Mozart himself never went to Havana, but his music thrives there. WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports on a 2017 project of American pianist Simone Dinnerstein and a Cuban orchestra with ties to Vienna.
[Music: Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, Simone Dinnerstein and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra]
Susan Lewis: They had no recording studio large enough, so they used a church. The street noise was too loud during the day, so they recorded in the middle of the night.
Simone Dinnerstein: It was also extremely hot and humid—because we had to turn off air conditioning.
SL: Pianist Simone Dinnerstein.
SD: You could hear flies on the mike. We’d have to wait for them to go away. Towards morning, we started hearing birdsong.
SL: Dinnerstein was recording Mozart with the orchestra of the Mozart Lyceum of Havana, a school founded in 2009 in partnership with the Mozarteum of Salzburg. Dinnerstein’s own interest in Cuba goes back to when she was 9—studying piano with Cuban-born Solomon Mikowsky. Thirty years later, she went there to perform and then, again, to make a recording with an ensemble that impressed her with its extraordinary commitment.
SD: What I liked the most about their playing is that they listen; every change in the music created a response in them. And in Mozart’s music, it’s so changeable. I really learned so much by playing with them because of their sensitivity. I also felt that commitment to rehearsing—the subtleties that we were able to achieve by having worked on it in such a close way.
SL: Dinnerstein and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra recorded Mozart’s 21st and 23rd piano concertos and are now taking them on tour to other settings.