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Guitar Music from Cuba: Cancion De Cuna - Guitar Collection
Edward SIMON (b. 1969)

El manicero (The peanut seller)
Nico ROJAS (b. 1921)

Guyun - El maestro
En ebra del Yumuri (In Yumuri Bay)
Francito y Alfonsito
Gujarat a mi madre (Guajira for my mother)
Carlos FARINAS (1934-2002)

Cancion triste (Sad song)
Aldo RODRIGUEZ (b. 1955)

Harold GRAMATGES (b. 1918)

Suite breve
Leo BROUWER (b. 1939)

Cancion de cuna (Berceuse)
Ojos brujos (Bewitching eyes)
Hector ANGULO (b. 1932)

Cantos Yoruba de Cuba
Marco Tamayo (guitar)
Recorded at the St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, from 17-20 January 2002 DDD
NAXOS 8.555887 [65:31]


This recital from Havana-born Marco Tamayo provides a fascinating insight into the influences on Cuban guitar music. We are informed that Cuban culture is an accumulated blend of Spanish colonial rule which ended in 1901, religious influences from various émigré populations and the more recent exposure to North American culture. It is these multi-faceted influences which have significantly shaped the direction of music which contains an amalgam of jazz, blues, traditional European Classical and Romantic music, Afro-Caribbean rhythms, twentieth century harmonies et al. In short it has to be appreciated that Cuban music contains a immensely colourful and diverse mixture of influences.

Cuban by birth and Austrian by adoption Marco Tamayo proves himself to be a fine guitarist. His playing is rather understated which seems to assist the mood of the music, with more subtlety than flamboyance, more sensitivity than grit; unaffected rather than pretentious. Tamayo leaves the listener with a real sense of ‘a soloist at one’ with this repertoire from his homeland. The only one of the seven composers on this release that I am familiar with is Leo Brouwer who acted as a music spokesman for the Revolution and is arguably Cuba’s best known composer.

For the most part I did not find this Cuban music for guitar to be thrilling or uplifting but rather moody, reflective and accessible. Mainly uncomplicated in expression and relying on mood painting rather than melodies, it is difficult to classify stylistically. The lyricism is more restrained than the guitar music from Spanish composers such as De Falla, Tarrega, Torroba, Albeniz et al. It is no coincidence that my two favourite works on the release were the ones which were the most melodic, namely Edward Simon’s El manicero (The peanut seller) and Brouwer’s Cancion de cuna (Berceuse).

No problem with the sound quality here and the release has interesting and informative annotation. An exceedingly well performed release from Naxos but not one that I will be revisiting for a while.

Michael Cookson

see also review by Patrick Gary

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