Ernesto Lecuona Piano Works - Cuba España
Ernesto Lecuona was born in Guanabacoa, a village near Havana, Cuba. His oldest sister Ernestina introduced him to the instrument for which he showed extraordinary talent, playing the accompaniment of silent movies from the age of 7 to financially help his family.
In 1908 he composes his first piece “Cuba and America”, in 1912 his first musical, “Fantasia Tropical” as well as his first ballet, “La comparsa” thus marking the beginning of a prolific life as a composer. He wrote more than 400 songs, 176 pieces for the piano, 50 theatrical pieces, 31 orchestral works, 15 soundtracks for the cinema, 5 ballets, one trio and an opera. His popularity came to him thanks to his virtuosic, passionate, piano playing, the beauty of his melodies, the force of the rhythms of his compositions but also thanks to the hundreds of interpretations of pieces such as Siboney, Para Vigo Me Voy, Canto Karabali Maria my Own, La comparsa and Malagueña. His creative talent touched intensely a generation of Latin Americans who have not forgotten his music.
During the 40s and 50s The Metro Goldwyn Mayer and the 20th Century Fox film companies asked him to write the music for many of their films. In 1942 he was awarded an Academy Award for his song “Always in my heart”, from a film produced by the Warner Brothers.
'The musical equivalent of holiday snaps, with plenty of Spanish soul. Unfailingly engaging, these miniatures are beautifully crafted and full of suggestion. Rodríguez, a pupil of Phyllis Sellick, plays with style, sensitivity and obvious relish, bringing to life just a selection of Lecuona’s large output: he wrote 400 songs, scores for Hollywood films, many piano pieces and a host of orchestral works. This disc is the tip of the iceberg, but there’s nothing cold about it.' International Piano Magazine
Clara Rodríguez’s Lecuona selection is as fine as anyone’s.
I’ve enjoyed a number of Clara Rodríguez’s more recent discs and I’ve enjoyed this one as much. It helps to like Ernesto Lecuona’s good-time music but I can’t imagine anyone, other than a diehard serialist, not liking it, or at least actively objecting to it. If you enjoy the imposing vistas projected in Ante El Escorial, a kind of lightweight Granados, you will be delighted by both the piece and the playing. There is real rhythmic vitality generated in Granada, with its ancillary hints of Debussy, something else that aligns the Cuban Lecuona to earlier Iberian composers such as Granados and Albéniz. Here, too, Flamenco is fused with Lisztian flourish with devilishly exciting results.
The Danaza cubanas are full of verve and colour, and played with considerable digital clarity and stylistic acumen. Elements of the music sound like Cubano Rags, yet others like updated Gottschalk, which is not wholly unsurprisingly since they are nineteenth-century dances. The other two cycles are the Afro-Cuban Dances and Suite Andalucia. The former glitter ebulliently and are marked by teasing rhythms and splendidly hummable tunes. The latter cycle is no less exciting, each movement a monument to a town or landmark and full of colour, and a very personal sense of warmth and immediacy. The movement devoted to the Guadalquivir, for instance, is rich but not over-complex thematically.
'A really delightful disc. I am not that familiar with Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, but this disc left me wanting to explore his music more; and I see Clara Rodriguez has recorded piano music by several other South American composers. Full of interesting dance rhythms with elements of Debussy and also Joplin. Very original and beautifully played. Well worth purchasing and I will be looking into her other discs as well.'
Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb-International.com, February 2013