WORKS: Vol. 1: Rapsodia negra; Musica española; Song Transcriptions
PERFORMER: Thomas Tirino (piano); Polish National RSO/Michael Bartos
CATALOGUE NO: CD-754, 774, 794
Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963) dominated the Cuban musical scene for nearly half a century. Staggeringly prolific, and essentially a miniaturist, he straddled the narrow line between popular classics and easy listening, and his melodic invention was fresh and inexhaustible. Some of his best tunes were ‘souped up’ by others, rarely to their advantage, but his most famous piece, ‘Malagueña’ – the final movement of the evocative Andalucía suite – was admired by Ravel and he was dubbed ‘the Cuban Gershwin’. Certainly there’s a Gershwin feel to the Rapsodia negra, though to me he sounds more like a Cuban Billy Mayerl. But such labels are too limiting for a composer whose music is so extraordinarily varied, from the Impressionistic San Francisco el grande to the ingenuous Diary of a Child, and even within individual suites, such as the Valses fantásticos.
This release consists of the first three of a projected six CDs containing Lecuona’s complete works for piano, both solo and with orchestra. What an enchanting compilation. And who better to play it than Tirino, a leading authority on Lecuona’s music and the possessor of the considerable degree of virtuosity its performance requires? Wadham Sutton