Roses for Ernesto Lecuona – Returning to Cuba – The music opens frontiers and hearts.
by Ana María Ruimonte
Ana María Ruimonte arrived in Havana with Alan Lewine looking for that certain composer, dazed by Ernesto Lecuona’s beautiful music that she felt defines her. “My mother heard me in recital singing the aria of “Maria la O” and she opened my eyes and set my fate with her words “that song suits you perfectly”…
Two years later, Ana María performed a recital dedicated entirely to the music of Ernesto Lecuona. The recital, in New York at The National Opera Center of Opera America, was part of the Owlsong concert series, “Ruimonte’s Manhattan Series” supported in part by the Association of Artists and Interpreters, AIE.
Thanks to google search, Ana María found the pianist she was looking for, Huberal Herrera, the world’s leading interpreter of Lecuona’s music. She traveled with Alan Lewine to Havana for the first time to start to work with him and prepare this music for performance at Museum of Fine Arts of Havana. “We worked together and performed the recital in the theater of Havana’s Fine Arts Museum, and when I was returning he gave me a bunch of rare Lecuona scores that he had chosen especially for me, so I could continue working with this repertoire”.
Huberal Herrera recorded the complete piano works of Ernesto Lecuona in 2000 for Spain’s Society of Authors and Performers, SGAE. As he wrote in the notes of the 3 CD set: “I met Ernesto Lecuona in person in the 50’s. He was a tall man, his hair was black, with expressive eyes and a man of few words, but nice and accessible. In his house, where he was always surrounded by friends, there were often spontaneous performances where someone sang and others played piano. Once I was there and when he asked me, I sat to play… Afterwards, he sang my praises and asked me what I did. I told him that I had three university degrees, in legal specialties, and that I had also just finished my piano studies. He said he was impressed, especially since I was quite young at that time. Since that day, we started a great friendship… He gave me the opportunity to perform his pieces… he gave me advice that to today continues to add to my understanding of his pieces, and he favored me with a present of some handwritten original pieces that I felt fortunate to premier.”
The maestro agreed to collaborate with Ana María Ruimonte to record a new CD to be titled “Roses for Ernesto Lecuona” in the studios of Pablo Milanés, PM Records in Havana in January’17, with famed engineer Adalberto “Berty” Hernandez at the controls. This CD promises to be quite special. As Huberal told an interviewer in Havana, “these recordings rescue these really beautiful songs from oblivion, as they are rarely sung recently. They were chosen with exquisite taste by this soprano, to further enrich the vast repertoire of Iberoamerican music.”
Having a direct connection to Ernesto Lecuona, working with maestro Huberal Herrera provides an interpretation in the style the composer wanted. Lecuona had such trust in the young Huberal Herrera that he personally asked him to review and revise some of his music during the compositional process.
Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963) was a leading composer of his era in the Spanish-speaking world, publishing over 400 songs, 31 orchestral pieces, numerous theatrical works ranging from opera to zarzuela and dozens of ballets, film scores, concertos and chamber works.
Lecuona often praised the young Huberal Herrera for his profound knowledge of his music frequently expressing his delight when listening to maestro Herrera play the piano. Ruimonte said, “The piano style of Huberal Herrera is different and distinguished. His melismas, harmonic changes, his improvisation full of Lecuonian fantasy, the dynamics and rubatos, the ornaments and expressive approach, his rhythmic sense, the total rapport with the melody and context of the vocal line, the resulting colors, the melodic dialogues… I am really proud of the detailed work we did, and I feel like the luckiest singer in the world at this moment because I have had the opportunity to work on this repertoire with so excellent a connoisseur of the music of Ernesto Lecuona. Huberal Herrera is all heart and passion, and his agility and interpretive imagination exemplifies perfection. We want him to come to the United States to perform this music with us in theaters and auditoriums, so America can enjoy his art and this beautiful music, which is the pride of humanity.”
Owlsong Productions expects to release the album “Roses for Lecuona” before the summer 2017. More Info: www.owlsong.com
Photo caption: Huberal Herrera, Alan Lewine, Ana María Ruimonte y Adalberto “Berty” Hernández in the Pablo Milanés PM Records Studio in La Habana. Photos courtesy of Roberto Bello.