Saturday, July 12, 2014

Amadeo Roldán y Gardes (1900-1939), Afro-Cuban pioneer of Afrocubanismo, was born July 12

[Rítmicas; Tambuco Percussion Ensemble; Dorian 90245 (1997). Centenario Natalicio de Amadeo Roldan (Centennial of Birth of Amadeo Roldan) Cuba Stamp 2000]

Amadeo Roldán (1900-1939) was an Afro-Cuban composer, violinist, conductor and professor. He was born in Paris to Cuban parents on July 12, 1900, we learn from Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor at Lawrence University, whose website is Prof. De Lerma has compiled the complete works of Amadeo Roldán, which are featured at He points out that Roldán's full name was Amadeo Roldán y Gardes. He also tells us Roldán was only 5 years old when he began studying the violin.

Roldán graduated from the Madrid Conservatory in 1916 after studying music theory and violin. He later took private lessons in composition from Conrado el Campo, according to Prof. De Lerma. The young musician also played the violin on tour in Spain. Prof. De Lerma continues: “He moved to Havana in 1919 and became a student of Pedro Sanjuan. In 1924 he became concertmaster of Havana's Orquesta Filarmonica and, following the death of Sanjuan, its conductor.”

Roldán was promoted to conductor of the Orquesta Filarmonica in 1932. Suite de La Rebambaramba (8:56) and Rítmica V (2:42) were recorded on CD by the New World Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Argo 436 737 2 (1993). In the liner notes Simon Wright appraises Amadeo Roldán's role in the classical music of Cuba: “An enthusiastic conductor and composer, Roldán put 'serious' Cuban music on the map by primarily bringing Afro-Cuban rhythms and sounds to the concert hall. They were the inspiration behind the ballet La Rebambaramba (1827-28), based on a scenario by Alejo Carpentier depicting Havana's low-life on the day of Epiphany in 1830.”

Carol J. Oja writes in her book “Making Music Modern: New York in the 1920s”, Oxford University Press (2000), that the Pan American Association of Composers performed works of Amadeo Roldán and other Latin American composers at its March 1929 concert in New York. The Tambuco Percussion Ensemble has recorded Roldán's Rítmica V (2:14) and Rítmica VI (2:00), both composed in 1930, on the CD Rítmicas, Dorian 90245 (1997). The liner notes compare these to Edgar Varése's Ionisation.

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