Cuban American composer Yalil Guerra recently posted a recording accompanied by a visual of the score of his Sonata No. 1, Siglo XXI. The pianist is fellow Cuban Marcos Madrigal.

Guerra’s previous compositions had not prepared us for this new sound, one as energetic, as free-wheeling in tonality and structure as nothing heard before in his vast oeuvre, where this valuable artist has repeatedly embraced his roots as a musical artist equally at home in music that borders the Cuban pop world only to transition into elegant compositions firmly anchored in the classical idiom.

Guerra’s Sonata No. 1, Siglo XXI begins with a Larghetto movement, the work’s tonality not established at first. After a stretch of time during which the music visits several episodes, there is a return to the initial Moderato Misterioso motif and to its subsequent Allegro Furioso with its bass pattern of pounding triplets that characterize the movement. Save for one or two brief oasis of calm and an Allegretto Grazioso that quickly transitions to impassioned and restless, the opening Allegro Furioso dominates the movement.

The second movement is a lyrical Adagio Cantabile that seeks in vain a tonality to which to anchor itself. The music leads to an Adagio Amoroso, and from that onto a Largo Maestoso. Constant changing time signatures and keys – Ab…A… G… F… and their relative minors – resolve atonally at the end.

The third movement is rhythmic, in 6/8 and driven by cascading figures in the right hand’s highest register, with 2 against 3 duplets and triplets in the left hand. A Db Molto Espressivo section marked pp and further on a section marked Cantabile hint at Guerra’s Cuban DNA in a rhythm redolent of a 19th century Habanera.  That moment is bluntly interrupted by a return to the initial 6/8 pattern this time played ff and driven at full throttle to a dramatic ending.

Guerra’ new composition reveals yet again a fertile musical mind at work. The music of his Sonata No. 1, Siglo XXI seems to be in search of a tonal and harmonic center, looking for a melody, but set upon by uncertainty and emotional upheavals given expression in the highly rhythmic sections that threaten to drown out, though never vanquish the moments of lyricism.

Marcos Madrigal delivers a powerful performance heightened by awesome technical prowess and uncanny sensitivity.

(320) Yalil Guerra: “Sonata No 1. Siglo XXI” performed by Marcos Madrigal (Score) – YouTube

Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS