The fourth edition of the Meeting of Young Pianists, celebrated in Old Havana, has just finished. Once again it has been a great event that is not as visible as it is valuable. Between concerts and orchestral recitals the stages in the Historic Centre that are frequently used for music – the Sala Ignacio Cervantes, the Minor Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Martí Theater – vibrated for twenty days.
26 multiple award winning young pianists from Armenia, China, Belorussia, South Korea, Russia, Egypt, the United States and Cuba offered music lovers works from different periods, styles and trends that make up part of the personal piano repertoires of the most demanding international audiences .
Foreign players were mostly pupils who have been, for four consecutive years, the architects and patrons of this unprecedented project. It is about the Cuban teacher Gadles Mikowsky Solomon, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music. The Office of the Historian of Havana, the Office of Musical Heritage Esteban Salas, the Direction of Cultural Management, the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, the Mozartian Lyceum of Havana and other institutions have joined the effort.
Cuban of soul and birth, Mikowsky often traversed the city with their new students and educated them about our material and spiritual heritage. With nostalgia and pride he tells them it was born outside Capitolio.
A student of César Pérez Sentenat, and therefore heir to the Cuban piano legacy, after winning a scholarship at the Juilliard School in 1955 he decided to stay in New York. Over nearly fifty years of a teaching career across various institutions like New York University and University of the Arts in Philadelphia he has produced artist of international importance, which, according Benjamin Saber’s book, has made him one of the most popular piano teachers in the United States.
To his sustained philanthropic efforts towards Cuba we owe the donation of two Steinway grand pianos, located in the Martí Theater and the Sala Cervantes, and also the restoration of the instrument belonging to the late Cuban composer Harold Gramatges that is in the Great Hall of the San Geronimo College of Havana.
A product of his doctoral thesis at Columbia University (1973), his book Ignacio Cervantes and dance in Cuba, published by Editorial Letras Cubanas in 1988 and recently reissued by Editorial Bologna, is a thorough study of the nineteenth century Creole savia works of said composer, bearers of national heritage and expressions of Cuban national identity, which Solomon has also taught his students to play.
Among these students are, the Egyptian Wael Farouk, Russian Alexandre Moutouzkine and Beliakovich Alexandra, South Korea’s Kim Khowoon, Chinese Yuan and Yuan Jie Sheng and American Edward Neeman, who have been habitual presences at the Havana event. Some tackle the interpretation of other Cuban classics like Ernesto Lecuona, and contemporary piece such as those of Juan Piñera. Works which, in addition to demanding technical rigor, demand an understanding of native rhythms of the Cuban identity.
The Meeting of Young pianists has thus becomes space presentation of the latest creations of established and new Cuban composers that the teacher Mikowsky carries in his portfolio to continue teaching his students in New York. Some of them have even played in the auditoriums of their native countries.
One of the most important pieces of work at this fourth event was offered the singer Simonne Dinnerstein, an artist signed exclusively to Sony Records, who has been mentored by Mikowsky since she was eight years old. Dinnerstein got her record company go to the grounds of Mozart Lyceum of Havana to record with the Symphony Orchestra of the Cuban Higher Institute of Art (ISA); an ensemble of which, Mikowsky has said is at the same level as youth orchestras in the most important centres of musical in the United States.
The Meeting of Young Pianists came to revitalize the dialogue with successful international concert pianists that had declined with the disappearance of Ignacio Cervantes Competition and Piano Festival in 2009. For the Cuban students it has meant getting up to date and in contact with current trends in techniques of interpretation.
It was also an opportunity for virtuoso Cuban pianists Patricio Malcolm, Aldo López-Gavilán, Ahmed Alom, Karla Martinez, Lisa Maria Blanco and Isabel Mesa, (some of whom are resident in the country and others who are scattered around the world) to come to Havana. In doing so they are following the example of compatriot Solomon Mikowsky, to show their art, honouring teachers who are representatives of the Cuban piano school, blurring boundaries and enlightening the great city that as saw them born as artists.