Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Forbidden Songs, Forgotten Treasures-The Canciones Líricas of Cuba, Part II

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Forbidden Songs, Forgotten Treasures-The Canciones Líricas of Cuba, Part II

Article excerpt

PART I OF THIS ARTICLE discussed seven Cuban composers, born between 1800 and 1910. Presented in Part I were the problems involved in the research of this document-the unavailability of this repertoire due to the US/Cuba trade embargo, the difficulties of legal travel to Cuba, and the dearth of Cuban representation in song anthologies. This article completes the exploration of Cuban canciones líricas, providing biographic entries of Cuban composers born from 1910 to 1977. Included here are comprehensive listings of art song repertoire and Interlibrary Loan holdings. Contact information for many of these composers is provided in the entries.


José Ardévol Gimbernat (1911-1981), composer and pianist, was born in Barcelona. His father was musician and conductor Fernando Ardévol, with whom José studied at the Academia Ardévol, graduating in 1929. He spent the next two years in Paris where he studied piano and conducting, and he counted among his friends Igor Stravinsky and Heitor Villa-Lobos, among others. When Ardévol moved to Havana in December of 1930, he met Amadeo Roldán, Alejo Carpentier, and other important Cuban musicians. Ardévol performed as a concert pianist, became an active member of The American Association of Composers, and in 1934, founded the Orquesta de Cámara de la Habana (Chamber Orchestra of Havana). Two years later, Ardévol was named professor of music history at the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de La Habana. When Roldán fell ill in 1938, Ardévol replaced him as professor of orchestration and composition at the Conservatorio Municipal, now the Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán. He taught there until 1961, influencing the next generation of Cuban musicians, including Gisela Hernández, Hilario González, and others. Ardévol also taught at the Conservatorio Internacional, the Conservatorio Orbón, and the Conservatorio Hubert de Blanck y Mateu.1

In the 1940s, Ardévol began to receive national and international attention as a composer. John Cage premiered his Preludio a Once at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC in May 1943, and in Havana, the Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical performed his ballet Forma with Ardévol conducting. In the next decade, his Tríptico de Santiago was performed in Caracas, Venezuela, at the First Festival of Latin American Music (1954). When Castro came to power in 1959, Ardévol served as Cuba's head music administrator.2 His vocal works from this period are pro-Communist, setting Revolutionary texts.

Ardévol's compositions are characterized by polytonality, rhythmic complexity, serialism, and neoclassicism. Ardévol composed about 130 works in a variety of genres, including seventeen piano sonatas, a ballet, several concerti, symphonies, a few vocal works, and works for chamber ensembles.3 Although many of his instrumental works are accessible through ILL, of his vocal works, only Versos sencillos and "Ay señora, mi vecina" are listed on WorldCat.

"Ay señora, mi vecina" (Nicolás Guillén, poet)

Dos cantigas de loores a Santa María (Arcipreste de Hita, poet)

Hasta el son sangrando, cantata de cámara núm. 1 (Cintio Vitier, poet), soprano, piano, or soprano, guitar, xylophone, vibraphone, three percussionists

Versos sencillos (José Martí, poet)

"Yo no puedo olvidar"

"Por la tumba del cortijo"

"¡Penas! ¿Quién osa decir que tengo yo penas?"

"Ya sé: de carne se puede hacer una flor"

"Yo tengo un amigo muerto"

"Cultivo una rosa blanca"

"Yo quiero salir del mundo por la puerta natural"

Gisela Hernández Gonzalo (1912-1971), composer, was born in Cárdenas where she began her musical studies at the Santa Cecilia school. Beginning in 1928, she enrolled at the Bach Conservatory and at the Conservatorio de Música y Declamación, both in Havana. In 1940, Hernández registered for classes with José Ardévol at the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de Habana (now Amadeo Roldán Conservatory), joining his composition students in the Grupo de Renovación Musical. …

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