The New Listener – Cuban festivities

On March 10th Cuban concert pianist Yamilé Cruz played musical creations from Europe and Cuba within the context of the piano cycle organised by Piano Fies Riemerling. The program started with Carnival Jest from Vienna Op. 26 by Robert Schumann followed by the first book from Isaac Albéniz‘ Iberia. The second half was dedicated to Cuba, in addition to seven dances by Ignacio Cervantes one could listen to the Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona, a combination of Europe and the ‘New World’.

The sequence of concerts of Piano Fies is following a development towards an ambitious major project. Where at the beginning only a few interested were listening to the sounds of established musicians, now the little concert hall in Riemerling (although they changed to a bigger Room) is always packed up and the waiting lists are long. Closeness to the audience is capitalized and the atmosphere is familiar, almost intimate.

Tonight it was Yamilé Cruz Montero shining up in this relaxed surrounding and putting her spell on the audience with her Euro-Cuban program. The introduction classically was done by professor madam Bianca Bodalia from the musical academy Munich, giving a look into the presented creations with charm and expertise about the presented creations.

At the beginning we met with an highlight of concert literature, Carnival Jest from Vienna Op. 26 by Robert Schumann, integrated by high virtuosity and buried by tonal and musical challenges. The first bars are an immediate surprise, because Yamilé Cruz Montero doesn’t launch herself unrestrained into commotion nor is using full power from the beginning. Setting out step by step she doesn’t overspend already at the first rush, but is creating a continuity which carries the listener all through the opus. In this way is arising a huge curve that is embracing the whole work – it is articulated like one only big arc of suspense that opens along a large range closing just as naturally again. So the drollery gets stringency and organic coherence far from the disorientation frequently to overcome.

Not less amazing Yamilé Cruz Monteros’ performance of the Iberia Suite whose first book she plays. This suite sounds familiar in its impressionist dreamy manner shaped by an effective absence of contours and resplendent colours. Such nebulous excitement seems to go against the grain of the Cuban soul of the pianist, while she is chiselling clearly the rhythmic nuances, giving conciseness and tangible form to the three pieces. There is also a place for an enormous wealth of colours which is not distributed arbitrarily but concentrated into an uniform flow. At the same time Yamilé Cruz Montero develops a wide spectrum of dynamic intermediate tonalities, only the pianissimo range would still be expandable downwards (this always remains difficult to estimate so that also the rows at the back may still hear each tone, and furthermore it could be that not every grand piano can offer an endless range in this regard). In Iberia she demonstrates all the perfection of her touch which indeed has the power of a lioness but correlates at the time with a delicate manner and is always adapting to the requirements of the music.

In the second half of the concert program Yamilé Cruz Montero celebrates a true home game as the works of the Cuban composers are in her blood (the performed pieces in this part will be published together with others on a compact disc on the Grand Piano Label at the end of the year). Ignacio Cervantes integrated forty-one dances into a cycle from which we heard seven tonight, fanciful miniatures of exuberant vitality, entangled with rhythmic refinement and scurrilities which are amazing to the ears of European listeners. More virtuoso and rather familiar to classic models appears the music of Ernesto Lecuona, who is regarded as the Cuban Gershwin. The Suite Andalusia of six movements combines Cuban awareness of life with Spanish attitude and the ambition of a great classical composition. Yamilé Cruz Montero is merging as intensely into the organic life of the music as in the case of Schumann or Albéniz, plays with delicate consciousness of form an structure without neglecting the lyrical moment at the same time, entrancing with incredible rhythmic conciseness. She´s just a great musician.

[Oliver Fraenzke, March 24, 2017]

The New Listener – Magical, authentic, emotional. Yamilé Cruz Montero and Christos Asonitis playing Cuban music

Yamilé Cruz Montero, Cuban pianist born in 1985 in Havana plays works of Cuban compatriots in northern Munich cultural centre Mohr-Villa in Freimann in some parts accompanied by greek drummer Christos Asonitis. Apart from contemporary compositions – among them two really tricky ones by cuban female composer Tania León and two own compositions of Mrs Cruz Montero – she played also classics by Ernesto Lecuona and as encore the only creation from the 19th century by Ignacio Cervantes.

Yet recently the-new-listener.de reported a concert, in which Yamilé Cruz Montero exclusively performed contemporary works of female composers, below them various first releases. And even in this moments her actuation full of seriousness, filigree tactfulness, rhythmical groove and natural vocality was astonishing. By the way she started the concert in the Mohr-Villa – in its more indifferent acoustics using a Hohner Grand Piano of some limited capability of modulation but not too unsatisfying characteristics – by that remarkable Danzón of Keyla Orozco, living in Holland and that two virtous numbers Momentum and Tumbao by Tania León, that had been already part of her recent program. And is was a pleasure to listen how these works are maturing under her hands. As new parts followed by Reencuentro by 1958 born composing piano virtuoso Ernán López Nussa, now in decent and collaborating collaboration with Asonitis on his drum set. One may be astonished of the wonderful way of concordance of both musicians and a music not only built on traditional caribbean elements kept swinging not only in its delicate tenderness but unfolding by the way its improvising beauty. A music carried by a tasteful sensivity that you would like to enjoy pleasantly again at any time. Still before the recess followed some variations for piano solo about a (deeply romantic) theme of Silvio Rodríguez composed by 1950 born Andrés Alén, who once earned his spurs as pianist. It could be noticed in this cycle that he had studied the big examples of the genre very carefully and in one variation it seemed that Brahms was really making a flying visit. Although the work has a little scholastic effect and isn’t supported by a continuous arc of suspense, Yamilé Cruz Montero used her best endeavours to inspire the continuous life impulse on the not so convincing evolution of the work.

Something more to wish: she should add some more information about the over here totally unknown composers in her introducing explanations.

After the break concerning duration, content and stylistic completion initially followed the main work of the evening the only Cuban work of no Cuban origins: the six suited work Andalucia of Cuban national composer Ernesto Lecuona. Here Yamilé Cruz Montero could unfold her full musicianship at its best, using finest tonalities and irresistible rhythms, playing a music that anyway likes to cause pleasure and is waiting only for someone to place full hearted engagement and forces of expression in its services. Especially enchanting the movements Alhambra and Malagueña and very particularly the vitality of Gitanerias. After that we waited expectantly for two compositions of her own pianist work: an unsophisticated, astonishingly fine spun and in its advancements absolutely powerful piece that appeared absolutely coherent in its relation of ability and desire. Then again under collaboration of the drums the extract of theatermusic El dragón en la luna [The Dragon in the Moon] with many detonating moments, but rather a skilful fitting of different moments. Both of them offered then El pájaro carpintero [The woodpecker] by afro Cuban jazz musician Aldo López Gavilán, enthusiasticaly received by the numerous public which had really got “in roll” with that music and made no move to get out and to go home. After all followed once again Lecuona, this time with a Cuban dance in collaboration of the too strong acting drums (drowning out too much the deep registers of the piano), finishing with Yamilé Cruz Montero solo with a popular classic by Cervantes.

Both artists earned the enthusiasm they met. Christos Asonitis is a drummer as imaginative as inconspicuous, highly sophisticated and widely awaked, eliciting an abundance of sound shades and doesn’t slip off into mechanical routine. And for Yamilé Cruz Montero there are the best wishes based in really much more than in her definitely enchanting appearance! She represents what we miss very often on stage: a consistently sincere human being and authentic artist without any pretension and surely too human and modest within the “elbow business” of the star cult business of the world of classic music, but touching and authentic in all what she is doing. She definitely has the potential for a virtuoso of distinction and we are remaining curious for all the things that she will find out for us in the future.

[Lucien-Efflam Queyras de Flonzaley, May 9, 2016]

 The New Listener – Aus der weiblichen Perspektive (in German language)

…Eine wahre Entdeckung ist die Pianistin Yamilé Cruz Montero, die durch hochmusikalisches und sehr feinfühliges Klavierspiel beeindruckt. Trotz des leicht schepprigen und nicht ganz lupenrein gestimmten Flügels erschließt sie ungeahnte Nuancen in der Musik. In all den divergierenden Kompositionen und bei dem ganz unterschiedlichen musikalischen Gehalt sucht und forscht sie, um überall das Bestmöglichste entstehen zu lassen. Sogar dem glissandoüberlaufenden Acqua entlockt sie feinste Schattierungen und eine perlige Geschmeidigkeit, die ihresgleichen sucht. Fantastisch ist Cruz Monteros Gespür für Rhythmik, die stechend scharf und trotz immenser Herausforderungen vollkommen präzise ist. Respekt gebührt ihr auch alleine schon für die Tatsache, sich so sehr für Neues und Unbekanntes einzusetzen, eine solche Anzahl an Uraufführungen von hoher Komplexität auf sich zu nehmen für einen Auftritt in kleinem Rahmen…

“Fantastisch ist Cruz Monteros Gespür für Rhythmik, die stechend scharf und trotz immenser Herausforderungen vollkommen präzise ist”

[Oliver Fraenzke, March 16, 2016]