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Simone Dinnerstein on Mozart, Cuba, and Listening

Mozart in Havana is pianist Simone Dinnerstein's new CD, with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra

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.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about her fascination with Cuba and her experience performing and recording there.

[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.

Dinnerstein: What I liked the most about their playing is that they listen...

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.

Simone Dinnerstein and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra will be at Longwood Gardens on June 17th and the Barnes Foundation on June 19th.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.