Ernesto Lecuona, LECUONA: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1

Brian Wise

By Brian Wise

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The complete piano music of “the Cuban Gershwin.”

To rediscover a Cuba of more innocent times one only needs to sample the work of Ernesto Lecuona, who lived from 1895 to 1963 and is sometimes dubbed "the Cuban Gershwin." Like the creator of “Rhapsody in Blue,” Lecuona bridged the pop and classical divide and even produced a handful of hit songs, thus bringing him both popular acclaim and scholarly and critical doubt. In 1996 the American pianist Thomas Tirino set out to restore his reputation, releasing the first volume of a six-album Lecuona set for the BIS label. It features some of Lecuona's best-known works, including "Malaguena" and "The Breeze and I," both from his "Andalucia" piano suite. Tirino also highlights Lecuona's talents as an orchestrator in a performance of his "Rapsodia Negra," a 1943 piano concerto that features bustling Cuban rhythms and a splashy piano part. Other pieces range from the sumptuous “Ante El Escorial” to the swaggering gypsy dance “Zambra Gitana.” Tirino tackles it all with assurance and flair.