The choice of pieces is fascinating and gives a surprising insight into the variety and range of music written for the piano by Cuba's leading composers.
The towering influence of Ernesto Lecuona as a musical force in Cuba is evident not only in his most famous pieces which are featured here – intelligently placed throughout the set rather than in just one section- but also in the sheer love for Cuba and its popular culture which shines through in much of the music. From Roberto Valera's take on popular Cuban nursery rhymes to Calixto Alvarez's celebration of Cuban dance forms, from Cesar Sentenat's ‘suite Cubana' to the sprightly title track by José M Vitier, the whole recital is a brilliantly played musical journey across the island.
One can also hear echoes of the music of the maestro Chucho Valdes amongst these pieces which obviously influenced him so much, and there are melodies which instantly remind the listener of Pablo Milanés at his most romantic. Leo Brouwer's ‘Pequeñas pieces para piano' are a treat too, played simply and sensitively whilst avoiding over-sentimentality.
Altogether this is an exceptional set both in the programming and in the virtuoso standard of the playing and is an essential listen for all those with a love for Cuban music.
By Dave Willetts – original review appeared in CubaSi autumn 2010
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