The international powerful appeal that Cuban music has enjoyed since the 1920s has almost totally overshadowed the fact that, besides its folkloric and popular forms, this music also has a classical side to it. Ever since Esteban Salas (1725-1803) or Juan París (1759-1845) wrote the first serious native Cuban music—going through the XIX century contributions of Manuel Saumell (1818-1870), Ignacio Cervantes (1845-1905) or José Manuel (“Lico”) Jiménez (1851-1917), and passing through the early XX century music of opera composer Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes (1874-1944), or the chamber and symphonic compositions of Alejandro García Caturla (1906-1940) and Amadeo Roldán (1900-1939)—Cuban classical music developed incessantly, and even established historical landmarks through history. Scott Joplin, for example, took all his cues from Cervantes, and Roldán, with his Rítmicas 5 and 6, preceded Edgar Varése in writing history’s first classical works for solo percussion by almost eight months.
The mid XX century generation of Cuban classical composers—Harold Gramatges (1918-2008), Edgardo Martín (1915-2006), Argeliers León (1918-1991), Julián Orbón (1925-1991) and Aurelio de la Vega (born in 1925)—greatly enlarged the by then generous catalogue of Cuban classical music compositions. Today, Cuban classical music continues to flourish, both inside of the Island—as exemplified by Leo Brouwer (born in 1939) or Guido López Gavilán (born in 1944)—and outside of Cuba, with composers like Aurelio de la Vega (living in California since 1959), Orlando Jacinto García (born in 1954, a resident of the Miami area for many decades), Tania León (born in 1943, based in the New York area), or Yalil Guerra (born in 1973), the youngest of all the above mentioned composers who has lived in Spain, Florida and California since the 1980s.
The present recording by Cuban-Canadian pianist Elizabeth Rebozo (born in 1975) is a most valuable contribution to the Cuban classical piano literature. Cuba has been a country with a great piano tradition, which encompasses both internationally acclaimed pianists and a plethora of piano compositions. This becomes evident in this CD, where a remarkable Cuban pianist plays piano works of Aurelio de la Vega and Yalil Guerra. De la Vega’s international style brought, since the mid XX century, a cosmopolitan vision to Cuban classical music which served to balance the heavy emphasis on musical nationalism so prevalent at the time. His music has been widely played throughout the world since the late 1950s, and he has become an icon for a couple of generations of North and South American composers. Yalil Guerra carries on the torch, and in a few recent years has emerged as a forceful voice of Cuban contemporary classical music. In 2012 he received a Latin Grammy for his piano work Seducción (“Seduction”).
May the auditor of these works contained in the present recording understand their significance, enlarge his or her knowledge of this aspect of Cuban music and, above al, enjoy the sounds thoroughly.
Elizabeth Rebozo was born in Havana, Cuba on June 8, 1974. At the age of two years and a half she began playing piano by ear. When she was 7 years old began her musical studies at the Municipal Conservatory of Music Alejandro Garcia Caturla where she graduated in 1989. At just thirteen years of age, Elizabeth became one of the few pianists in Cuba within that age range to have performed with the Cuban National Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Manuel Duchesne. Her interpretation of the Concerto in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn was praised by the audience and the specialized media. Later on, she studied at the National School of Music (ENA) from where she graduated in 1993 and continued her undergraduate studies at the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA), graduating with a Bachelors of Arts with honour’s diploma in 1998.During her music studies she participated in several piano competitions and also as an active member of different chamber ensembles that performed along the island receiving many awards in different categories. Her dedication to piano performance had made her a recipient for several scholarships and grants, among them: full scholarship for a Summer Course at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, United States in 1992. While on her third year of studies at the Higher Institute of Art she won a full scholarship and grant prize to pursue a Master degree at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada from the year 2000, completing a Masters degree in Piano Performance in 2002 with honorary distinctions.
Ms. Rebozo has participated in workshops and master classes with recognized international concert pianist like Rudolph Jansen, Charles Foreman, Vladimir Levtov, Ricardo Requejo, and Frank Fernandez among others. At the present Ms. Rebozo is active as a concert pianist as well as an educator. She is part of the Music Department at Mount Royal University’s Conservatory, in Calgary. Since 2005 Elizabeth has been teaching piano at the Music Faculty and also at her residence as a Branch teacher from the same institution. In 2009, composer and producer Yalil Guerra discovered Elizabeth's musical talent and signed her for his recording label RYCY Productions -under the classical music division- leading to the production of her first album "One Culture: Two Visions. Piano Music from the XIX and XXI Century", where she did the World Premiere of two piano works composed by Guerra: "Seduccion" and Suite "El Batey". Ms. Rebozo brings this year a series of concerts as part of the launching of her first CD which will world premiere in the city of Calgary in November, 2009. Finally, Ms. Rebozo has been praised by critics for her exquisite interpretation on this CD which is based on Cuban music from the XIX and XXI century. Suite “El Batey” has been broadcasted on NACUSA Radio online since 2010. Ms.Rebozo was invited to open a series of concerts at the Kelowna Pianoforte Festival to be celebrated from August 10-14,in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Her most recent concerts include a performance at the Steinway Hall in Calgary on December 4th,2010 and a performance at St. Bede Episcopal Chapel of the University of Miami on May 6, 2011 as part of her CD “One Culture, Two Visions” Cuban Piano Music from XIX and XXI Century promotional tour.
On May 11, 2012 Ms. Rebozo taught a Master Class and performed at Cal State University Los Angeles .From this concert was born her second album “Live in L.A”, a classical production by Yalil Guerra, aimed at the XIII Latin Grammys. In the month of September 2012, two pieces from her CD “Live in L.A”: “Seduccion” by Yalil Guerra and “Preludio No.1” by Aurelio de la Vega were nominated at the Latin Grammys for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.Last November 2012, Rebozo attended the XIII Latin Grammy Award Ceremony at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, where “Seduccion”, by Yalil Guerra, performed by Elizabeth Rebozo in her latest Album “Live in L.A”, won the Latin Grammy 2012 for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Rebozo has appeared on local TV and in radio interviews as the result of her endeavours as a concert pianist. Currently Ms. Rebozo is preparing for the recording of her third album under RYCY Productions while at the same time she is rehearsing for upcoming performances in the United States and in Canada.
Aurelio de la Vega was born in La Habana, Cuba, on November 28, 1925 and became an American citizen in 1966. Since the early 60s he has been an important force in the United States and in the Latin American musical scene.
After studying with Ernst Toch in California (1947-1948) he occupied relevant positions in his native land ((Dean, School of Music, University of Oriente; Adviser, National Institute of Culture; Vice-President, Havana Philharmonic Orchestra), toured the United States as lecturer (1952-1954) and settled in Los Angeles in 1959, where he has been very active as composer and lecturer. He was Visiting Professor at the University of Southern California during the summer of 1959. From 1959 to 1992 he was Professor of Music and Director of the Electronic Music Studio at California State University, Northridge. In 1971 he was awarded the Outstanding Professor Award of the entire California State University system. At present, he is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of said University, and is a Member of the Academy of Arts and Letters of Chile, and of the Brazilian Academy of Music.
He has lectured extensively in Cuba, the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Argentina and Chile, mainly on contemporary music, on electronic music and on the art of Latin America. His list of compositions (many published and many commercially recorded, almost all commissioned works from 1962 on) include symphonic pieces, chamber music, solo piano, solo instruments with tape, song cycles, cantatas, ballet music, solo guitar and electronic music works. His compositions have been played by major orchestras, ensembles, important soloists and singers in numerous cities of Cuba, the United States, Europe, Israel, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, Puerto Rico and India. Many of his works have been commercially recorded on Panart, Orion, Avant, Crystal, Opus One, North/South Consonance, Labor, Vienna Modern Masters, Tapa, Centaur, Raptoria Caam, Musicians Showcase, and Universidade Río Grande do Sul Recordings (Brasil).
The recipient of numerous prizes, commissions, awards and distinctions (having received twice the Friedheim Award of the Kennedy center for the Performing Arts), as well as honors and decorations from various foreign governments for his contributions to North and Latin American music, he is also a well-known essayist on the pictorial art of Latin America.
His Variación del Recuerdo (“Variation of the Remembrance”), for string orchestra (1999) received a Latin Grammy nomination in 2009. In 2010 he received the Warren Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cintas Foundation, and in 2012 another Lifetime Achievement Award came in the form of the Ignacio Cervantes Medal.
De la Vega’s Preludios (“Preludes”) Nos. 1 and 2 are part of a set of three written in Havana in 1944, when the composer was nineteen years old. Curiously, although written simultaneously, each one of them move, progressively, from a post-Impressionistic sound that mixes French and German harmonic procedures, to an almost atonal atmosphere in the third one. The Epigrama (“Epigram”), also written in Havana in 1953, is one of de la Vega’s more often performed works. It is based on one single thematic idea that undergoes multiple variation procedures, and subtly and briefly employs a couple of rhythmic ideas derived from Cuban folklore.
He was born in Havana, Cuba, April 27th,1973. The son of the famous Cuban vocal duo Rosell y Cary. His first musical studies were at the National School of Music (ENA) in Havana, Cuba (1985-1991) with classical guitar professor and performer Jorge Luis Zamora.
At the age of 16, Guerra won the International Competition & Festival of Classical Guitar in Krakow, Poland, as well as the Special Prize (1990). Making a tour the following year for different Poland cities. He thus became the youngest Cuban awarded a prize in an international competition. He graduated as a Classical Guitar performer and Professor in 1991.
He studied two years at the “Instituto Superior de Música” (I.S.A.) and studied classical guitar with Jesús Ortega, Joaquin Clerch and Efraín Amador. Then he moved to Spain, and obtained his Master Degree in Classical Guitar at the Royal Conservatory of Music “Queen Sofía” in Madrid, Spain with professor and guitarist Gabriel Estarellas. Also he graduated from Counterpoint and fuge (1994-1998) with professors Daniel Vega and Mercedes Padilla Valencia. He received composition classes with composer and professor Aurelio de la Vega, Emeritus professor of the Cal State University, Northdridge, California.
He started his career as a producer, composer and arranger in 1990 and has worked with many industry companies and professionals
In 2012 Guerra won the XIII Latin Grammy awards in the “Best Classical Contemporary Composition”, for his work “Seducción”. He was also nominee in 2010 for his first album “Old Havana. Chamber Music Vol 1. In 2010, the Brandon Fradd Fellowship in music composition sponsored by the Cintas Foundation and the Frost Art Museum of Florida International University 2010 awarded Guerra Runner-up. In 2011 Guerra released his second album “Old Havana. Chamber Music Vol.II”. He is now working in his third album that will includes new vocal and instrumental works.
Nowadays he writes music for U.S. high profile Television networks such as Univision, Telefutura and Canal 41 Miami; the music of shows such as: The Latin Grammy awards (2005 through 2011), FIFA World Cup music theme 2010, Viva el Sueño (2009), Premio lo Nuestro (2006 through 2011), Up front (2005 and 2006), Escándalo TV, Tributo a nuestra música, Premios Juventud, Sábado Gigante, etc. are among his credits. He is producing and composing albums in his recording facility in Burbank, California.
Mr. Guerra, have compositions for chamber ensembles, choral works and for solo instruments. His classical works has been premiered and performed in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Cuba, by The Santa Cecilia Orchestra, the Corpus Christi Symphony, The Brentwood Westwood Symphony, the Orquesta de Baja California, the Latin Grammy winner (2010) Havana String Quartet, the B3: Brouwer Trio, and many other known artists and musicians.
Homenaje a Aurelio de la Vega (“Homage to Aurelio de la Vega”) was written in April, 2013. This composition is a Theme and Variations and is dedicated to my mentor, Maestro Aurelio de la Vega. The melody of the main theme was inspired by the Cuban danzas and contradanzas of the XIX century. Every section was developed through different harmonic procedures, and presents a more contemporary and modern sound of this classic style of melodies and harmonic structures. Each variation contains a different type of texture and rhythmic pattern that allows the performer to play virtuosic passages while keeping the essence of the original lyricism of the main theme. This is the world premiere recording of the piece.
Tres Piezas Cubanas ("Three Cuban Pieces") was composed in 2010 and dedicated to Elizabeth Rebozo, after the release of her first record. Each movement has a completely different character in structure, motive, texture and theme. The European counterpoint elements are blended with syncopations, contemporary harmony voicing and rhythms not frequently used in this type of musical form. While old fashion melodies are present in the second movement, the virtuosity of the performer is always present throughout the piece with numerous scales and arpeggios.
Elizabeth Rebozo plays both compositions with mastery, demonstrating a deep and profound interpretation and setting a new standard and a future reference for both works.
Produced by Yalil Guerra
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Yalil Guerra
Additional recording engineers: David Royer (Royer Labs) and Dusty Wakeman (Mojave Audio)
Recorded at RYCY Productions Inc., Burbank, California, U.S.A. (www.rycy.com)