Havana Lyceum Orchestra – Opening Concert 2017

José Antonio Méndez Padrón, Founding Music Director,

Simone Dinnerstein, piano :

Carlos Fariñas
, (1934-202), Punto y Tonadas (1980-81)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, (1756-1791), Piano Concerto No.21 in C Major, K. 467 (1765) ‘Elvira Madigan’
I. Allegro maestoso
II. Andante
III. Allegro vivace assai
Simone Dinnerstein, piano


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, (1756-1791), Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488 (1786)
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro assai
Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Aaron Copland, (1900-1990), Appalachian Spring (1944)

The performance of the Havana Lyceum Orchestra has been made possible by a generous grant from Judith E. Naumburg.**

WQXR HOST: Jeff Spurgeon



This program is all about the joy of friendship and the possibility of communication between cultures and across time.

I spent my formative years studying in New York City with Dr. Solomon Mikowsky, a native Cuban who had emigrated to America in the 1950s. Cuba was a huge part of his life and it held such mystery for me.  Four years ago, at Solomon’s invitation, I finally visited. Imagine my joy on finding an ideal musical friendship with the young musicians of the Havana Lyceum Orchestra.

The two Mozart piano concertos that are at the core of this concert provide multiple opportunities for the expression of this friendship. They are among Mozart’s most ecstatically beautiful concertos, full of soaring melodies, but the most gorgeous moments are in the intricate dialogues between the piano, strings and woodwinds. This is also very spare music, which can move from light to dark with the change of a single tone.  Every note counts, as much in the timpani as in the piano, and this music can only live fully when each musician is listening to everyone around her.

Bookending the program are works by Fariñas and Copland. When we think of Copland we think of Appalachian Spring with its familiar mix of American folk music and the western art music tradition, but his enthusiasm for local rhythms and harmonies extended beyond the US. In 1941, Copland spent time visiting Cuba as a cultural ambassador and was captivated by traditional Cuban music, which he incorporated in the vibrant Danzon Cubano.

Carlos Fariñas was a Cuban composer who spent time studying with Copland at Tanglewood in the 1950’s.  Punto y Tonadas (Point and Tones, composed 1980-81), written for string orchestra, unmistakably evokes both the rhythm and melodies of Cuba and the influence of Copland’s open style. It is uplifting music, an overture that invites us to listen.

What is the thread running through the program?  An aesthetic that emphasizes singing melodic lines, a sense of optimism and the joy of musical dialogue woven through each. It is a perfect analog to the relationship between this particular pianist and this particular conductor and orchestra.
Simone Dinnerstein, April 2017

Simone Dinnerstein
Simone Dinnerstein is one of the most acclaimed pianists of her generation – called “an artist of true expressive force” by the Washington Post and “a throwback to such high priestesses of music as Wanda Landowska and Myra Hess” by Slate. The New York-based pianist gained an international following with the remarkable success of her recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which she independently raised the funds to record. Released in 2007 on Telarc, it ranked No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart in its first week of sales and was named to many “Best of 2007” lists, including those of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the New Yorker.

Dinnerstein’s performance schedule has taken her around the world since her acclaimed New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in 2005, to venues including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Philharmonie, Sydney Opera House, Seoul Arts Center and London’s Wigmore Hall; festivals that include the Lincoln Center Mostly Mozart Festival, the Aspen, Verbier and Ravinia festivals; and performances with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, RAI National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra a Sinfonica Brasileira and the Tokyo Symphony.  She was a student of Solomon Mikowsky, Maria Curcio and Peter Serkin and was an Astral Artist.

This season, Dinnerstein will release her new album, Mozart in Havana, recorded with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. The Orchestra will join her on tour in June, making their U.S. debut. Later this season, Dinnerstein will begin touring the premiere of a new concerto for piano and string orchestra written for her by Philip Glass. Also, in the fall of 2017, Dinnerstein will premiere and begin touring her collaboration with choreographer Pam Tanowitz, New Work for Goldberg Variations. Arriving on the 10th anniversary of Dinnerstein’s acclaimed recording, the work is a setting for piano and a septet of dancers.

José Antonio Méndez Padrón
José Antonio Méndez Padrón is the founding music director of the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. He has toured Canada, Spain, France, Austria, the U.S., Ecuador and Nicaragua, and five of his albums have received Cubadisco prizes in the past decade. Since 2011 he has been deputy director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Padrón is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Havana, Cuba, where he specialized in choral direction under María Felicia Pérez and orchestra direction under Jorge López Marín. He has taken advanced classes with important musical directors such as Jorge Rotter, Thomas Hengelbrock, Shalev Ad El and the master Ronald Zollman. In 2011, he studied at the Mozarteum University’s Summer Academy with Peter Gülke and the soloists of Salzburg Chamber Orchestra.

Havana Lyceum Orchestra
Cuba’s Havana Lyceum Orchestra was founded in 2009 in collaboration with the Lyceum Mozartiano de La Habana, an institution co-founded by the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation in Austria. It brings together students, recent graduates and professors from the University of the Arts, the National School of Music and the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory.

The Havana Lyceum Orchestra has quickly established itself as a central element of Cuba’s musical life. The Orchestra has performed extensively in Cuba and abroad to widespread critical acclaim. In 2015 the orchestra performed at Salzburg’s annual Mozart Week in collaboration with the celebrated Cuban flutist Niurka González for the first time ever in Europe. It records regularly in Cuba and has won a series of Cubadisco prizes for its work.