There are probably any number of reasons American classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein chose to record this album, Mozart in Havana. Certainly, she has a deep and abiding love of Mozart and probably welcomed any opportunity to record the man's music. In addition, with the thawing of political relations between the U.S. and Cuba, she no doubt saw the album as a chance to help the political situation regardless of whether Cuba remained a Communist state. Third, she had performed at a music festival in Havana a few years earlier and surely welcomed the occasion of playing there again. But maybe the main reason is that her first piano teacher, Solomon Mikowsky, was a Cuban Jew of Polish descent who had grown up in Havana and told her stories of Cuba's many musical influences there. I'm sure there are other reasons she made the record, but let it suffice that the album is here and we have it for our enjoyment.
Ms. Dinnerstein (b. 1972) you likely already know. She burst onto the musical scene in 2007 with a well-received account of Bach's Goldberg Variations and has been going strong touring and recording ever since. Accompanying Ms. Dinnerstein on the present disc is conductor Jose Antonio Mendez Padron, the musical director of the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. Padron founded the ensemble in 2009, as the booklet note explains, "in collaboration with the Mozart Lyceum of Havana, "an institution co-sponsored by the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation in Austria. It brings together students, recent graduates and professors from the University of the Arts, the National School of Music and the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory." Moreover, "the orchestra has quickly established itself as a central element of Cuba's musical life."
Mozart completed the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488 in 1786. It is slightly more operatic in tone than No. 21, possibly because Mozart wrote it around the same time as The Marriage of Figaro. In any case, it has more surprises in it than does No. 21 yet remains as melodic as anything the man conceived. Although Ms. Dinnerstein adds her own dramatic touches, she remains above all sensitive and responsive in the music. The result is an energetic realization of the score, with a haunting and intriguing Adagio, followed by a joyful finale.
These are lovely interpretations that should displease no one. More important, perhaps, they should absolutely delight those fans who already appreciate Ms. Dinnerstein's music making.
Adam Abeshouse produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered the album, recording it at Oratorio San Filipe Neri, Havana, Cuba in June 2016. The first thing one notices about the sound is the hall ambience, with plenty of bloom around the instruments and a fair amount of resonance. However, it is not obtrusive but rather flattering to the music. The orchestra is modestly distant, the soloist perhaps a shade too close, the piano spreading out a little too much in from the other players. Detail and definition are on the soft side, while sounding natural and comfortable. Dynamics are also quite wide, providing an overall realistic listening experience.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow: