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Frank Fernández: “Only two types of music exist: good or bad”

The virtuoso Cuban pianist prefers wonder to perfection and, because of this, he is editing an album of live recordings from a concert by the Orquesta del Instituto Superior de Arte.


Frank Fernández revista Cuba
Frank Fernández. Revista Cuba

Martha Sánchez


“I value the emotion of live sound. Perhaps it’s not perfectly clean like in a studio, it can have some mistakes, but the emotional charge forges an artistic result of great quality”, says the maestro, a graduate of the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory.

The main protagonist of the album is his son, Frank Ernesto Fernández (first oboist of the Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba) and includes some pieces for oboe and piano, including three romances composed by Fernández Snr for the two instruments. The oboist and his sister (Liana María Fernández) at the piano, share one of the works entitled “El canto del silencio” (“The song of silence”).

“For this I am only the composer and the album also includes pieces like “Oblivion”, by Astor Piazzolla, a trio by Francis Poulenc with the participation of Carla Martínez, an excellent pianist that obtained a scholarship at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, and Abhram, a young photographer”, the producer explained to Prensa Latina.

Cuba y el experimento pixabay 4For Frank, in some way this is a family album. In the Adagio by Zipoli his wife, the experienced cellist Alina Neyra, intervenes as a soloist, and once again, José Antonio Méndez directs the Orquesta del Instituto Superior de Arte, together with the Havana Lyceum Mozartiano.

“We did the recording in San Felipe Neri and being an old church, has a cathedral-like sound, the reverb a little excessive, but the emotional charge and the transmission of the mood of the orchestra, soloists and audience alike, arouse a spiritual heat that isn’t achieved on cleaner recordings”, he explains.

Simultaneously, Fernández is working on his own phonogram of live concerts, of which he prefers not to give too much away, and on the debut opera of a young singer which will include tunes such as “Amor”, by Pablo Milanés, “Gracias a la vida”, by Violeta Parra, and “Vete de mi”, by Homero and Virgilio Espósito, amongst others.

“One of the most unique aspects of the album is the cover that we did of the famous tango by Carlos Gardel, Volver, where we incorporated a bolero rhythm and it sounds amazing”, he assures.

Cuba y el experimento pixabay 2Fernández does most of the song arrangements, although on this album other orchestrators and arrangers participate, such as Luis Llaguno, Pancho Amat and Frank Ernesto Fernández.

For the composer and pianist, only two types of music exist according to quality: good or bad. He dismisses other divisions.

Over decades of his professional career, Fernández demonstrated that he could play concertos by Beethoven or Mozart, or just as well accompany a pop singer like Dany Rivera, or be the producer for Silvio Rodríguez or Adalberto Álvarez, amongst other colleagues.

According to Fernández, he simply assumed an attitude of respect towards good music and didn’t deny himself of doing any kind of genre.

“What was at one time sacrilegious (it wasn’t accepted by everyone) now the majority of audiences do not only accept it, but they request it”, he observes.

“I think that the lack of inhibition with which I faced my work over many years has won me endearment. Audiences ask for popular pieces with the same fervour and hope of enjoyment as when they hear me play Ave María by Schubert, with which I start practically all of my concerts”, he says.

ciclo musica gotico hombre soledad nostal pixabayThis work gives him peace of mind and he thinks that it prepares the audience for something extraordinary.

At the same time, he makes it clear that he plays an instrumental cover of the work, because the composer originally wrote the piece for voice and piano.

“I studied a great arrangement by Frank Lizt, but I found it too virtuosic, too brilliant, and I decided that in the first part I would transcribe what Schubert wrote; the right hand essentially does what the singer would do, the left hand accompanies”, he specifies.

“While the piece goes on, I incorporate pianistic elements into it, but without letting the harmony disappear, nor the original melody by Schubert. I try to do a cover without falling into autobiography, and I maintain the spiritual world of the work; secluded, intimate and passionate”, he explains.

Many of his compositions have been selected for staging classical and contemporary choreographies in numerous American countries. (PL)

(Translated by Sarah Claman)  Photos:  Pixabay


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