Owlsong Productions | Alan Lewine | Ana Maria Ruimonte
Transcending Musical Boundaries
All Music by Ernesto Lecuona
Recorded at PMRecords, El Vedado, La Habana, Cuba, 2017.
Mixed and mastered at Turtle Sound, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, 2017.
A fading garden of red and white roses in a song of love fading and dying due to deceit. Yet love remains.
The beautiful mulatta, María la O is unhappy with his fast love and unfaithfulness. Now she doesn’t sing, she hates him and she wants to die, because he will never come back.
The flowers of my love bloomed, and they offered me their smell and colors. My lips passionately kissed just one unforgettable flower.
I will always remember you with longing, because it was with your soul that I slaked my thirst for love. Your love is always in my heart.
I love a man and I take him in my heart wherever I go. I am sad, but I can fly to him far from here. Because I cannot stop loving him.
If I were a man, I would go for long walks every night. I would be a crazy vagabond, traveling far never to return.
Give me two buds, one white the other pink, the colors of Natacha’s cheeks, for her pillow. The next day you will have two little white roses and two little pink roses.
Lady Moon wants a green dress and a white veil to marry the little page of the Royal House. Sleep, Natacha.
I searched for love but never found it. I was so sad; I cried all night. Someone advised me: “Lift the eyes, the one you are waiting for is passing by!”
One afternoon, next to the lake: a swan, your dreamy eyes and love all around, in the water, in your eyes and in the afternoon.
I dreamed of the happiness of love, but my destiny is pain. I won’t have kisses. Why did you dream, Rosa la China? Your rose is dried. Forget him.
A lament for lost youth. My garden has no more flowers. Youth, you took the love that was my being.
I lost you and I can only feel pain and sadness in my soul. My love was a flower with thorns and you could have cared for it with your love. But the flower has died.
I will love you until my death, for your face like a rose, for your goodness.
Your kisses make me crazy. I take your laugh inside me. …But I know that you don’t love me as I love you anymore. You don’t mind my suffering, but I cannot live without you. I need you. I die without you.
Blue night, give me your light, come back to light my heart, because without your love, I die of pain. Come, blue night.
Without you, the sky is not blue, nor is the flower blue, nor does my love exist. My happiness has gone. My dream has gone. Without you I want to die. Come – I want to feel your love.
“The recordings on this CD rescue these really beautiful songs from oblivion, as they are rarely sung recently. They were chosen with exquisite taste by this soprano, Ana María Ruimonte, to further enrich the vast repertoire of Ibero-American music.
“Approaching the music of Ernesto Lecuona would seem an easy task. Nothing could be further from reality.
“I waited many years for an interpreter able to understand, assimilate and express the work of this composer with the seriousness, vehemence and sensuality it requires. Qualities I learned at the side of the maestro [Ernesto Lecuona].
When I met Ana María Ruimonte, I understood immediately that she was the artist I had been waiting for, and we worked at it. The result has been this phonogram that I consider spectacular. All who hear it can share the excitement.”
Huberal Herrera, August 1, 2017, Centro Habana, Cuba.
“Ernesto Lecuona is one of the most internationally acclaimed Cuban musicians and composers. As a performer, he was a virtuoso of the piano with a unique and very personal style. As a creator he was the most inspired composer with an inexhaustible vein of melody. He wrote pieces that are true jewels of the literature for piano, art songs and musical theater.
“Ernesto Lecuona left us songs that will never perish. Many are included here, such as Siempre en mi Corazón (Always in My Heart – nominated for a best song Oscar in 1942), Noche Azul (Blue Night), Madrigal, Mi Vida Eres Tú (You are My Life) and Canción del amor triste (Song of Sad Love), some of the most exquisite songs ever written. They are revered as the Olympus of Cuban Art Song for synthesizing the European and Afro-Cuban traditions, always including the three essential elements of the ideal lieder. As Hilario González, the famous composer and researcher from Havana, said in his analysis: “Lecuona’s songs present lyrics of high poetic level, set with flexible fidelity to the melodic curve of the recitation of that text, and with independence and dramatic expressivity in the instrumental part.”
In his songs, Lecuona couldn’t resist the bewitching captivation of flowers as an inspirational motif. We also have here such titles such as Mi amor fue una flor (My Love Was a Flower), Señor Jardinero (Mr. Gardener), Se abrieron las flores (The Flowers Bloom), Juventud (Youth), Rosa la China (Rosa the Chinese), and Dame de tus rosas (Give me Your Roses, also a hit with an English lyric as Two Hearts that Pass in the Night). This last song opens this record, which is well and aptly titled Rosas para Ernesto Lecuona, a tribute to the composer. Lecuona’s choice of musical material, his colors and capricious forms recall Mother Nature’s gifts of the fragrance and the ornamental presence of the flowers he loved.
“This CD is performed with exquisite taste by two prestigious artists who provide a highly successful and authentic interpretation of this quintessential Hispano-American sound. They present a very attractive and accomplished finished product. Both interpreters work perfectly together in their approach to these beautiful songs born from the incomparable creative talent of Lecuona, mixed with the fine poetic flights of the most distinguished poets such as Juana de Ibarbourou and Gustavo Sánchez Galarraga, among others.
“The Spanish singer Ana María Ruimonte and the Cuban pianist Huberal Herrera weave a fine brocade of sound in every one of the songs they perform. This is the highest accomplishment of chamber work – a fusion of souls and a profound delivery full of the inspiration of the immortal Lecuona. The disk was expertly produced and mixed by the outstanding North American musician Alan Lewine, a composer and bassist from Philadelphia, and recorded in Havana by the very experienced Cuban sound engineer Adalberto “Berty” Hernández.
“I invite you to enjoy the magic of two sensitive artists with a vast knowledge of the infinite paths of Cuban music.”
Luis Manuel Molina de Varona, Cuban musician, guitarist, musical director, radio host, July 10, 2017, El Vedado, Havana, Cuba.
“I arrived in Havana with Alan Lewine looking for the composer Ernesto Lecuona, because I loved his music and I identified with it entirely myself. It was my mother who opened my eyes when she listened to me singing the aria of María la O in a recital in Madrid. She marked my destiny saying: “That songs fit you perfectly!”… And two years later, I sang an entire recital exclusively dedicated to Lecuona as part of the program Ana María Ruimonte’s Manhattan Series, at The National Opera Center of Opera America in New York, in part supported by the AIE, Association of Interpreters of Spain. Thanks to Google I found the pianist I was looking for, Huberal Herrera, and I travelled almost immediately with Alan Lewine to Havana for the first time in 2016 to start preparing this music with the best pianist in the world for this music. I am honored that this maestro agreed to collaborate with me. We rehearsed together; we performed in concert at the Fine Arts Museum in Havana and, when we said good-bye, he gave me a lot of new scores that he had chosen for me, so I could continue working on this music.
“To work with Huberal Herrera ensures that the way to perform this music is really the way Ernesto Lecuona also wished. Huberal had worked directly with Lecuona in the 1950s, and he had asked Huberal to review several of his compositions in progress, showing his absolute trust. Lecuona always congratulated Huberal for his deep knowledge of the composer’s music for piano and for the pleasure he felt anytime he listened to him.
“The piano style of Huberal Herrera is different and distinguished. His melismas, harmonic changes, the improvisation full of Lecuonian fantasy, the dynamics and rubatos, the ornaments and expressive approach, the rhythmic sense, the total rapport with the melody and context of the vocal line, the resulting colors, the melodic dialogues… I am really proud of the detailed work we did, and I feel like the luckiest singer in the world at this moment because I have had the opportunity to work on this repertoire with so excellent a connoisseur of the music of Ernesto Lecuona. Huberal Herrera is all heart and passion, and his agility and interpretive imagination exemplifies perfection.”
Ana María Ruimonte, soprano.
“Making this album has been a labor of love. It had been my dream of 40 years to travel to Cuba and immerse myself in the island’s music and culture. This album represents the culmination of three trips there during 2016 and 2017 with the brilliant and beautiful Spanish soprano, Ana María Ruimonte. Among the crumbling façades of Havana, we found much beauty and wonderful people and befriended the sweet Huberal Herrera, the greatest living interpreter of the beautiful and heartrending music of Ernesto Lecuona, arguably Cuba’s greatest composer. And we found a fine modern studio in PMRecords with the latest technology and an engineer, Adalberto “Berty” Hernandez, with a great ear. Such a wonderful opportunity to record this fantastic performance with an occasional nip from a small bottle of Habana Club to help me through the sometimes long sessions! I am grateful for the friendship and assistance of many people in Cuba without whom we could not have realized this project. It has been an honor to work with these exceptional artists and to present this music to you.”
Alan Lewine, producer, bassist and composer.
Translated from Spanish.
“Lecuona, born in Cuba, was a musician in love with Spain, where he developed a great part of his artistic life. The title of this album alludes to the fragrance and the ornamental importance of his adorable flowers, and the content includes some of the best- and less-known arias and songs. This CD shows us the work of a composer who, far beyond his hits Siboney and Malagueña, enters in an ample variety of styles permitting to enjoy his creative capacity, his talent, his communicability and furthermore, the sensitivity and intensity as a way to transmit the essence of melodies, for all publics. Among them, Siempre en mi Corazón is a highlight, and it was nominated for the Oscar to the best song in 1942. Ana María Ruimonte, a Spanish soprano living in the US – where she created a spectacle about the Spanish Baroque presented in 2014 during the Year of Murillo – ably employs her good qualities and entirely polished and well-timbered voice, while she caresses the lyrics and melodies with the impeccable reading of the Cuban pianist Huberal Herrera, who has earned most all available Cuban music awards, including the 2009 Honor Cubadisco Award, and who is renowned worldwide as one of the best interpreters of Lecuona."
Josep. M. Puigjaner, OPERA ACTUAL, number 214, June 2018.
Translated from Spanish.
“Rosas para Lecuona is an excellent selection of the work of the great Cuban composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona. The soprano Ana María Ruimonte gives all her voice in the project, performing the better-known lyrical pieces of the composer with complete technical control, showing her musical and vocal capacities, in both tessituras of soprano and mezzosoprano. Huberal Herrera, who accompanies her, is a huge researcher of the work of Lecuona, and performs the repertoire loyally. Herrera has in the past dedicated three recordings to the piano music of the maestro. Lecuona composed in different styles, including in his works an ample cultural content, while combine his Afrocuban origin with Spanish and American popular music. Among his huge number of instrumental works, songs and zarzuelas, these are highlights because of the unique musical style and the poetic beauty of the lyrics. Ruimonte and Herrera conform an excellent duo and render a commemoration to the great Cuban composer by performing his songs including Dame de tus rosas, Rosa la china, La señora Luna and María la O.
“In Dame de tus rosas we hear an evocative piece, slow and melancholy, accompanied by soft chords in the piano with a beautiful bolero melody.
“In María la O, which is the title song of a zarzuela, the piano carries a marked melody and a danceable rhythm while we perceive the African roots of the composer. It is a painteresque piece that invites us to go with it.
“Huberal Herrera performs brilliantly the Malagueña that the maestro Lecuona had composed for the suite Andalucía for piano, and it is very beautiful music that sounds like a mix of Andalusian, castizo and oriental.
Rosa la china is other great classic piece of the composer that Ruimonte and Herrera performs with great sensitivity and drama. The high notes of the piece highlight the soprano’s excellent control of her voice. The piece combines the singing with small sections with recited verse.
“Finally, Rosas para Lecuona balances a repertoire between the cultivated and the popular and that prooves the great sensitivity of the composer and his poetic and musical capacity.”
Ana R. Colmenarejo. Melómano. Number 243, July-August 2018, vol. XXIII.
Ernesto Lecuona y Casado (August 6, 1895 – November 29, 1963) was a Cuban composer and pianist of worldwide fame. He composed over six hundred pieces. Born in Guanabacoa, Cuba, a suburb of Havana, Lecuona studied at the Peyrellade Conservatoire in Paris under Antonio Saavedra, Maurice Ravel and Joaquín Nin. He graduated from the National Conservatory of Havana with a Gold Medal for interpretation when he was sixteen. He had his New York City debut in 1916 at Aeolian Hall.
Lecuona’s hit zarzuela, María la O, premiered in Havana in 1930. He was a prolific composer of songs and music for stage and film as well as the concert hall. His works consisted of zarzuela, classical works integrating Afro-Cuban and Cuban rhythms, suites, symphonies and many still-popular songs. These include Siboney, Malagueña and Andalucía (popularized in the States as The Breeze And I). His Always in my Heart (Spanish title Siempre en mi Corazón) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song in 1942, but lost to White Christmas. (Part of a musical family, his cousin Margarita Lecuona wrote Babalú, popularized in the United States by Desi Arnaz of The Lucy Show fame.) Ernesto Lecuona died in Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, his father’s homeland, and is buried in Hawthorn, New York not far from the Hudson River.
As Huberal Herrera says:
“I met Ernesto Lecuona in person in the 50’s. He was a tall man, his hair was black, with expressive eyes and a man of few words, but nice and accessible. In his house, where he was always surrounded by friends, there were often spontaneous performances where someone sang and others played piano. Once I was there and when he asked me, I sat to play… Afterwards, he sang my praises and asked me what I did. I told him that I had three university degrees, in legal specialties, and that I had also just finished my piano studies. He said he was impressed, especially since I was quite young at that time. Since that day, we started a great friendship… He gave me the opportunity to perform his pieces… He gave me advice that until today continues to add to my understanding of his pieces, and he favored me with a gift of some handwritten original pieces that I felt fortunate to premier.
Huberal Herrera, born in Mayarí in Holguín province of Cuba in 1929. In 1932 he moved to Havana and in 1936 he entered in the Conservatory Hubert de Blanck where he studied piano with Arcadio Menocal and solfège with Hortensia Rojas and graduated in 1944. In 1951, he earned his doctorate in Law from the University of Havana, and in 1954, obtained his Masters Degree in Administrative, Diplomatic and Consular Law from the University of Havana. He served in Cuba’s Tax Court until 1957.
In 1952 Huberal entered the Conservatorio Municipal of Havana, known today Amadeo Roldán, and studied harmony, counterpoint with Harold Gramatges and musical pedagogy with Argeliers León. In 1954 Huberal Herrera made his debut in concert at the Lyceum Lawn Tennis Club. From 1957 to 1959 he travelled on tour throughout Europe, Middle East and Asia. He studied Spanish music in Madrid with Juan Bernal.
Huberal Herrera was a founding member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), has received the Distinction “Nicolás Guillén”, as well as nearly every medal and distinction awarded to musical artists in Cuba, including the Gold Medal for National Culture, the Raúl Gómez García Medal, Medal of Literacy, the Commemorative Medal on the 40th Anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Revolution, the Distinction La Giraldilla, the Punta de Silex, Gitana Tropical, and Prize of Honor at Cubadisco 2009. He also taught for 26 years, receiving the Diploma of Merit and Gold Medal several times. During his nearly 70-year career, Huberal Herrera has appeared in concert outside Cuba many times, throughout the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe, as well as in Egypt, Lebanon, China, Korea, and the USA.
Huberal Herrera is acknowledged as the world’s leading interpreter of the piano music of Ernesto Lecuona, to the extent that in Cuba he is known as “El Lecuonista”.
In Spain, Huberal Herrera recorded the complete piano works of Ernesto Lecuona in 1999 for Spain’s General Society of Authors (SGAE) released to much acclaim on the Autor and Decca labels. His version of Lecuona’s La Comparsa was included on the Virgin Records compilation in 2000 The Best Cuban Album in the World . . . Ever!.
The composer and orchestral conductor Gonzalo Roig said:
“Huberal Herrera is a brilliant pianist possessing a beautiful sound like the greatest virtuosos of that instrument, who interprets the Cuban music as we always want to hear it.”
Ana María Ruimonte has performed in concert with the pianist Huberal Herrera at the Fine Arts Museum, Museum of Music and National Library in Havana, at the Museum of Music in Santiago de Cuba, at the Instituto Cervantes in New York, at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, at An Die Music in Baltimore, at the radio CMBF and TV in Havana and Radio Revolución in Santiago de Cuba. In 2017, she presented the CD in Madrid in concert with the pianist Alberto Joya, appearing in Radio Gestiona.
She performed with the maestro Huberal at the TV in Cienfuegos in January 2020.
“It has an exquisite presentation, the recording sounds great, the mix is fantastic, the maestro Herrera is incommensurable, and your voice and feeling, both precious. Everything is said about Lecuona now. Congratulations me.”
Julio Sánchez Andrade, professor of percussion at the Conservatory of Music in Oviedo, Spain.
“Your CD: very beautiful. It is very well done. The recording is great. Well, that is secondary. The main thing is that you sing very beautifully and the work of Huberal is magnificent. The piano sounds very good, the disc is really nice and I congratulate you for the selection of the songs of Lecuona – it is fantastic. I didn’t know some of them and there are two or three which are especially gorgeous. Very gorgeous songs.”
Aurelio de la Vega, composer and professor emeritus of composition at the University of California Northridge in Los Angeles.
“First of all, let me say that I was profoundly moved by your wonderful recording Rosas para Lecuona. Your unique and beautiful voice with the accompaniment by Huberal Herrera is truly wonderful. Hearing the songs really brought me back to my childhood when I used to hear my father (who was a wonderful pianist) play most of these songs by ear. As you know, on my cd I play” Siempre en Mi Corazon” as Lecuona played it on his 1954 NYC RCA recordings. It is so wonderful to hear how the original ideas were put together for voice and piano. Another of the songs that I am very fond of is Rosa la China. How wonderful to hear it for voice and piano as everything else on the album. Huberal does a great job accompanying you on these songs. I love when he plays the materials of the songs by himself how rich and beautiful his harmonies are. Down the road I will see if I can track down his recordings of all of Lecuona’s works that he did approximately 22 years ago. So, again, let me say, Ana Maria, that I was deeply moved by your album. Again congratulations for this marvelous CD ”Rosas para Lecuona”. Bellisimo !!!!”
Antonio Iturrioz. American Pianist.
“Ana Maria Ruimonte's languorously delivered Latin provision flowers forth like honey to the ear - Juventud is built on deeply personal notions that ultimately exact an almost spiritual response.”
The AKADEMIA, August 2018 WINNER - BEST SONG LATIN
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