New World School Of The Arts to Pat Tribute to Ernesto Lecuona with Two-Day Concert, 12/14-15

New World School Of The Arts Lends Tribute To Legendary Cuban Pianist And Composer Ernesto Lecuona with Two-Day Concert December 14 at 8:00 p.m. - December 15 at 3:00 p.m.

On the 50th anniversary of his death, New World School of the Arts will pay homage to legendary Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona. The first in the NWSA Latin Music Legends series, the two-day concert is hosted by NWSA dean of music Dr. Milton Rubén Laufer, featuring Soprano Marina De Ratmiroff, pianist Ciro Foderé, and The New World School of the Arts Chamber Orchestra, Directed by Brent Mounger.

"The goal of this concert is to preserve the works of these masters," said Laufer. "Our mission is not only to educate our students, help them hone their craft and foster their passion for the arts, but also to offer them a legacy to which they can relate. We want them to discover and explore this music and keep it alive - whether they ultimately devote themselves to it as performers or listeners."

As the organizer of the NWSA Latin Music Legends series, Laufer's involvement in the concert is akin to a "curator of an art exhibition." "It wasn't about choosing readily available music scores. For this particular concert we have had to do extensive research and field work since Ernesto Lecuona's original music is so difficult to find," explained Laufer who will be playing the complete Suite of Andalucia on the piano, accompanied by the NWSA Chamber Orchestra. In addition, Laufer will be offering short lectures on the individual music offered during the concert and will highlight their significance. He will also discuss the process of "modifying" some of it for simultaneous interpretation on piano and orchestra. The Suite includes: Córdoba, Andalucía, Alhambra, Gitanerías, Guadalquivir and the ever-popular Malagueña, which premiered at New York's Roxy Theatre in 1927.

"One of the most interesting pieces we will present is Escucha al Ruiseñor," explained Laufer, who will be performing the four-minute piece on piano alongside De Ratmiroff. "It is rare to obtain a copy of this score because not only was it pressed in Cuba, but it is also out of print." Imitating the sound of a nightingale bird, Lecuona wrote Escucha al Ruiseñor for legendary Cuban coloratura soprano, Rosario Garcia Orellana. Without a copy of the original music, Laufer began the arduous process of penning the score by hand, listening to an original 1930s recording. Most recently, however, he was able to secure a hand-written photocopy of the original music, allowing him and De Ratmiroff more time to rehearse and prepare for the more historical / educational portion of the concert.

Also in the repertoire is Rapsodia Negra, which Ernesto Lecuona premiered at the Cuban Liberation Day Concert at Carnegie Hall on October 10, 1943, and dedicated to Carmelina Delfín. One of the three works Lecuona wrote for piano and orchestra, this piece is a "mosaic" of themes from zarzuelas by Lecuona. With his sister Ernestina, who also appeared as pianist, the concert received exceptional mentions by The New Work Times, who hailed his work "clean-cut and brilliant". Rapsodia Negra will be presented on two pianos, featuring NWSA faculty member and respected pianist Ciro Foderé.

Ernesto Lecuona was a Cuban composer and pianist who lived from 1895 until 1963. Born in Havana Cuba, of Canarian and Cuban descent, he was a child prodigy who attained worldwide respect and recognition for his contribution to music. Hailed as the Cuban Gershwin, he is credited with raising Cuban music to classical status. Lecuona, who at the age of five had mastered five songs including La Mersellesa and the Cuban national anthem under the tutelage of his sister Ernestina Lecuona, also a recognized pianist, gave his first concert when he was just five. He composed his first song at the age of 11 - Cuba y America, a two-step, which became part of the repertoire of Cuban military bands. A prolific composer of songs and music for stage and film, Ernesto Lecuona composed more than 400 songs, 176 piano pieces, 50+ theater works, 31 orchestral scores, half dozen compositions for piano and orchestra, 3 violin works, a trio, 5 ballets and 11 film scores. Lecuona graduated from the National Conservatory of Havana with a Gold Medal for interpretation when he was seventeen.

Dr. Milton Rubén Laufer leads the music division at New World School of the Arts. He served for 10 years on the music faculty at Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he held the Phoenix Professorship in Fine Arts and was Artistic Director of the Manning Chamber Music Series. While in North Carolina, he founded and was Executive Director of the Sir Walter Raleigh Festival of Music, the only festival in the United States that is part of the British and International Federation of Festivals. In addition, Laufer worked as a senior consultant for the music technology firm, Zenph Sound Innovations and served on juries for music festivals in Germany, China, and throughout the United States. A Fulbright Scholar, Laufer has conducted extensive research in Spanish piano music. He is recognized internationally as a leading performer and scholar in this area, and his recent editions of Isaac Albéniz's 3 Improvisations for Piano and La Vega are published by G. Henle Verlag of Munich and available worldwide. Currently he is writing the book, "The Pianist's Guide to the Repertoire of Spain." Milton Rubén Laufer has recently released recordings on the Beauport Classical and Zenph Studios record labels.

More On: Ernesto Lecuona, , Carnegie Hall, Isaac Albéniz, David Stahl.

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by Peter Danish