First and upfront let me state this is not going to be a true review. It cannot be on because I cannot provide an objective evaluation of Simone Dinnerstein’s 2017 exquisite recording of two Mozart concerti with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra, led by its brilliant young maestro: José Antonio Méndez Padrón.
Were it not for the fact that I am Cuban by birth and Cuban to the core I could possibly turn out an adequate account of what I listened to. But the experience I am trying to describe is intense and not conducive to objectivity.
Hearing one of my favorite concert pianists in the company of some three dozen young and immensely talented Cuban musicians playing Mozart, unarguably my favorite composer, and further, hearing unpredictably fresh, elegant, impassioned performances of the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major and the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major perfectly produced by Tessa Fanelsa and edited, mixed and mastered by Adam Abeshouse, and recorded in Havana’s acoustically perfect 17th century Oratorio San Felipe Neri… well, it all sort of obliterated for the moment my critical acumen.
I know that after repeated listening I will get back on my critical seat and perhaps be able to shed some light on what I heard. What I think is more important than whatever my opinion might be is to get the word out about this recording and its implications about what is happening musically in my birth country.
This music making knows no political barriers. Mozart flawlessly played by an ensemble of young, multi-racial Cuban musicians in a tropical island 90 miles from our shores belies any preconceived misconceptions about Cuba and its culture.
For Simone Dinnerstein making this recording was, as her heartfelt notes so nicely express, among other things a way to reconnect spiritually with her earliest musical mentor: Solomon Mikowsky, a Cuban Jew of Polish descent. For me, listening to this recording has been an intensely emotional way to celebrate part of the culture with which I grew up.
Five years ago my wife and I visited Havana, me for the first time in fifty-seven years, she for the first time ever. While there we heard music played and sung everywhere: Pop music, Cuban jazz, Afro-Cuban music, Classical music. We long to go back once our government will make travel to Cuba legal.
Meanwhile we have a taste of music in Havana thanks to Mozart in Havana, for which a huge Muchas Gracias goes from my Cuban heart to Sony Records and to Simone Dinnerstein.
Rafael de Acha