Cuban pianist Iliana Morales has been hailed by critics and audiences worldwide as an artist of extraordinary sensitivity. She stands out among the pianists of her generation for her sheer versatility: renowned as a recitalist, orchestral soloist and dedicated chamber musician, she also teaches in music schools in Cuba, Mexico and Spain.
Born in Havana, into a family of musicians considered cultural icons in Cuba – an island known for its fusion of many different musical traditions – Iliana Morales was involved in all kinds of music-making from a very early age.
Her formal music education took her to her native city’s Instituto Superior de Arte (Universidad de las Artes), where she studied with distinguished pianist and academic Frank Fernández. She went on to graduate with honours in Piano and Piano Teaching Methodology and was awarded the course’s Artistic Merit Prize. Her training later gained an international dimension when she won a grant to study at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and was also able to attend masterclasses given by such eminent figures as Gabriel Chodos, Misha Dichter, Aquiles delle Vigne, and Herbert Stessin of the Juilliard School in New York.
In 1981 she won first prize in the Chamber Music category of the ISA music competition.
In 1982 she won first prize in the Piano category of the ISA music competition.
In 1985 she was presented with a prestigious music prize by Cuba’s then minister of culture, Armando Hart. That same year she successfully competed for a teaching post at Havana’s Amadeo Roldán Conservatory.
In 1986 she won a competition organised by Cuba’s Centro Nacional de Música de Conciertos, her prize including engagements as soloist and chamber pianist, as well as with the Brindis de Salas Chamber Orchestra. Her professional life flourished thereafter both in Cuba and beyond, as she took part in a range of national and international cultural events and performances.
In 1992 she was awarded a contract by the Instituto Chiapaneco de Cultura in southern Mexico to teach piano at the Universidad de Artes y Ciencias de Chiapas, and to give various concert tours, both as soloist and with her brothers Jesús and Alexander. Her work as both teacher and performer was recognised by distinctions and diplomas and by the creation of a piano department in the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a development which would have significant cultural repercussions for the local community.
In 1994 she decided to broaden her horizons in her second country and moved to Mexico City to take up a teaching post at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM); she taught there for the next seven years.
In parallel with her teaching work at UNAM, she was awarded a contract by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes enabling her to travel the country and perform as recitalist and chamber musician, as well as accompanying singers from the Bellas Artes opera company.
She also took advantage of the career opportunities available in Mexico City itself, appearing in international festivals hosted by the city, and performing at venues such as the Carlos Chávez Room at UNAM, the Manuel M. Ponce Room in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Auditorio Blas Galindo.
By 2002, Iliana Morales (whose mother was born in the Spanish region of Galicia) had moved to Spain. She made her debut in Madrid that year at the Juan March Foundation.
She also took part in a year-long series of educational concerts hosted by composer Tomás Marco, and was invited to take part in a recital series recorded by Radio Clásica, for which she performed Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, op.35.
That same year she fought off fierce competition to win a piano teaching position with the Comunidad de Madrid regional government. She did the same again to become an accompanist at the capital’s Royal Conservatory, going on to teach both there and at Madrid’s conservatorios profesionales (music schools for younger students) as a member of the governmental department of piano and chamber music.
As a solo performer, she has been invited to play at prestigious international festivals:
- En Blanco y Negro International Piano Festival (Mexico City; alongside artists such as Jorge Federico Osorio, György Sándor, Joaquín Achúcarro and Hélène Grimaud)
- American Liszt Society Festival, at which she performed a selection of Liszt’s Paganini études and lectured on his influence on Cuban piano music
- The Rafael Orozco International Piano Festival (Córdoba)
- The Havana Contemporary Music Festival, at which she has made various appearances, a particular highlight being her participation in the Cuban premiere of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire under the baton of conductor/composer Guido López Gavilán
- The Comunidad de Madrid’s “Summer Classics” festival – where she has been a regular guest performer
- International Festival of Sacred Music (performances at the Teatros del Canal and Auditorio de San Lorenzo del Escorial).
- Aspen Music Festival and School, United States, which saw her give a triumphant performance in the Harris Concert Hall.
She has appeared as soloist with The Nacional Symphony Orchestra of Cuba and the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra.
She has also made frequent appearances at events in Barcelona and Madrid sponsored by Spanish bank Caja Madrid.
In 2010, she was selected to give a recital at the Damascus Opera Hall, in Syria, at a concert of women representatives of various cultures.
IIn addition to her work as soloist and recitalist, Iliana Morales has been a keen chamber musician since childhood, when she played music with other members of her family.
As well as giving many concerts since then with her brothers – violinist Alexander Morales and xylophonist Jesús Morales – she has also created successful chamber partnerships with award-winning Cuban guitarist Aldo Rodríguez and Austrian-American clarinettist Roger Salander.
A lover of dance, who was delighted to have the opportunity of joining former principal ballerina of Cuban National Ballet Loipa Araújo to take part in an innovative dance event featuring music by Luigi Boccherini at the Auditorio Nacional.
She sang in a large-scale choral concert organised by the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.
Throughout the course of her distinguished career, Iliana Morales has toured Cuba, Spain, Mexico and Venezuela, as well as appearing in Nicaragua (Teatro Rubén Darío), Austria (Wiener Saal), and in the US cities of Boston, Chicago and Miami.
Having made several recordings for radio, TV and for Cuba’s EGREM label, she recently recorded her debut solo album, Elegy for a dream.
Recorded at Estudio FF Sonido in Cuba, produced by Frank Fernández and mastered by sound engineer Javier Monteverde of Cezanne Producciones, the album features key works by Schumann, Chopin, Ginastera and Gershwin.
Elegy for a dream will be released this year in Spain, Cuba, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Iliana Morales’ repertoire encompasses much of the classical piano literature, works by leading Latin American composers, and a wide range of chamber music.
She has also ventured into the world of jazz, having given the television premiere of Claude Bolling’s Concerto for jazz piano and classical guitar with Aldo Rodríguez and legendary Cuban bassist Jorge Reyes.
Iliana Morales has lectured on her work as both performer and teacher at the Conservatorio Superior de San Lorenzo del Escorial, Conservatorio Profesional de Granada and at various educational institutions in Latin America,
She is an active member of UNEAC (Cuba’s National Union of Writers and Artists).