The music of Ernesto Lecuona embodies the feelings, rhythms and romanticism of a Cuba that left its mark. His name is equivalent with virtuosity and technical mastery, but also with a legacy that gives way to a prideful celebration that only grows with time.
On Wednesday, the Florida Orchestra will present a special program featuring some of his melodies as well as those by other famous composers from Europe and the Americas.
“Fiesta in Tampa,” part of Hispanic Heritage Month, will allow audiences to become acquainted with the work of a man who blazed a path for composers worldwide.
“It is an honor and a pleasure for The Florida Orchestra to be able to offer a concert inspired by Latin composers. The Latin culture has many influences and cultural enrichments not only in the Tampa Bay area and Florida, but in all parts of the United States,” said Henry Adams, spokesman for the orchestra.
“Something very special about this concert is that it will be a celebration of the music created by the great Cuban composer, Ernesto Lecuona, who lived right here in Tampa for the last three years of his life.”
Lecuona was born in Guanabacoa in 1895. Biographers and historians note his skills and musical interests made him stand out at a young age. He was barely 5 when he developed his disposition for music, an excellent ear for notes and devotion to the piano.
Lecuona produced more than 600 compositions, including popular songs such as “Siboney” and “María La O,” as well as piano arrangements, soundtracks and musical themes for plays. His extensive repertoire and compositions include a wide array of rhythms and urban influences.
He left Cuba in 1960 and moved to Tampa when he was 65. He died three years later during a visit to his father’s homeland, the Canary Islands.
Tampa resident Maruchi Azorin was a driving force behind this concert celebrating Hispanic heritage, garnering support from local business owners, including Columbia restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart.
“I believe this is the beginning of a new chapter so that we can continue sharing with new generations the many cultural contributions of Hispanics,” Azorin said. “The fact that the Florida Orchestra is with us opens a window for a very interesting cultural exchange.”
Gonzmart recalls the important role Lecuona played in his family.
“In 1945, my dad was the first violin of the Havana Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of Ernesto Lecuona when he met my mother, a recent graduate of Juilliard and a guest pianist for one of their tours,” he said. “My parents got married a year later, and the rest is history. I was born listening to the music of this great composer. If it weren’t for Lecuona, I wouldn’t be here today.”
The program includes a selection of Lecuona compositions, “Gitanerias,” “Andalucia” and “Malagueña,” which form the Andalusia Suite, plus works by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, French composer Emmanuel Alexis Chabrier and Manuel de Falla.
The concert will conclude with Lecuona’s “Danzas Afrocubanas,” including “La Comparsa” and “Danza Lucumí.”