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“Ensueños de Cuba” (“Daydreams of Cuba”)
Ernesto Lecuona: A la Antigua – La Cardenense
Miguel Faílde Pérez: Las Alturas de Simpson
Silvano Boudet: Ensueños
José Fernández de Coca: Ave María Gallo
Gaspar D. Villate: Como Tú Quieras
Felipe B. Valdés: La Bella Cubana
Jorge Anckermann: Señorita (Danza)
Enrique Guerrero: La Kalunga
Manuel Saumell: La Luz – El Somatén – La Paila – La Niña Bonita – Lamentos de Amor – La Tedezco
María Matilde Alea: Miniaturas Rítmicas Cubanas, n° 2
María Emma Botet: Dancita de Ayer, n°s 1-4
Harold Gramatges: Guajira – Son
Andrés Alén: Danzón LeGrand
César Pérez Sentenat: Señora Santana – Palomita Blanca
René Tozet: Entre La y Re – Apasionada

Elena Casanova (piano)
Recording: Laughing Coyote Studios, Redwood Valley, California (2021) – 69’52
MSR Classics MS 1786

“As I play my life today
For those who come from far away
I cherish every path I’ve walked
For it made me what I am today.”

Brian Hanson and Adrian Hanson

This snippet from the poem, “Daydream”, gives significance to pianist Elena Casanova who has provided us a remarkable journey through music of past and present Cuban composers that made an indelible impression upon her form, style and verve. Elena Casanova is one of those rarified artists, bringing forth her independent sense of musical imagination and warmth of music from this island nation. She was classically trained at present-day named Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, Cuba’s premiere musical institution. After launching her successful career, Mlle Casanova decided to reflect upon many of the compositions she grew up with during her tutelage. “Ensueños de Cuba” is a lovely pastiche created by composers relatively unknown to Americans that burrow into the rhythmic heartbeat of Cuba’s landscape.

Sixteen composers encompass this CD, yet the “thoughts” inside each of them is refreshingly distinct. Most of the selections last for a minute or two; therefore, this souvenir is a trove of “mini-vignettes” describing a mood, a thought, a location or an action. Andrés Alén, the only living composer included on this album, presents one of the most fabulous pieces that Elena Casanova performs with moving ease: Danzón LeGrand (an unusually long composition relative to the others) is persuasively rich in sentiment with bits of lemon twists along the way…it’s unpredictable, edged with Art Tatum-like jazz, contemporary and simply delightful!

Some composers, however, such as César Pérez Sentenat, provide broad brushes of civility and pensive politeness. Conversely, the opening selections by Ernesto Lecuona reflect upon Louis Gottschalk and Creole cadences. Manuel Saumell’s segments colorfully turn to depictions of a mere object or a simple conception.

Elena Casanova’s diction is genteel, connected and straight-forward, instructional in parlance so that she doesn’t fall into the trap of over-embellishment. As an example, while René Touzet’s Entre La y Re brings forward the right hand casually tinkling away at a melodic line, the closing Apasionada is draped inside well-tempered elegant grandeur. Elena Casanova easily flows through the variegated layers of emotion in these 44 pieces.

As Cuba’s island opens up more broadly, “Ensueños de Cuba” makes one dream further, and one day, perchance, to experience the island’s energy and color in all its glory. Now MSR Classics provides one more reason to visit. So unique!

Highly recommended!

Christie Grimstad




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