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ELENA CASANOVA MUSIC

ENSUEÑOS DE CUBA

THE PROJECT

The idea for this album came to me when my two young children were taking piano lessons. As they were developing musically, I became obsessed with giving them diverse musical experiences. I myself had expanded from a classical musical upbringing into other improvisational forms and it had been a natural process. I was puzzled by my ability to blend in with the different styles without having a complete understanding of the genres as I collaborated with jazz musicians.

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In 2011 on a family trip to Florida we visited my dear conservatory piano teacher, Marilola, who I consider my musical Mother. While we were talking about music for children , she brought out a series of books I recognized from long ago. Memories of being seven years old, studying at the music conservatory in Cuba came flooding back. One book particularly stood out and that was the “Miniaturas Ritmicas Cubanas”. The composer, Maria Matilde Alea, who I often saw at the conservatory, wrote these pieces for the students and they are still now considered part of the early education pedagagoy core in Cuba.

Alea received many awards in her career from the Ministerio de Cultura in Cuba and consistent international recognition – but not nearly as much as she deserved. As a little girl I played the Guajira, Ritmo de Son, Canción de la Esclava, Bolero, and many more and I loved them. Little did I know the importance these formative works would play in my musical career. Cuban classical musicians the world over are recognized for their rhythmic connection and their ability to apply rhythm and meter to different genres of music. I find that it is not only because of our Afro-Cuban roots, it is because of the training we received. Thje roots are important, the early education was crucial, but the tools that we were given from our teachers are extraordinary.

This was my Aha! Moment. Ensueños de Cuba is a nostalgic musical travelogue of not just Alea, but of the many Cuban composers and teachers that shaped my musical career. This is my gift to my children – honoring the roots, honoring the composers and honoring the teachers that provided the musical diversity that shaped me as a teacher, performer and Mom!

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Elena Casanova – Ensuenos de Cuba – Danzon LeGrand

Buy Album and Individual Tracks

NameAlbumPriceBuy

Ensueños De Cuba

Ensuenos de Cuba$15.00

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 44 – Apasionada

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 43 – Entre La y Re

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 42 – Palomita Blanca

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 41 – Senora Santana

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 40 – Danzon LeGrand

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 39 – Son

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 38 – Guajira

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 37 – Dancita de Ayer No.4

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 36 – Dancita de Ayer No.3

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 35 – Dancita de Ayer No.2

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 34 – Dancita de Ayer No.1

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 33 – Viene el Cabildo

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 32 – Se Oye un Tambor

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 31 – Ritmo de Son

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 30 – Paseo en el Campo

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 29 – Fantasia en Son

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 28 – Guajira

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 27 – Asi soy Yo

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 26 – Pionerito Alegre

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 25 – Fiesta en el Batey

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 24 – Cancion del Esclavo

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 23 – Cancion de la Esclava

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 22 – Bolero No. 3

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 21 – Bolero No. 2

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 20 – Vitrales de mi Casa

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 19 – Tristeza junto al mar

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 18 – Fiesta

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 17 – Una Tarde de 1800

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 16 – La Tedezco

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

ELENA CASANOVA – Ensuenos de Cuba _ Daydreams of Cuba – 15 – Lamentos de Amor

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

Track 14 – La Nina Bonita

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

Track 13 – La Paila

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

Track 12 – El Somaten

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

Track 11 – La Luz

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

Track 10 – La Kalunga

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.99

Elena Casanova – Ensuenos de Cuba – Danzon LeGrand

Ensuenos de Cuba$0.00

REVIEWS

ConcertoNet.com

“As I play my life today
For those who come from far away
I cherish every path I’ve walked
For it made me what I am today.”

– Brian Hanson and Adrian Hanson

This snippet from the poem, “Daydream”, gives significance to pianist Elena Casanova who has provided us a remarkable journey through music of past and present Cuban composers that made an indelible impression upon her form, style and verve. Elena Casanova is one of those rarified artists, bringing forth her independent sense of musical imagination and warmth of music from this island nation. She was classically trained at present-day named Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, Cuba’s premiere musical institution. After launching her successful career, Mlle Casanova decided to reflect upon many of the compositions she grew up with during her tutelage. “Ensueños de Cuba” is a lovely pastiche created by composers relatively unknown to Americans that burrow into the rhythmic heartbeat of Cuba’s landscape.

Sixteen composers encompass this CD, yet the “thoughts” inside each of them is refreshingly distinct. Most of the selections last for a minute or two; therefore, this souvenir is a trove of “mini-vignettes” describing a mood, a thought, a location or an action. Andrés Alén, the only living composer included on this album, presents one of the most fabulous pieces that Elena Casanova performs with moving ease: Danzón LeGrand (an unusually long composition relative to the others) is persuasively rich in sentiment with bits of lemon twists along the way…it’s unpredictable, edged with Art Tatum-like jazz, contemporary and simply delightful!

Some composers, however, such as César Pérez Sentenat, provide broad brushes of civility and pensive politeness. Conversely, the opening selections by Ernesto Lecuona reflect upon Louis Gottschalk and Creole cadences. Manuel Saumell’s segments colorfully turn to depictions of a mere object or a simple conception.

Elena Casanova’s diction is genteel, connected and straight-forward, instructional in parlance so that she doesn’t fall into the trap of over-embellishment. As an example, while René Touzet’s Entre La y Re brings forward the right hand casually tinkling away at a melodic line, the closing Apasionada is draped inside well-tempered elegant grandeur. Elena Casanova easily flows through the variegated layers of emotion in these 44 pieces.

As Cuba’s island opens up more broadly, “Ensueños de Cuba” makes one dream further, and one day, perchance, to experience the island’s energy and color in all its glory. Now MSR Classics provides one more reason to visit. So unique!

Highly recommended!

– Christie Grimstad

 

Ensueños De Cuba (Daydreams of Cuba) - Elena Casanova, Piano MS1786

An instrument with a longstanding association with multiple forms of expressiveness is the piano, and just how far pianistic moods stretch can be seen, or rather heard, on a recent release from MSR Classics.

The piano can, of course, express moods through miniatures as well as large-scale pieces – in fact, some of the attraction of Robert Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes and similar works comes from their use of small-scale pieces that, in totality, become part of a larger canvas, the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

In some piano music, though, small pieces are entirely self-contained and are designed to encapsulate just one feeling, attitude or thought. Elena Casanova offers a heaping helping of them on a disc called Ensueños de Cuba, which has no fewer than 44 tracks lasting 70 minutes – meaning the average piece here is just about a minute and a half long.

Yet the works are quite evocative within their limited time span – and all of them speak of Cuba, its history and turmoil and beauty and grace and above all its dances.

Casanova was born in Cuba, and for her this recital is a tribute to her homeland – but for anyone of any background, it will evoke feelings of nostalgia and memory even if the specific memories Casanova celebrates through this material are not a listener’s own.

The composers here will scarcely be household names for a wide audience, with some of them so obscure that not even their birth and death years are known. They include Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963), perhaps the best-known; Miguel Faílde Pérez (1852-1921); Pedro Garcia (dates unknown); Silvano Boudet (1828-1863); José Fernández de Coca (dates unknown); Gaspar D. Villate (1851-1891); Felipe B. Valdés (dates unknown); Jorge Anckermann (1877-1941); Enrique Guerrero (1818-1887); Manuel Saumell (1818-1870); Maria Matilde Alea (1903-1989); Maria Emma Botet (1903-?); Harold Gramatges (1918-2008); Andres Alen (born 1950); Cesar Perez Sentenat (1896-1973); and Rene Touzet (1916-2003).

Their works are quite different, but are united in this recital by their encapsulation within a very short time span of a single feeling, desire, emotion or hope. Sometimes the time of a work is very short: Botet’s four Dancitas de Ayer last a total of two-and-a-half minutes – all four combined. Saumell’s Seis Contradanzas are somewhat lengthier, their total time being 12 minutes, but again they give the impression of being here and gone quickly, leaving only a wisp of melody and feeling behind.

The longest work on the disc, 19 minutes, is Alea’s Miniaturas Ritmicas Cubanas No. 2, but in keeping with the approach of the entire CD, it contains no fewer than 17 movements.

Casanova plays the whole disc with nicely understated technique, bringing out emotions without laying them on too thickly, allowing the composers’ evocations of Cuba to flow naturally and pleasantly from one to the next.

The material may be a bit much for non-Cubans to sit through from start to finish: there is a degree of repetitiveness in the evoked feelings and, to some extent, in the style of some pieces from similar time periods. But it is perfectly possible to dip into the disc for a while, go do something else, and return to it to pick up where you left off – resuming an evocative musical program that shows the piano’s ability to bring forth a pleasantly nostalgic set of thoughts, feelings and moods.

– Mark J. Estren

Ensueños De Cuba - Elena Casanova - MS1786

On the MSR CD “Ensueños de Cuba,” Elena Casanova shares inspirations from her student years in Havana where she first studied piano before coming to California to further her education and become a performing and recording artist.

Casanova’s CD includes 44 short-but-vital piano works from sixteen different composers, the longest being four minutes and forty-two seconds. Each of these works is highly rhythmic, revealing what has made Cuban music, with its Afro-Cuban roots, so distinctive in the world.

As a result, the recording’s pieces flow together into a complete listening experience, while Casanova plays them lovingly and joyfully, recalling her discovery of them as a student and why they remain her inspiration.

Included are sixteen selections composed for students by one of Casanova’s mentors in Cuba, Maria Matilda Alea. I confess this recording has become intoxicating for me, such as it is eat a great meal prepared by a master chef, a bite at a time, or to enjoy the first sip from a glass of fine wine, leading to many more. The rhythms of this music Casanova has so skillfully and passionately rendered may grab hold of your soul, allowing you to become Cuban for a while – the mark of a great pianist!

“Regarding Elena Casanova’s CD, ‘infectious’ or ‘intoxicating’ might apply, especially with repeated listening.”

– Joel C. Thompson

ConcertoNet.com

“As I play my life today
For those who come from far away
I cherish every path I’ve walked
For it made me what I am today.”

– Brian Hanson and Adrian Hanson

This snippet from the poem, “Daydream”, gives significance to pianist Elena Casanova who has provided us a remarkable journey through music of past and present Cuban composers that made an indelible impression upon her form, style and verve. Elena Casanova is one of those rarified artists, bringing forth her independent sense of musical imagination and warmth of music from this island nation. She was classically trained at present-day named Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, Cuba’s premiere musical institution. After launching her successful career, Mlle Casanova decided to reflect upon many of the compositions she grew up with during her tutelage. “Ensueños de Cuba” is a lovely pastiche created by composers relatively unknown to Americans that burrow into the rhythmic heartbeat of Cuba’s landscape.

Sixteen composers encompass this CD, yet the “thoughts” inside each of them is refreshingly distinct. Most of the selections last for a minute or two; therefore, this souvenir is a trove of “mini-vignettes” describing a mood, a thought, a location or an action. Andrés Alén, the only living composer included on this album, presents one of the most fabulous pieces that Elena Casanova performs with moving ease: Danzón LeGrand (an unusually long composition relative to the others) is persuasively rich in sentiment with bits of lemon twists along the way…it’s unpredictable, edged with Art Tatum-like jazz, contemporary and simply delightful!

Some composers, however, such as César Pérez Sentenat, provide broad brushes of civility and pensive politeness. Conversely, the opening selections by Ernesto Lecuona reflect upon Louis Gottschalk and Creole cadences. Manuel Saumell’s segments colorfully turn to depictions of a mere object or a simple conception.

Elena Casanova’s diction is genteel, connected and straight-forward, instructional in parlance so that she doesn’t fall into the trap of over-embellishment. As an example, while René Touzet’s Entre La y Re brings forward the right hand casually tinkling away at a melodic line, the closing Apasionada is draped inside well-tempered elegant grandeur. Elena Casanova easily flows through the variegated layers of emotion in these 44 pieces.

As Cuba’s island opens up more broadly, “Ensueños de Cuba” makes one dream further, and one day, perchance, to experience the island’s energy and color in all its glory. Now MSR Classics provides one more reason to visit. So unique!

Highly recommended!

– Christie Grimstad

 

Ensueños De Cuba (Daydreams of Cuba) - Elena Casanova, Piano MS1786

An instrument with a longstanding association with multiple forms of expressiveness is the piano, and just how far pianistic moods stretch can be seen, or rather heard, on a recent release from MSR Classics.

The piano can, of course, express moods through miniatures as well as large-scale pieces – in fact, some of the attraction of Robert Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes and similar works comes from their use of small-scale pieces that, in totality, become part of a larger canvas, the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

In some piano music, though, small pieces are entirely self-contained and are designed to encapsulate just one feeling, attitude or thought. Elena Casanova offers a heaping helping of them on a disc called Ensueños de Cuba, which has no fewer than 44 tracks lasting 70 minutes – meaning the average piece here is just about a minute and a half long.

Yet the works are quite evocative within their limited time span – and all of them speak of Cuba, its history and turmoil and beauty and grace and above all its dances.

Casanova was born in Cuba, and for her this recital is a tribute to her homeland – but for anyone of any background, it will evoke feelings of nostalgia and memory even if the specific memories Casanova celebrates through this material are not a listener’s own.

The composers here will scarcely be household names for a wide audience, with some of them so obscure that not even their birth and death years are known. They include Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963), perhaps the best-known; Miguel Faílde Pérez (1852-1921); Pedro Garcia (dates unknown); Silvano Boudet (1828-1863); José Fernández de Coca (dates unknown); Gaspar D. Villate (1851-1891); Felipe B. Valdés (dates unknown); Jorge Anckermann (1877-1941); Enrique Guerrero (1818-1887); Manuel Saumell (1818-1870); Maria Matilde Alea (1903-1989); Maria Emma Botet (1903-?); Harold Gramatges (1918-2008); Andres Alen (born 1950); Cesar Perez Sentenat (1896-1973); and Rene Touzet (1916-2003).

Their works are quite different, but are united in this recital by their encapsulation within a very short time span of a single feeling, desire, emotion or hope. Sometimes the time of a work is very short: Botet’s four Dancitas de Ayer last a total of two-and-a-half minutes – all four combined. Saumell’s Seis Contradanzas are somewhat lengthier, their total time being 12 minutes, but again they give the impression of being here and gone quickly, leaving only a wisp of melody and feeling behind.

The longest work on the disc, 19 minutes, is Alea’s Miniaturas Ritmicas Cubanas No. 2, but in keeping with the approach of the entire CD, it contains no fewer than 17 movements.

Casanova plays the whole disc with nicely understated technique, bringing out emotions without laying them on too thickly, allowing the composers’ evocations of Cuba to flow naturally and pleasantly from one to the next.

The material may be a bit much for non-Cubans to sit through from start to finish: there is a degree of repetitiveness in the evoked feelings and, to some extent, in the style of some pieces from similar time periods. But it is perfectly possible to dip into the disc for a while, go do something else, and return to it to pick up where you left off – resuming an evocative musical program that shows the piano’s ability to bring forth a pleasantly nostalgic set of thoughts, feelings and moods.

 – Mark J. Estren

Ensueños De Cuba - Elena Casanova - MS1786

On the MSR CD “Ensueños de Cuba,” Elena Casanova shares inspirations from her student years in Havana where she first studied piano before coming to California to further her education and become a performing and recording artist.

Casanova’s CD includes 44 short-but-vital piano works from sixteen different composers, the longest being four minutes and forty-two seconds. Each of these works is highly rhythmic, revealing what has made Cuban music, with its Afro-Cuban roots, so distinctive in the world.

As a result, the recording’s pieces flow together into a complete listening experience, while Casanova plays them lovingly and joyfully, recalling her discovery of them as a student and why they remain her inspiration.

Included are sixteen selections composed for students by one of Casanova’s mentors in Cuba, Maria Matilda Alea. I confess this recording has become intoxicating for me, such as it is eat a great meal prepared by a master chef, a bite at a time, or to enjoy the first sip from a glass of fine wine, leading to many more. The rhythms of this music Casanova has so skillfully and passionately rendered may grab hold of your soul, allowing you to become Cuban for a while – the mark of a great pianist!

“Regarding Elena Casanova’s CD, ‘infectious’ or ‘intoxicating’ might apply, especially with repeated listening.”

– Joel C. Thompson