Saturday, April 6, 2013

'Two Spheres: Memories from Cuba' is CD of Afro-Cuban Pianist Félix Spengler, Who Performs With Violinist Misha Vitenson at Weill Recital Hall 8 PM April 13, 2013

Two Spheres: Memories from Cuba
Félix Spengler, Piano

Piu Mosso VAPPIU001 (1996) (46:49)

The website of Félix Spengler,, introduces us to his bio:

Felix Spengler, founder and Director of the Ars Musicum Academia, was born in La Habana, Cuba.

“He began his musical career at the age of 7, studying violin and piano at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory and the Escuela Nacional de Arte. His family fled Cuba during the Mariel boatlift of 1980.

“Upon arriving in New York, he was immediately accepted as a student by the renowned Russian pedagogue Mme. Nina Svetlanova of the Moscow Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music.

“In 1991, he was awarded his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music. He has also studied conducting at the Julliard School under the tutelage of Vincent LaSelva and is currently completing his doctorate at Rutgers University in New Jersey.”

We have since acquired a copy of the CD, and have listened to it many times. The works of Cervantes and Lecuona are similar to those on our other recordings of classical Cuban piano music. However, Félix Spengler has introduced us to one composer whose music is completely new to us, Manuel Saumell Robredo (1818-1872). He was born 29 years before Cervantes, and he died before the birth of Lecuona, yet the works of all three composers on the CD represent the same style of Cuban musical nationalism. Félix Spengler has compiled a very pleasant program which we recommend without reservation. Listening to Two Spheres: Memories from Cuba makes us wish we could attend the April 13, 2013 recital of pianist Félix Spengler and violinist Misha Vitenson at Carnegie Hall.

Two Spheres: Memories from Cuba; Félix Spengler, Piano; Piu Mosso VAPPIU001 (1996) (46:49) The liner notes are written and copyrighted by Daniel Evardo Daroca (1996).

Memories From Cuba: Saumell, Cervantes, Lecuona
Cuban music has fascinated the world for centuries. Out of the ncounters of diverse races and peoples grew a rich musical tradition. As early as the 19th century, major European composers were influenced by it. We can hear the presence of the Habanera in the famous aria from Bizet's Carmen. Numerous contemporary dances from Cuba have captivated the world: cha-cha-cha, Conga, Rumba, Salsa are known the world over. The seed of these rhythms was already present in the music of 19th century Cuban composers.

Manuel Saumell Robredo (1817-1870) could be considered the father of Cuban musical nationalism. In 1839 he was already planning a nationalistic opera while running from dance to dance to make a living. In his Contradanzas he notated the rhythmic combinations characteristic of later Cuban dances.

Ignacio Cervantes Kawanaugh (1847-1905) is undoubtedly the most important nineteenth century Cuban composer. He had the advantages of a European education. After excellent training with Espadero in Cuba, he attended the Paris Conservatory under Alkan and Marmontel, and obtained first prize in Piano in 1866.” “El Velorio (The Wake). This dance is an example of melopoeia, or speaking in music."

“The most popular of Cuban composers, Ernesto Lecuona (1896-1963), wrote zarzuelas, romanzas, songs, pieces in Spanish style, orchestral pieces, and piano music. Following the tradition of Saumell and Cervantes, Lecuona favored the small forms in his piano music.” Two tunes of Lecuona relate to dancing and people of African descent: Y la negra bailaba and Danza negra.

Comment by email:

Oh Mr Zick, thank you very much. This is really kind! I really appreciate your review.  We'll stay in touch!! Best Regards, Felix [Felix Spengler]

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