As if 70 years means nothing, a few hours before celebrating his birthday, Cuban pianist Frank Fernandez promised to study and work harder to become better as an artist and a human being.
While critics from Europe, Asia and Latin America speak highly of the technical virtuosity of this man who started to learn music even before he had consciousness, Cubans identify his geniality for the passion diluted even in his more complex score. If an artist is fully committed with his work and is able to portray his temper to every performance; that’s Frank Fernandez.
Crowds applaud the interpreter and composer; a few people know his physical suffering due to many hours in front of the piano, the single exercise that makes his bones disappear and his soul flourish. His own family is amazed by seeing him study until 3:00 and 4:00 am, “someone that just a few hours earlier was suffering from strong pain, rubbed with some cream and ice in a seat meant for the lumbar area, but when he gets into his study he simply forgets he has a body”, said his oldest daughter, pianist Liana Fernandez.
This maestro insists: “My language is sounds and silences” and when one looks at him in the piano one can notice his pleasure in such travel among centuries, styles and genres. But Frank is also a sharp intellectual, capable of attracting with oratory and hitting with honesty and prickly rare decisions.
In spite of being an extraordinary pianist trained at Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory, framing him in a single musical style would be to obviate a large part of his career and contribution to the development of several genres and artists. He has been arranger, co-arranger, artistic assessor, producer and composer of pieces for films, soap operas, news, series, theater plays and dances, because according to him there is only one art, the difference lies in the quality of performances: good or bad.
Another great musician, Chucho Valdés, believes Frank is the most complete pianist in the country, and famous trova singer and composer Silvio Rodriguez recognized the value of his artistic and human maturity, which is decisive for his work and for the whole movement of the Nueva Trova.
In addition to spending five years in Russia, Frank became the first Cuban soloist to offer a concert with Moscow’s Philharmonic Orchestra. One year later, in 1976, he won the second place in the Teresa Carreño Piano International Contest, in Venezuela.
During the 80’s he made history as the first Latin American to perform the opening of the cycle “Grand Piano Masters” in Berlin, Germany. In Czechoslovakia, he was awarded with the “Golden Prague” by the Czech television and in the Democratic Popular Republic of Korea he received the “Best instrumentalist soloist” award in the Pyonyang festival.
Around these days, several institutions are paying homage to this maestro born on March 16, 1944, in the eastern part of the country in a town called Mayari, where he played the piano for the first time “by ear” at the Orbon Academy that his mother Altagracia Tamayo used to run.
During the early 21stcentury, the weekly magazine Slovo from Moscow authenticated him as the founder of the Cuban contemporary pianistic school given that he favored a historical turning point in the teaching of that instrument in the island.
He contributed with the formation from within Cuba of the first students awarded internationally, without having studied in the US or Europe.
At the age of 70, hundreds of prizes and multiple homages haven’t madehim settle, a musician whose melodies fill the daily life of Cubans, although many people are not aware of the fact that this magnificent composer and interpreter accompanies them so often.
As he confessed, another special moment in his career will be the opening of the Chamber Music Festival on March 25, at the Basílica Menor del Convento de San Francisco de Asís, a space he inaugurated in 1994.
On that occasion he will be joined by his two children, Liana and oboist Frank Ernesto Fernandez, who during the first part of the program will perform pieces written by their father.
This great teacher believes that art will be the next healer for all evils of the humankind. For good reason many of his pieces bring that hope that makes hundreds of Cubans regardless of their age and their physical and health conditions to try to overcome any obstacles to hear him play any time he announces a concert.