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Mozart y Mambo – Cuban Dances

Sarah Willis (horn); Havana Lyceum Orchestra/José Antonio Méndez Padrón (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Mozart y Mambo – Cuban Dances
Mozart: Horn Concertos Nos 1 & 2; plus works by Egües, Gavilondo, Lombida, Muñoz, Olivero & Véra
Sarah Willis (horn); Havana Lyceum Orchestra/José Antonio Méndez Padrón
Alpha Classics ALPHA878   61:03 mins

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Volume 1 of French horn player Sarah Willis’s Mozart y Mambo project was a surprise hit of 2020. Working in collaboration with a formidable ensemble of Cuban musicians, Willis recorded a combination of works by Mozart for horn alongside newly-arranged Cuban repertoire to create an album bursting with energy and imagination. This follow-up disc is every bit as exuberant as the first.

Willis completes her survey of Mozart’s horn concertos with assured and expressive performances, accompanied with aplomb by the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. Sandwiched between these fine recordings sits an intriguing new work – ‘the first ever Cuban horn concerto’ – commissioned by Willis from six young Cuban composers for solo horn, strings and percussion. Each movement explores the musical heritage of a different area of the island, combining to create ‘a musical map of Cuba’. From Yuniet Lombida’s elegant Danzón de la Medianoche to the relaxed warmth of Ernesto Oliva’s ¡Ay Comay! Un Changüí pa Sari, the work is wonderfully varied and performed with terrific flair throughout.

The album closes with ‘Pa pa pa’: a playful Cuban take on Pagageno and Papagena’s duet (with the two voices here rendered by horn and baritone saxophone). With proceeds from the album pledged to support young Cuban musicians, this disc comes highly recommended.

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Kate Wakeling