BROUWER: Estudios sencillos / Tres apuntes / Cancion de cuna (Bonnie Kraft/ Ricardo Cobo) (Naxos: 8.553630)
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One of the few Cuban composers to gain international recognition, Leo Brouwer was born in Havana in 1939. He became a fine guitarist and had his first composition published at the age of 17. He subsequently moved to the United States and was enroled in the Juilliard School to study composition. On his return to Havana he worked for the radio and was later appointed composition professor at the Havana Conservatory.
Initially we find folk music inspiring his compositions, but he later embraced the most advanced West European avant-garde techniques while founding a new Cuban school of composition.
That largely changed at Juilliard where he came under the influences of the most avant garde composers, such as Cage, Nono and Henze, which were to stimulate his later works.
He has since written a number of large scale works, including concertos for flute and for guitar, though his name is best known in the field of solo guitar music.
Most of the music comes from the early part of his life, when he declares an Afro-Cuban influence. This description may have been politically wise, but listening to these 35 tracks you will find central European influences - and particularly Spanish - predominating. It is all very suited to demonstrating the guitar, sometimes poetic as in the twelfth of the Simple Studies, or brilliantly aggressive as in the opening study. And never has a title of a work been more misleading as these are very demanding and would be studies for advanced students.
The works mainly come from his highly productive early period (1954-1970), and though his documentation can at times be somewhat sketchy, the items on this disc are essentially from 1956 to 1958, the latest being the Elogio de la danza (Homage to the Dance), a rather smoochy pair of dances from 1964.
Ricardo Cobo had a 'baptism of fire' when his first professional performance with an orchestra was televised throughout his native Colombia. He had studied in the United States, and proved to be an exceptional young guitarist, winning every major prize the country has to offer for that instrument. Among the awards he has received is the Guitar Foundation of America prize, the first time a South American has been awarded the honour.
In 1990 he made his European debut with concerts in Spain, and his Asian debut two years later.
He now shares his time between Colombia and the United States where he serves on the Artist Faculty of Temple University.
In common with many new Naxos recordings, this disc has been made with 20-bit technology for improved sound definition. It was recorded in St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Canada, during August 1995.