Ernesto Lecuona

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Ernesto Lecuona

Ernesto Sixto de la Asunción Lecuona Casado (Guanabacoa, Cuba, August 6, 1895-Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canarias, November 29, 1963) was an interpreter and composer of Cuban music.

Ernesto_Lecuona’s Biography

Son of journalist Ernesto Lecuona Ramos, who was originally from the Canary Islands, who settled in Cuba, began studying piano under the tutelage of his sister Ernestina. He was a child prodigy. He gave his first recital at age 5, and at 13 he made his first composition, the two step march entitled Cuba and America for concert band.

He studied at the Peyrellade Conservatoire with Antonio Saavedra and the famous Joaquín Nin. He graduated from the National Conservatory of Havana with a gold medal in interpretation when he was 16 years old. Outside Cuba he began his career at the Aeolian Hall (New York) and continued his studies in France with Maurice Ravel. He introduced the first Ibero-American orchestra in the United States: the Lecuona Cuban Boys.

He is considered one of the most outstanding Cuban musicians.

Together with Gonzalo Roig and Rodrigo Prats, he forms the most important trilogy of composers of the Cuban lyric theater and especially the zarzuela. The most important contribution of Lecuona to the theatrical genre is the definitive formula of the Cuban romance.

Among his works are the zarzuelas Canto Siboney, which is part of his work La tierra de Venus; Charming Damsel that is integrated into zarzuela Lola Cruz, Devils and Fantasies, El Amor del Guarachero, El Batey (1929), El Cafetal, El Calesero, El Maizal, La Flor del Sitio, Land of Venus (1927), María la O (1930) and Rosa la China (1932); the songs Canto Carabalí, La Comparsa and Malagueña (1933), belonging to his suite Andalucía; his works for dance, Dance of the Ñáñigos and Dance Lucumí & nbsp ;; the opera El Sombrero de Yarey (whose whereabouts are unknown), the Black Rhapsody for piano and orchestra, as well as its Spanish Suite. It gave classically defined form to the Cuban zarzuela in terms of gender and style, which due to its dramatic and musical achievements is very close to the opera. Some of the zarzuelas mentioned here are the only Latin American productions that have been integrated into the repertoires in Spain. In 1942 his composition Siempre en mi corazón was nominated for the Oscar as a song; White Christmas was chosen instead.

In 1938 he acted in the Argentine film ¡Adiós, Buenos Aires! directed by Leopoldo Torres Ríos. In 1960, with the triumph of the communist revolution in Cuba, he moved to Tampa, United States. The dissemination of his musical work was given by many musicians and conductors; such is the case of director Xavier Cugat, of Spanish origin. It is necessary to recognize that his friend and artistic collaborator Orlando Martínez, as well as the Cuban pianist and musicologist Odilio Urfé, devoted important efforts to the collection and dissemination of his work. The truth is that the press and criticism-both foreign and the courtyard-were always favorable to Lecuona.


Tomb of Ernesto Lecuona in New York.

Three years later he died in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, during a vacation to discover his father’s homeland. His remains rest in the cemetery of Gate of Heaven, in Hawthorne, New York.

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