HAVANA._ If we measured the importance of a person’s work by its durability throughout the years, 120 years of anniversaries of the extraordinary Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona are more than enough to reaffirm the stamp he left.
The critic defines him as the biggest Cuban musician, and his career really did leave a mark on the history of music in Cuba and still inspires creators of artistic works in different countries.
His sister Ernestina and the famous Joaquín Nin were his main influences at the beginning, but we should recognize Lecuona as being a prodigee as he gave his first recital at only 5 years of age and he composed his first concert band piece at 13 years old.
Along with Gonzalo Roig and Rodrigo Prats, he forms part of the most important trilogy of Cuban Lyrical Theatre composers and in particular of Zarzuela, to which he contributed in terms of style.
Among his works within this genre, the following stand out: Canto Siboney (The Song of Siboney), Lola Cruz, Diablos y Fantasias (Devils and Fantasies), El Batey (The Outbuildings) El Cafetal (The Coffee Tree), La Flor del Sitio (The Flower of the Place), Tierra de Venus (The Land of Venus), Rosa la China (Rosa the Chinese Woman) and the popular Maria la O, which has been performedin Cuba, Spain and Mexico.
Some themes like Damisela Encantadora (The Charming Young Lady), belonging to the zarzuela Lola Cruz, and the songs La malagueña (The Woman from Malaga) and La comparsa (The Troupe) form part of the cultural heritage of the 20th century in Cuba.
Indeed he composed La comparsa at the age of 17, one year after graduating from the National Conservatoire in Havana with a gold medal in performance and it continues to be one of the most covered Cuban compositions in the world, from jazz to salsa, to pop and other genres.
Not many are aware that Lecuona introduced the first Latin orchestra in the United States: the Cuban Lecuona Boys, and their song Siempre en mi corazón (Always in my Heart) was nominated for an Oscar in 1942.
Various compositions of this musician form part of movie soundtracks of megaindustry Hollywood movies like Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as well as movies from Argentina, Mexico, Cuba and even China.
The most renowned Cuban feature movie Fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and chocolate) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea uses Lecuona’s music, as does the amazing movie 2046, directed in 2004 by the Chinese Wong Kar-wai.
Within dance, as well as the works inspired by the Cubans Alicia Alonso and Alberto Méndez, possibly the biggest tribute was paid by the Brazilian group Corpos, when in 1994, their directors and choreographers, the brothers Paulo and Rodrigo Perneiras came up with the Lecuona show, with 13 songs of his.
The show toured the world with themes like Te he visto pasar (I’ve seen you go by) Mariposa (Butterfly), No es por ti (It’s Not Because of You) and Se fue (He/she left), connected with a delicious quality of movement: plastic, soft, elegant, agile, languid, depending on the tone, brilliant in all senses.
Lecuona died on November 29, 1963 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, where he had traveled on holiday to get to know his father’s birth land and he is buried in Gate of heaven cemetery, New York because he had emigrated to the United States in 1960.
In Cuba on his120th anniversary, there still remains the taste of a debt of his personality and works which little by little will be paid off because his talent wins out; his importance is more than demonstrated.Share on FB Share on TT