Catasauqua Press

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23, Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23, Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown

The National Symphony of Cuba to play rare Lehigh Valley concert

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 by JERRY DUCKETT Special to The Press in Focus

The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, founded in 1959, has given more than 3,000 concerts at home and internationally since its first performance Nov. 11, 1960, in its permanent home, the Teatro Auditorium Amadeo Roldan in Havana's Vedado district. Included in the orchestra's travels have been Russia, Poland, Peru, Yugoslavia, Nicaragua, Spain, Martinique and Argentina.

The National Symphony of Cuba has previously only performed twice before American audiences.

This year, Cuba's national treasure is taking part in a multi-year exchange project with the Florida Orchestra, on its first tour of the United States, which begins in Kansas City and concludes in Tampa, Fla., with a concert, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23, Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown.

The concert program is "Cuban Overture," Gershwin; Symphony No. 4, Mendelssohn; and Symphony No. 5, Beethoven.

Enrique Pérez Mesa is Music Director. Guido López-Gavilán is Guest Conductor.

The history of symphonic music in Cuba dates to the 18th century. Cuban Cathedrals in Havana and Santiago and included "music chapels," made up of a small number of singers and instrumentalists.

Estebam Salas, a Cuban composer of religious vocal music, expanded the music program in the late 1700s by adding a small orchestra at the Cathedral of Santiago. During the 1830s, the first symphony orchestras were established, financially supported by foundations and with on-going programming.

The Symphonic Orchestra of Havana, founded in 1922, maintained a concert schedule for the first year, but concerts soon were few and far between, with the orchestra disbanding by the late 1940s.

The Philharmonic Orchestra of Havana, founded in 1924, maintained a regular schedule until 1958.

The two orchestras had quite a rivalry, which greatly benefited Cuba's classical music scene at the time.

In 1959, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Havana became the National Symphony of Cuba.

During its 34 active years, the Philharmonic was host to many internationally-recognized conductors, including Eugene Ormandy, George Enescue and Jose Iturbi, and featured internationally-known names guest soloists like Marian Anderson, Jascha Heifetz, Andres Segovia and Isaac Stern.

Mesa, born in Matanzas, Cuba, is one of Cuba's most internationally-renowned conductors. He graduated the Escuela National de Artes, Havana, with a specialty in violin, and received a degree in conducting from the Instituto Superior se Arte.

His career began in 1991, while working with the Symphony Orchestra of Matanzas. In 2002, he was named adjunct director of La Orquesta Sinfonica National de Cuba and began collaborating with Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonzo on works, including "Swan Lake" and "Carmen."

Lopez-Gavilan's compositions have received awards in many of the most celebrated competitions in Cuba, and he is the president of the annual Havana Festival, which is dedicated to contemporary music.

He is also the chairman of the Orchestral Conducting Department at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. He has been a guest conductor at the New Music Festival, Winnipeg, Canada; the Inter-American Composers Seminar at the University of Indiana, the Oregon Bach Festival, and the American Composers Orchestra's Sonidos de las Americas Festival, New York City.

The orchestra features pianist Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera.