Sarah Willis, a horn player with the Berlin Philharmoniker, arrived in Cuba some years ago to teach some master classes to young musicians.
Enamored with the warmth of the people of the island she has since gone back there to visit and make music with fellow artists. Combining the music of Mozart with the popular music that is alive and well and thriving in the Caribbean nation, a terrific album has just been released by NAXOS.
It is a result of an unpredictably successful collaboration between Sarah Willis and the superb Havana Lyceum Orchestra and its magisterial young conductor Pepe Méndez.
The CD includes alongside Cuban music of the 50’s though the 90’s, Mozart’s Concerto no.3 and the Rondo for Horn, K371 alongside the whimsically titled Rondo alla Mambo, Sarahnade Mambo, and a Cuban Eine kleine Nachtmusik all three familiar Mozartian tunes injected with a good dose of spicy Cuban salsa.
What could have turned into a mere gimmick has instead produced felicitous results thanks to the excellence of the participating musicians and the straightforwardly honest approach to the music at hand.
This gem of an album joins my list of BEST OF 2020, as it defies categorization merely inviting the listeners to set aside preconceptions and listen to a cool mix of the Austrian and the Cuban, and swivel their hips to hot, sensually sinuous tunes by Perez Prado, Ibrahim Ferrer, and other Cuban old time icons played with a mixed combination of Cuban sabor and classical elegance by Sarah Willis, saxophonist Yuniel Lombida, trumpeter Harold Madrigal, pianist Jorge Aragon, and the enormously versatile Havana Lyceum Orchestra led by Maestro Méndez.
Rafael de Acha