Thursday, May 24, 2018
Features and More

Florida Orchestra's cultural exchange brings 'Rhythms of Cuba' to bay area

BY JOHN FLEMING

Times Performing Arts Critic

The Florida Orchestra's audience is in for something different this weekend when the guest conductor is Enrique Perez Mesa, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, making his U.S. debut — indeed his first visit to the United States — in three masterworks concerts.

Perez Mesa's appearance is part of the orchestra's multiyear cultural exchange with Cuban musical institutions, and his concert program mostly includes unfamiliar music from the island republic and elsewhere in Latin America.

Two of the works are by Cuban composers: Preludio para Penthesilea, a 1977 work by the late Carlos Farinas, and Ritmotiv (2006) by Guido Lopez-Gavilan. Here's what Perez Mesa said about them in an email exchange I had with him before he arrived Monday in Tampa. His answers were translated from Spanish by Henry Adams, associate director of marketing and communications with the orchestra:

"(Farinas and Lopez-Gavilan) are two of the Cuban composers most representative of the musical vanguard in the Americas, both with a very solid academic training. The works have excellent orchestration where the tonal resources and possibilities of the orchestral instruments are exploited brilliantly, especially the percussion instruments, which re-create Cuban rhythms in masterful way."

Also on the program are Cubanitis, a work for orchestra and timpani soloist by James Lewis, a retired USF music faculty member who was inspired by his first visit to Cuba in the 1990s; and Huapango, a work by Mexican composer Jose Pablo Moncayo that is thought of by many as his country's "second national anthem."

The one non-Latin or non-Latin-inspired piece on the program is the Russian composer Prokofiev's evergreen Classical Symphony, and that has a Cuban connection in the sense that until the fall of the former Soviet Union, it and the island nation had a close relationship for decades. By email, I asked Perez Mesa if there had been many Russian teachers in Cuba who passed along things like string playing technique.

"Of course there is a relation with the Russian school which was a great help academically in the (early years of the revolution)," the conductor replied.

The whole world knows and loves Cuban popular music and jazz, I said in another question to Perez Mesa. "Listeners are not so well acquainted with Cuban classical music. What is the relationship between Cuban classical music and jazz and pop music?"

"Cuban classical music has a very rich history from the time of our nationalistic fathers Ignacio Cervantes and Manuel Saumell forward to the violinist José White, Ernesto Lecuona, Amadeo Roldán, Alejandro García Caturla, etc.," he replied. "Furthermore, at the beginning of the 20th century the Philharmonic Orchestra of Havana grew stronger being directed by such emblematic figures as Erich Kleiber. It was common to see the most important soloists of the time passing through the Amadeo Roldan Auditorium. It is interesting to appreciate the level of our popular music and jazz since those musicians are trained in our academies and all of them come from our arts educational system. It is there that the relation exists between them (classical and jazz and pop)."

Comments
Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women have accused actor Morgan Freeman of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior on-set, at his production company, and during press junkets, according to a report.CNN reports that 16 people have spoken out against Freeman’s alleged misco...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

TAMPA — The Ballet Nacional de Cuba performed Giselle, its signature ballet, on Wednesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Fifty-four dancers charmed a packed house, culminating in about two hours an effort that took more tha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Lakeland’s a little out of the way, but I’m always eager to check out the bar scene there when passing through or attending an event. Every place I’ve visited just seems so pleasant.I regret missing the boat on the city’s first brewery, Lakeland Brew...
Updated: 2 hours ago
tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

The saga of Barley Mow Brewing Company and its eventual offshoot/successor Sea Drift Ales & Lagers is a complicated one. The most interesting part is how the latter came to be as a result of brewery-distributor tensions, in which Barley Mow pulled an...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Caladesi Island’s "crystalline quartz" sand and "sparkling clear" water left an impression on Dr. Beach, who ranked it in his annual list of the country’s top 10 beaches.Dr. Beach, or Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, is a professor and director for the Lab...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

It’s where former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams had lunch with current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.It’s where University of South Florida fans often gathered to watch the program’s biggest road games.It’s where folks showed up in...
Updated: 8 hours ago
In New York City, following in David Bowie’s footsteps

In New York City, following in David Bowie’s footsteps

NEW YORKThere are few artists who merit a true pilgrimage — a concerted attempt to walk in the footsteps of greatness — but if there’s one luminary worth traveling for, it’s David Bowie.With the final stop of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s experien...
Published: 05/24/18
9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

It’s hard not to think of the Forrest Gump line: "One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months." If you are looking for something to do while the current deluge continues, we have some suggestions. There are obvious choices, like ma...
Published: 05/24/18
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Our editors' picks for things to do this weekend.
Published: 05/23/18