NWSA lends tribute to legendary Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona, with two-day concert featuring masterpieces from his world-acclaimed repertoire

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mratmiroffOn the 50th anniversary of his death, New World School of the Arts (NWSA) will pay homage to legendary Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona. The first in the NWSA Latin Music Legends series, the two-day concert is hosted by NWSA dean of music Dr. Milton Rubén Laufer, featuring Soprano Marina De Ratmiroff, pianist Ciro Foderé, and The New World School of the Arts Chamber Orchestra, Directed by Brent Mounger.
 
Ernesto Lecuona concert takes place on December 14, at 8:00 PM and December 15 at, 3:00 PM. Koubek Center Auditorium, 2705 SW 3rd Street, Miami. General admission is $20. Students and seniors $10 with discount codes (Students: GROUP50 / Seniors: SENIOR).

“The goal of this concert is to preserve the works of these masters,” said Laufer. “Our mission is not only to educate our students, help them hone their craft and foster their passion for the arts, but also to offer them a legacy to which they can relate. We want them to discover and explore this music and keep it alive - whether they ultimately devote themselves to it as performers or listeners.”

 
As the organizer of the NWSA Latin Music Legends series, Laufer’s involvement in the concert is akin to a “curator of an art exhibition.” “It wasn’t about choosing readily available music scores. For this particular concert we have had to do extensive research and field work since Ernesto Lecuona’s original music is so difficult to find,” explained Laufer who will be playing the complete Suite of Andalucia on the piano, accompanied by the NWSA Chamber Orchestra. In addition, Laufer will be offering short lectures on the individual music offered during the concert and will highlight their significance. He will also discuss the process of “modifying” some of it for simultaneous interpretation on piano and orchestra. The Suite includes: Córdoba, Andalucia, Alhambra, Gitanerías, Guadalquivir and the ever-popular Malagueña, which premiered at New York's Roxy Theatre in 1927.
 
“One of the most interesting pieces we will present is Escucha al Ruiseñor,” explained Laufer, who will be performing the four-minute piece on piano alongside De Ratmiroff. “It is rare to obtain a copy of this score because not only was it pressed in Cuba, but it is also out of print.” Imitating the sound of a nightingale bird, Lecuona wrote Escucha al Ruiseñor for legendary Cuban coloratura soprano, Rosario Garcia Orellana. Without a copy of the original music, Laufer began the arduous process of penning the score by hand, listening to an original 1930s recording. Most recently, however, he was able to secure a hand-written photocopy of the original music, allowing him and De Ratmiroff more time to rehearse and prepare for the more historical / educational portion of the concert.
 
Also in the repertoire is Rapsodia Negra, which Ernesto Lecuona premiered at the Cuban Liberation Day Concert at Carnegie Hall on October 10, 1943, and dedicated to Carmelina Delfín. One of the three works Lecuona wrote for piano and orchestra, this piece is a “mosaic” of themes from zarzuelas by Lecuona. With his sister Ernestina, who also appeared as pianist, the concert received exceptional mentions by The New Work Times, who hailed his work “clean-cut and brilliant”. Rapsodia Negra will be presented on two pianos, featuring NWSA faculty member and respected pianist Ciro Foderé.
 
Ernesto Lecuona was a Cuban composer and pianist who lived from 1895 until 1963. Born in Havana Cuba, of Canarian and Cuban descent, he was a child prodigy who attained worldwide respect and recognition for his contribution to music. Hailed as the Cuban Gershwin, he is credited with raising Cuban music to classical status. Lecuona, who at the age of five had mastered five songs including La Mersellesa and the Cuban national anthem under the tutelage of his sister Ernestina Lecuona, also a recognized pianist, gave his first concert when he was just five. He composed his first song at the age of 11 – Cuba y America, a two-step, which became part of the repertoire of Cuban military bands. A prolific composer of songs and music for stage and film, Ernesto Lecuona composed more than 400 songs, 176 piano pieces, 50+ theater works, 31 orchestral scores, half dozen compositions for piano and orchestra, 3 violin works, a trio, 5 ballets and 11 film scores. Lecuona graduated from the National Conservatory of Havana with a Gold Medal for interpretation when he was seventeen.
 
Dr. Milton Rubén Laufer leads the music division at New World School of the Arts. He served for 10 years on the music faculty at Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he held the Phoenix Professorship in Fine Arts and was Artistic Director of the Manning Chamber Music Series. While in North Carolina, he founded and was ExecutiveDirector of the Sir Walter Raleigh Festival of Music, the only festival in the United States that is part of the British and International Federation of Festivals. In addition, Laufer worked as a senior consultant for the music technology firm, Zenph Sound Innovations and served on juries for music festivals in Germany, China, and throughout the United States. A Fulbright Scholar, Laufer has conducted extensive research in Spanish piano music. He is recognized internationally as a leading performer and scholar in this area, and his recent editions of Isaac Albéniz’s 3 Improvisations for Piano and La Vega by are published by G. Henle Verlag of Munich and available worldwide. Currently he is writing the book, "The Pianist's Guide to the Repertoire of Spain." Milton Rubén Laufer has recently released recordings on the Beauport Classical and Zenph Studios record labels.
 
Marina De Ratmiroff, Coloratura Soprano, has performed internationally to critical acclaim in operatic roles including Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), The Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflote), Norina (Don Pasquale), and Olympia (Les Contes d'Hoffman). Her singing has been described as 'warm, with dazzling flexibility and a playfulness that is captivating' (Star News).  A native of Venezuela, Ms. De Ratmiroff is a dedicated and respectedartistic ambassador of Spanish and Latin music. She recently presented a series of recitals and lectures championing Zarzuela and Latin/Spanish Art Song in New York City, Granada (Spain), and Madrid. Equally comfortable with contemporary music, Ms. De Ratmiroff performed the world premiere of Midnight Hour by Vladimir Horowitz (The Unknown Horowitz: New Insights into the Man and his Music, by Sherrill Martin), and interpreted new music with composer, Daniel Bernard Roumain, in which she 'added an iridescent thread to the texture, especially her gorgeous vocalise in “Black Man Singing.”' (Classical Voice of North Carolina). Ms. De Ratmiroff holds artist diplomas from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome, Italy) and the Accademia Chigiana (Siena,Italy) where she studied with Renata Scotto, Raina Kabaivanska, and SylvanaBartoli. She earned a Master of Music degree in Voice Performance from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is the founder of the Cape Fear Opera Company and the vice president of theWilmington Concert Association, one of the oldest presenting bodies in the United States. Currently, Ms. De Ratmiroff serves on the voice faculty of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her debut album featuring Spanish and Latin-American song with pianist Milton Rubén Laufer will be released on the Naxos record label during 2015. This is her Miami debut.
 
Ciro Foderé has been teaching at New World School of the Arts since 2007 and is the pianist of the South Beach ChamberEnsemble, Miami Symphony, and the Florida Orchestra. As the First Prize winner of the XIV Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofieff International Competition, Ciro Foderé’s latest performances have been described as “masterful, electric, by turns fiery and lyrical” by The Post and Courier, and as featuring “technical sheen articulation, alert dynamic shading, and an imaginative approach” by The Miami Herald, which also raves, “edge-of-the-seat thrilling.” In addition to soloing with both major orchestras in Uruguay, he has performed the Liszt and Gershwin concertos with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Ignat Solzhenitsyn and David Stahl. He also performed the Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Paganini with the New World Symphony (NWS) and the Rachmaninoff Third with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. Other orchestras he has performed with include the Sendai Philharmonic, Philharmonic of Extremadura, Symphony of the Americas and Florida Philharmonic. Foderé was the First Prize winner at the Eastern Division MTNA.  He received his BM in 1998 from the College ofCharleston and completed his fellowship at the New World Symphony, an organization that featured him regularly in Miami. In addition to accompanying leading musicians like Joshua Bell and Renee Fleming, and working under Michael Tilson Thomas’s tutelage, Foderé participated with members of the NWS in Santa Cecilia, Rome, Perugia, and Carnegie Hall in New York.  
 
Brent Mounger is the Wind Ensemble Director at New World School of the Arts, and from 2007 until 2011 he served as Director of Bands at Coral Reef Senior High School. While at Coral Reef the Wind Ensemble received national acclaim and was invited to perform at the 2011 National Concert Band Festival. Under Mounger’s direction, the Coral Reef Senior High band program received Superior ratings at District and State Jazz and Concert Assessments. Brent Mounger is the Bass Trombonist with the Miami Wind Symphony, a professional Wind Ensemble in South Florida. His professional membershipsinclude: the College Band Directors National Association, the National BandAssociation, the Music Educators’ National Conference, the Florida Music Educators’ Association, the Florida Bandmasters Association, and Phi Mu Alpha. Brent A. Mounger received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Stetson University.
 
New World School of the Arts is Miami’s premiere eight-year arts conservatory. Music students receive one-on-one instruction from accomplished musicians and grow through disciplined guidance and training as they develop their personal style and repertoire. Through its educational partnerships, NWSA’s audition-based programs, accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art, Dance, Music and Theater, offer the high school diploma as well as the BFA and BM college degrees. Areas of concentration in Music include:composition, performance, instrumental, piano, strings and voice. New WorldSchool of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature in 1984as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts. It is an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida.
 
For more information about New World School of the Arts please visit http://nwsa.mdc.edu or call 305-237-3135.
For information about themusic program at NWSA, or about this concert, please call the music hotline at 305-237-7855.
 
PHOTOS: Marina De Ratmiroff by Logan Wallace. Photo courtesy of NWSA.