I am writing this at a time when Fidel Castro’s demise is being
predicted worldwide. I find myself wondering what will happen
in Cuba in the years to come. Especially I wonder about the development of
Cuban music and its composers. I speak as one who has visited
this incredible country and I will immediately say that an especially
joyous part of the Cuba experience was the music. There is a
relatively small chasm between ‘popular’ music, including dances
like the Salsa, and serious music which also uses dance forms.
Of course one can hear Beethoven and Brahms in Cuba
but I am speaking of contemporary composer/performers. In Cuba they are normally the same person and
that is certainly the case with Marietta Veulens. She is a superb
pianist as well a significant composer. I am now very sorry that
I did not get to hear her in London
on 1 April 2006
- a rare British performance.
learn from the booklet notes that she was born and trained
in Cuba but has been living in London since 1991. She is quoted as saying: “I was brought up in the traditions
of classical occidental music”. She also writes about the
importance of improvisation to her and her training. This
is all relevant in grasping the ‘cross-over’ qualities between
the music of her Cuban identity and the Western Music traditions
she now embraces.
we hear is a deep sense of longing and nostalgia, freely admitted
to in the last of these nine pieces ‘Tamobores de invierro’
said to show the “emotional expression that transports the
feelings for her origins and gives them, a new life in a new
Again the notes put it well: that she is now “inspired by
her experience in multicultural London”.
If you like Piazzolla
you will find him lurking somewhere here in her use of fairly
traditional often minor key harmony as well as in searching
and leaping melodies. If you like Ludovico Einaudi likewise
he is here in the meditative, minimalistic moods and the ecstatic
repetitious cadences. These it seems take an age, or more
finally to reach their close. Listen for example to the second
part of Desde la ventura, subtitled Devastation.
pieces are dramatic, for instance Musica de la No Guerra
which constitutes the work’s central panel. Here contrasting,
extreme dynamics and low and high sounds are juxtaposed to
create a sense of the defeat of war by a calculated peace.
Other sections are purely meditative like Campanas Consonantes
with its chiming, distant bell sounds. Gentle salsa rhythms
are also used. They often add to the mood of withdrawal, desolation
and loneliness which the composer mentions, as in De algunas
zonas del almas.
founded in 1992, is guided by the trusted hands of Odaline
de la Martinez - who has also translated the booklet notes
- successful conductor and promoter of women in music. Already
composers like Minna Keal and Nicola Lefanu have featured
on this label and long may this continue.
recording is adequate but is somewhat colourless and lacking
in atmosphere, sometimes a little congested. Don’t let that
that put you off though, because this is music with a strong,
distinctive yet withdrawn character, suitable for concentrated
listening or for dreamy contemplation. Well worth investigating.