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Alejandro García Caturla José Lezcano Masters of the Fin de Siècle
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Music and Politics in Cuba.


Discontented with the political realities of the 1920s, through their literary groups Cuban intellectuals began to explore other aspects of their national identity that had been either avoided or ignored until then. For the first time, a serious study was undertaken on the influence of Afro-Cuban culture on that country’s society. This interest was shared by a number of composers, most notably Amadeo Roldán (1900-39) and Alejandro García Caturla. The music of both is quite similar, though that of García Caturla tends to be more colorfully orchestrated. Though less well known, Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963) was a composer of this generation who was much more prolific. His catalog consists of over 600 compositions.

The most important figure of the succeeding generation of composers was José Ardévol (1911-81). His neo-classic style was promulgated by the “Renovation” music group, an organization that he created and populated with his finer pupils, such as Harold Gramatges (1918-2008), Edgardo Martín (1915-) and Argeliers León (1918-91). Each one approached composition by using contemporary European models while at the same time integrating the rhythmic, melodic and structural elements of Cuban folklore. Ardévol supported the Cuban revolution and was appointed head musical administrator of that country. The most important figure of the succeeding generation of composers was José Ardévol (1911-81). His neo-classic style was promulgated by the “Renovation” music group, an organization that he created and populated with his finer pupils, such as Harold Gramatges (1918-2008), Edgardo Martín (1915-) and Argeliers León (1918-91). Each one approached composition by using contemporary European models while at the same time integrating the rhythmic, melodic and structural elements of Cuban folklore. Ardévol supported the Cuban revolution and was appointed head musical administrator of that country.
The next generation of Cuban composers includes Nilo Rodríguez (1921-97), Miguel García (1926-81), Fabio Landa (1924-2003) and Juan Blanco (1919-2008), of whom Blanco was the first in Cuba to experiment with “musique concrète.” Aurelio de la Vega (1925-) is an avant garde composer whose later music has incorporated visual elements. He fled to California in 1959. The most famous composer to come out of this group, however, was Julián Orbón (1925-91), who fled Cuba in 1960. Leo Brouwer (1939-) is perhaps the most recognized modern Cuban composer because of his extensive output for guitar. His early works were nationalistic; lately he has been developing more avant garde techniques.

For more information about the music of this country, including links to conservatories, university music departments and other institutes and organizations, please see our country resource page for Cuba.

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