Saturday, July 11, 2009

Amadeo Roldán, Afro-Cuban Composer Who Pioneered Classical Percussion, Born July 12, 1900

[Centenario Natalicio de Amadeo Roldan (Centennial of Birth of Amadeo Roldan) Cuba Stamp 2000]

Amadeo Roldán was an Afro-Cuban composer, violinist, conductor and professor who is profiled at He was born in Paris to Cuban parents on July 12, 1900. Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University, has generously made his research entry on Amadeo Roldan available to this website. 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's promotion to conductor of the Orquesta Filarmonica occurred 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, another work which helped pioneer the percussion ensemble.

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