of this piece as one of the Danzas Cubanas may yet prove suspect, as this new layer in the research has yielded as many new questions as it has answers.
Until I am able to realize my dream of going to Cuba, I can paint only a partial musical portrait of Ignacio Cervantes, one that so far depicts the composer as a thoughtful perfectionist well acquainted with western European art music’s conventions in regard to voice leading, chord voicing, embellishment, harmony, texture and melody. The virtuosity of the writing and its expressive magic lie in the precise balance of elements and unerring attention to detail. Cervantes never uses an octave where a single note achieves the perfect textural balance; not a single note is expendable or excessive. Here we have the Cuban version of “the 48,” for the quality and imagination of the counterpoint, the elegant poise of the melodic ideas, the subtlety of the rhythm.
For the rest, I will let the music speak for itself. My arrangement of the danzas is based on several factors. Key relationships are important, and the listener will find few instances of jarring shifts of tonality and color; when they do occur, a new scene in the narrative is revealed. Cervantes, like the composer he almost certainly influenced, Scott Joplin, was partial to tonalities commencing on black keys (Eb/Eb minor begins a quarter of the Danzas Cubanas), so it wasn’t difficult to achieve this harmonious flow. Originally I had intended for the disc to end on the dominant harmony of No Llores Más, but Soledad—La Solitaria had to be included as the final track for reasons explained above. Mood and character are set in contrast. But most important is the story that emanates from the titles and spirit of the individual danzas like episodes in a steamy romance novel. It’s all here—beautiful women, love, jealousy, death, betrayal, disillusionment, laughter—slices of life we all know and understand. So now it’s time to forget about the I-IV, the AABB, the minor-to-major color shifts and the habanera = cakewalk rhythms. Light up a Havana cigar, pour yourself a glass of Matusalem and enjoy the memories and the dreams that Ignacio Cervantes inspires.

Ignacio Cervantes and his Danzas Cubanas
S. Frederick Starr, New Orleans 2008
For anyone vulnerable to the beauty of southern skies and Caribbean vegetation, few works of music evoke deeper emotions than Ignacio Cervantes’s Danzas Cubanas. Simple in form, most consist of only two sections, a rhythmic “A” part followed by a lilting “B” strain. Their chord structures are uncomplicated, typical of Chopin’s heirs, and Chopin’s heirs’ heirs. Rhythmically, their only real challenge is their use of the classic Caribbean cinquillo (de-dum-de-dum-dum), which soon thereafter would flower in American ragtime music. But somehow they go straight to the heart. Critics in Spanish and English invariably speak of their “sweetness,” their “lyricism,” their “melancholy,” or their tone of yearning. Why should this be?
An answer arises from the circumstances of the composer’s life. Born in Havana in 1847, young Ignacio early evinced a talent for music. His parents saw this and, after first tutoring him at home, signed him up for lessons with the hugely talented local pianist, Nicolas Ruiz Espadero. Through Espadero, he met the visiting New Orleans-born composer and virtuoso, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who promptly proposed that his new young student be sent off to study in Paris, as Gottschalk himself had done.
At the Conservatoire de Paris Cervantes worked under Charles-Valentin Morhange, the brilliant and eccentric Jewish virtuoso and composer known as “Alkan,” and Gottschalk’s own teacher, Antoine François Marmontel. After winning first prizes both for composition and harmony, gaining high praise from Liszt himself, and presenting Paris concerts with the great sopranos Adelina Patti and Christina Nilsson, Cervantes returned to Cuba to launch his career. The year was 1870.
These were prosperous days in this largest Spanish colony but the prosperity had given rise to calls for independence. Cervantes led a modest life in Havana but his sympathy for the independence movement soon brought him into conflict with some of his musical colleagues and eventually got him into trouble with the Spanish authorities. In some haste he sailed in 1876 for New York, where he remained for four years.
New York at the time was home to a large and sophisticated group of Cuban émigrés. Among them were business men, medical doctors, professors of Spanish at Columbia University, newspaper editors, scientists, and the poet and future father of the Cuban revolution, José Martí (1853–1895), who was living in a boarding house on 28th Street and scratching out a living as a journalist, translator, and freelance diplomat for South American states. Cervantes quickly found a place in this world, and survived on the receipts from his concerts.
The life of an exile demands hard work and perseverance. Dreams of a future life in an independent Cuba sustained some, but all found consolation in memories of what they had lost. Martí, separated from his wife in Havana and living with another woman, felt his emotions veering between past and future. The tension gave rise to some of his best poetry. Cervantes, too, strove to “help the Revolution with my concerts,” but he also dreamed longingly of home. He translated his reveries into his greatest masterpiece, the Danzas Cubanas.
Why “Danzas?” Since the early nineteenth century, Cuba had been home to a distinctive social dance, the contradanza. Involving groups of two couples each, this dance traced via Saint Domingue (Haiti) to France, and then back to the English “Country dance.” In the Caribbean it took on skipping steps, which were reflected in the gentle syncopation of contradanza music. During Cervantes’s childhood all Havana was mad about the contradanza, starting with the gentry and spreading then to all classes. Among composers there were revered masters of the form, especially Manuel Saumell, whose gentle lyricism echoes in Cervantes’s works.
When Louis Moreau Gottschalk arrived from America in 1854 he wrought a revolution in contradanza music. Gottschalk used the popular dance music as the basis of formal “classical” compositions, just as Chopin had done with the Polish mazurka. Then, just about the time Cervantes returned from Paris, the contradanza itself was simplified, evolving from a group dance to one for two partners. The music for this new danza maintained most of the old contradanza flavor, however. It was this bewitching sound that swirled in Cervantes’s memory in New York, and which he transformed into his Danzas Cubanas.
Donna Coleman is the ideal performer for these works, for four reasons. First, they call for someone who can play the ragtime-like syncopations clearly and gently, so as not to lose the overall flow of the music. Second, the performer must have a restrained “French” touch, but must at the same time give us the rhythmic bass lines with a strong left hand. Third, the performer must convey the mood of nostalgia but not “milk” the music for sentimentality or bathos. And, fourth, the pianist must somehow grasp the dance forms that underlie and define the music. All these skills come naturally to Coleman, whose musicianship seems to exist somewhere on the line between the lyrical Italian bel canto vocal style and jazz. She has proven her abilities in this area with fine recordings of music by Scott Joplin, Charles Ives, and Gottschalk himself. Cervantes died (in 1905) without ever sitting down with an Edison recorder. In the absence of recordings by Cervantes himself, we are fortunate indeed to have Donna Coleman.
In due course Ignacio Cervantes returned to Havana. Besides taking over the directorship of the opera company at the Payret Theater, he conducted the orchestra at the prestigious Tacón Theater. In spite of these duties he still found time to compose in many genres. From this time date an opera, Maledetto; the operettas El Submarino Peral and Los Saltinbanquis; orchestral pieces such as the Scherzo capricioso; a Symphony in C minor; various songs; and many Esquisses for piano.
Even in his own day Cervantes was best known for his Danzas Cubanas. No work of music seemed better to embody the Cuban ethos than these gentle salon pieces, yet they became the background music for the movement for national independence. Like Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s Latin-tinged music before them, the Danzas Cubanas also found a large audience across the breadth of America in the Gilded Age. Musicologists have long pointed out how they anticipate the syncopation of ragtime and later, of jazz. But they are no mere footnote in music history. Performed as they are here, they take their place among those timeless works of music that truly touch the soul.

Perspective from The Source
Dr Aurelio de la Vega, Composer, Distinguished Emeritus Professor
California State University, Northridge February 2009

When Donna Coleman—the remarkable and excellent American pianist living for a decade-and-a-half in Australia, at present Coordinator of Masters and PhD in the Faculty of the VCA & Music, University of Melbourne (Australia)—first dared to affirm that half of American jazz rhythms came from the Caribbean, some dismissed her as a quack while others paid absolutely no attention to most of what she was saying. It is not a new phenomenon. Just try, within the parameters of the last hundred and twenty-five years to dismantle the dictum that Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) was the first composer who ventured into atonality, when in reality it was Charles Ives (1874-1954) who first wrote atonal pieces, or embark in a revisionist crusade to change the text of myriads of music books that assure the reader, thus molding biased history, that Edgard Varèse’s (1883-1965) Ionization was the first work for solo percussion ever written, when the truth is that Cuban composer Amadeo Roldan (1900-1939) was the initiator of this procedure when he wrote his Rítmicas 5 and 6 eight months before Varèse’s piece.
It was not the first time that Donna Coleman had embarked on an adventuresome quest. Twenty years ago she recorded two CD’s of the solo piano works of Ives, including some obscure pages that had never been easily available to the public at large because of lack of previous discs. Now, Coleman offers a recording of thirty-six (nearly all!) of Ignacio Cervantes’s (1847-1905) Danzas Cubanas. Cervantes brought to a point of elegant stylization some of the rhythms abundant in popular Cuban and Puerto Rican music of the early and mid 19th century, augmented by some rhythms that Louis Moreau Gottschalk (born in New Orleans in 1829, dying in Rio de Janeiro in 1869) brought from Brazil and other areas of the Caribbean. Even beyond Cervantes’s contemporary Cuban composers Manuel Saumell (1817-1870) and Nicolás Ruiz de Espadero (1832-1890), Gottschalk—a sadly underrated American composer and a splendid virtuoso pianist who took Europe, especially Paris, by storm, and who had visited Cuba in 1854, 1857 and 1860—also brought to the attention of Cervantes many of the New Orleans rhythms and tunes he had heard as a child. Already before, while in Paris, he had written works employing some Creole rhythms and melodic tunes from his native city. George Moneo points out in his very important and noteworthy essay Louis Moreau Gottschalk and the Rise of Cuban Music, that Gottschalk “was one of the first composers to write down these characteristic indigenous rhythms. He incorporated native and folk music elements in his compositions well before the pioneering efforts of composers like Béla Bartók (1881-1945). And Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) in the 20th century.” Gottschalk, during his last visit to Cuba in 1830, had taught the thirteen-year-old Cervantes, and greatly influenced him. In his Danzas Cubanas, Cervantes—who many consider the most important Cuban composer of his generation—refined what he had learned from Gottschalk, creating a series of works that blended the European virtuoso piano practices and their harmonic patterns with folk music elements of Afro-Cuban (black) and guajiro (white) traditions.
The fact that Cuban music is only known to the majority of international publics as an entertaining, commercial and dancing commodity, must not obscure the issue that Cuban classical composers, from the 19th and 20th centuries, greatly contributed to the literature of art music, often transforming original folk and popular music patterns into truly universal forms of expression. The legacy of Cuban 19th century music owes a great deal to Gottschalk, and he, in turn, together with the richness of rhythmic activity emanating from Cuban (and Caribbean) music, created works which greatly served as seminal infusions that molded the roots of ragtime, the blues and the more advanced forms of the jazz of the 1930s and 1940s. So, in fact, Donna Coleman was right.
As she did with Ives, and now with Cervantes, Coleman conceives a legacy of great relevance. It is to be hoped that her recording of the Danzas Cubanas of Cervantes will establish, together with her Ives renderings, a compendium of two fundamental styles of music making: the Protestant, North American, hymnal-toting, visionary, adventuresome, polyrhythmic and boldly atonal Ives—also the precursor of musical indeterminacy—and the Catholic, Cuban, tame, elegant, refined and pianistic Cervantes. That Donna Coleman regales the music world with these two realizations, carried out with unerring devotion and conviction, is not only an accomplishment to be applauded but one that merits admiration, acclaim and gratitude.


Sources and suggestions for further reading:

Béhague, G. c1979. Music in Latin America: an introduction. Englewood Cliffs NJ:
Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Béhague, G. and R. Moore. “Cuba.” Grove music online. Oxford music online.
Berlin, E. 1984. Ragtime: a musical and cultural history. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Burford, F. and A. Daye 2009. “Contredanse.” Grove music online. Oxford music online.
Carpentier, A. 2001. Music in Cuba. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
De Fuentes, E.S. 1936. Ignacio Cervantes Kawanag, pianista y compositor eminente. La Habana: Imp. Molina y Cia.
De la Vega, A. 2003. “La época que quisieron borrar: una conversación conmigo mismo.” Herencia (Vol. 9, No. 1, spring 2003). Coral Gables FL: Herencia Cultural Cubana.
Gonzales, H. 1980. Manuel Saumell: contradanzas. La Habana: Editorial Letras Cubanas.
Gottschalk, L.M., ed. J. Behrend, 2006. Notes of a pianist. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Halfyard, J. "Country dance." The Oxford companion to music. Ed. Alison Latham. Oxford music online.
Mikowski, S.G. 1988. Ignacio Cervantes y la danza en Cuba. La Habana: Editorial Letras Cubanas.
Moneo, G. 2008. Louis Moreau Gottschalk and the rise of Cuban music. Online article.
http://cubanamericanpundits.blogspot.com/2008/04/louis-moreau gottschalk-and-rise-of.html.
Schuller, G. 1968. Early jazz: its roots and musical development. New York: Oxford University Press.
Southern, E. 1971. The music of black Americans: a history, 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Starr, S.F. 2000. Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Thomas, H. 1998. The slave trade: the history of the Atlantic slave trade 1440-1870. London: Papermac [Macmillan Publishers Ltd.].

http://www.geocities.jp/latinamericapiano/e_cervantes/e_cervantesscore.html



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