Internationally-acclaimed virtuosos meet in Havana after Steinway donation

Posted: 16-Oct-15 15:15

A majestic Steinway piano made its way from New York to Havana as the vessel that would carry out the sublime tunes expertly played by a group of very special guests who arrived in Cuba to treat a very lucky Cuban audience to a free open-air concert in Havana. Virtuosos like Chinese pianist Lang Lang and Cuban composer Chucho Valdes were accompanied by American conductor Marin Alsop on a very special concert that took place on Old Havana's cobbled streets last Friday.

Internationally-acclaimed virtuosos meet in Havana after Steinway donation

As the New York Times recently reported on an online article by Hannah Berkeley Cohen, a shiny new Steinway piano travelled all the way from Queens, New York to Cuba last week as the starring instrument on an open-air concert that took place at the Havana Cathedral Square last Friday.

This epic concert thus marked an event the likes of which Cuba had not seen in over five decades and it came complete with a very generous donation of a $150,000 brand new Steinway piano, the first ever American piano to be imported since the Cuban Revolution triumphed at the end of 1959.

On one hand there was China’s youngest piano promise and virtuoso, Lang Lang, who skilfully stroked the keys in front of an eager audience of around 3,000 people filling up the cobblestone square to full capacity. As he worked his magic, Chucho Valdes, Cuba’s most accomplished composer, pianist and Jazzist, struck heavier tones on a second piano positioned to Lang Lang’s right.

The melodies harmoniously came together under the masterful guidance of American conductor, Marin Alson, who with her baton raised high perfectly unified Lang Land and Valdes’ tunes together with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra sitting just behind. The pieces played included Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture”, the “Victory Stride” by U.S. jazz pianist James P. Johnson; some of Tchaikovsky’s works and originals by Chucho Valdes and two other world-famous Cuban composers – Ernesto Lecuona and Antonio Maria Romeu.

After it was over and the concert drew to an end on a very high note indeed, an enraptured audience exploded into loud applauses while Ms. Alsop took out her selfie stick to forever capture the three widely grinning artists from three very different nations.

Speaking about the event which took a few years of ongoing talks and organisational arrangements before it could become a reality, Mr Lang explained how he had taken an interest in Latin Jazz after meeting Chucho Valdes in Vienna during 2012. He later declared:

"Cuba is so eager to have musicians from around the world come perform here."

A few years on and Lang Lang, together with Mr Cesbron and Mr. Latzky (the concert’s producers) were determined to bring that project to fruition and pushed on through all the challenges that were to be overcome.

Cuba’s music industry and Ministry of Culture fully backed and embraced the project. Orlando Vistel Columbié, president of the Cuban Institute of Music, said;

"We welcome exchanges, especially ones that contribute to the breaking down of the isolation our country has felt for so long.

“There’s not a political motive to this international exchange of love of music between two countries, but I do think it contributes to creating an environment conducive to the possibility of constructing grander projects which generate openness."

It’s very exciting times for musicians wanting to performing in Cuba nowadays and a thrilling moment for the Cuban audience as more and more international singers and bands line up to perform in the island.

On the pipeline is the eagerly anticipated Rolling Stones concert taking place in Havana at the end March 2016 and sometime before that Sting will also be staging a concert in Cuba although no date or venue has been confirmed yet. Keep checking this space and we’ll keep you posted!


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