The “regality” of the Royal Academy of San Fernando (Madrid)
My performances in this hall, with its red plush chairs, are made even more special by a warm welcome from musicologist José Luis García del Busto, the attentive and thoughtful attitude of the management, and an enthusiastic audience filling the room. I get so much from playing there that I always want to keep giving more.
En Blanco & Negro International Piano Festival
This international festival held in Mexico City has played host to such eminent pianists as Heléne Grimaud, Gyorgy Sändor, Joaquín Achúcarro and Jorge Federico Osorio. Taking part in the festival felt like being part of a wonderful musical network. I learned to grow as an artist and to put more faith in the impact of the music we make, with nobility, than in the shadows cast by our predecessors.
The Rafael Orozco International Piano Festival is held in honour of a legend of Spanish pianism who astonished the world with his interpretative artistry and passionate style of playing. In Córdoba, one of the most beautiful cities in southern Spain, inspiration flows freely. That day I played Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata, op.53, along with works by Mozart and a selection pieces from the twentieth-century Spanish repertoire in the packed hall of the Conservatorio Superior de Música Rafael Orozco.
Ode to Romanticism
The Universidad Iberoamericana, located in Huelva (Andalucía), a city with rich associations with Christopher Columbus, assigned one performer and his/her instrument to each period in the history of music. My allotted specialism was “Romanticism and the Piano”.
In the perfect acoustic of the Santa Clara Convent in Moguer, I played works by Chopin, Brahms, Schumann and Liszt. The candlelit space took on a mystical feel. Surrounded by a hushed audience of students and academics from Spain and Latin America, I felt as if I was dreaming when the applause broke out, in the very building in which Columbus said his last prayer before setting sail on his first voyage to the Americas.
Teatros del Canal en Madrid
As part of the International Festival of Sacred Art, Madrid’s Teatros del Canal brings together top-class musicians from all parts of the musical world, from jazz and jazz fusion to contemporary and classical music: eminent artists including Jorge Pardo, Alberto Rosado and Javier Colina, and other such outstanding musicians as Félix Ardanaz and Marta Espinós. It was an honour to share a stage with and add my own voice to this diverse range of talent.
ILIANA MORALES, today (Thursday) at the Comunidad de Madrid’s 17th International Festival of Sacred Art
Mystical Piano Music
“On life and death”
Schumann / Ginastera / Gershwin / Ponce / Piazzolla / Chopin / Villa-Lobos
Teatros del Canal. Sala Negra
Thursday 17 March, 7pm.
Havana-born pianist Iliana Morales, an astonishing artist in every respect, has designed a programme that speaks to us of Life and Death, two concepts that, despite their universal significance, can be conjured in their most profound sense only by the language of music.
Her survey of Life takes in four masterpieces that illustrate different facets of existence. The most sublime nuances and carefree happiness of childhood are poetically expressed in Schumann’s Kinderszenen, evoked through images whose beauty abounds in psychological overtones. This Romantic vision contrasts with the realism of Ginastera’s Rondo, whose descriptions of children’s games are conveyed by more avant-garde sonorities, more exploratory harmonies and a more expansive discourse.
In Gershwin’s Three Preludes, with their blend of jazz, blues and dance music, we can feel the life force created by a rhythmical drive that becomes increasingly contagious and energetic. Ponce’s Balada mexicana, meanwhile, reflects another dimension of life – that which encapsulates the love we feel for our homeland, relating to our roots and sense of identity.
The second part of the programme explores the way in which music can express different aspects of Death. On the spiritual plane it manifests itself through loss and grief, the heartbreaking sorrow expressed by Piazzolla’s Preludio 1953, where the dramatic rhythm of the tango forms a backdrop for the atonal idiom. The most profound side of Death, however, is portrayed by the genuine tragedy of Chopin’s Piano Sonata No.2. This work, almost twenty minutes in duration, reveals the majesty of Death and its multifaceted drama. Of its four movements, the Marche funèbre is the most representative, imparting the message that something of us lives on into posterity, despite our physical demise. Finally come surrender and resignation in the face of the inevitable, echoed in the fateful lyricism of Villa-Lobos’s Bachiana.
“It is not enough to think about death, we must have it ever before us; that way life becomes more solemn, more significant, more fruitful and joyful.” Stefan Zweig
Dreams do come true
Liszt in México
Held in a different country each year, the International Franz Liszt Festival was hugely anticipated in university circles when it was scheduled for Mexico City. The spectacular Simón Bolívar Amphitheatre, with its stunning mural by Diego Rivera, hosted a series of lectures, discussions and concerts.
It was wonderful to have the opportunity to explore the influence of the Romantic European pianists on Latin American – and particularly Cuban – pianism. And it was equally wonderful to illustrate our discussions by performing some of Liszt’s Études alongside works by Nicolás Ruiz Espadero (a leading nineteenth-century Cuban composers), Cervantes and Lecuona.
Arrival in Madrid
When I first came to Madrid, the Juan March Foundation, with its usual generosity of spirit, opened its doors and gave me the opportunity to make my recital debut in Spain. While I’ve given many performances there since, I particularly remember my first programme, which was recorded by Radio Clásica and featured Mendelssohn’s Variations sérieuses and Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Books I and II.
I was made to feel very much at home at the Juan March Foundation, which remains one of the great temples of music in Madrid.
Aranjuez, Ciudad Real, Ceuta and Barcelona
The Caja Madrid savings bank at one time sponsored a range of cultural activities, keeping music and art alive in dedicated spaces for loyal and receptive audiences. I gained enormous enjoyment from performing the works in my repertoire in intimate surroundings to stalwart music-lovers, finding renewed energy and interest in a rich variety of programmes.
Cubans throughout the World
Invited by the Florida Chamber Orchestra of Miami, I gave a recital at the Roca Theater and did a number of media interviews. I also had the pleasure of seeing old friends from my student days, exceptional musicians now working in Miami.
I was very grateful to have been invited, and to have received so warm a welcome. when speaking to the Nuevo Herald newspaper, I expressed a wish for more frequent encounters between young people and a cultural world that belongs to all of us, given that there are many talented Cuban artists who remain unknown to Miami audiences.
Pianist for the Instituto de Bellas Artes (INBA) in Mexico
In parallel with my teaching work at the UNAM, I was employed by the INBA to give a wide range of performances with chamber ensembles and singers, as well as solo recitals and orchestral concerts. I have very happy memories of this time.
UNAM boasts a number of performance spaces, including the Sala Carlos Chávez, the Casa del Lago and the Sala Nezahualcóyotl – famed for its acoustic and its beauty –which together give enormous scope for music programming. I took full advantage of this and was able to grow as a professional performer thanks to the experience I gained in each of these venues.
Manuel M. Ponce Room
The Manuel M. Ponce Room, one of the most beautiful venues in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes, was the scene of some unforgettable artistic experiences.
From Morelia to Granada
The Conservatorio de Las Rosas in Morelia (capital of the Mexican state of Michoacán) and Granada’s Conservatorio Profesional (Andalucía) are linked together in my memory because they both have such a magical atmosphere. I have given lectures and illustrated concerts in both conservatories.
I had some wonderful teaching experiences in these music schools, especially working with students keen to learn about Cuban rhythms and broaden their knowledge of the technique and performance style necessary for this repertoire.
Playing one of Beethoven’s last sonatas in the Wiener Saal in Salzburg one summer was a truly memorable experience.
“Summer Classics” Festival
I’ve taken part in this festival on a regular basis and it’s one of the best summer dates for musicians not just from Spain but from all over the world. With over a hundred concerts taking place in theatres, castles and monasteries in Madrid, audiences and performers alike can relax and enjoy themselves. This is music to flow along with effortlessly, to share with others, like the summer – it’s a pleasure that belongs to everyone.
Voice and piano
At the countless concerts I gave with first-class singers from the Ópera de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, I learned to love the way the piano blends with the human voice: in Lieder, opera excerpts and even in boleros (all the singers are skilled at improvisation). The beautiful Archbishop’s Palace was often the setting for these recitals.
The Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado has the magic and artistic outpouring that you find at the world’s best festivals. Every summer it offers a two-month season of concerts, given by such luminaries as Yo-Yo Ma, Yefim Bronfman, Stephen Hough and Stephen Kovacevich.
On stage, the players in the festival’s student orchestra follow the gestures of the most famous conductors in the US and Europe. In the giant tent, the audience applaud or don’t applaud, depending on whether they like what they hear, regardless of whether the performers are household names or complete unknowns.
Harris Concert Hall
I found the atmosphere of the Aspen Music Festival and School very inspiring, and was delighted to receive such an enthusiastic reception from the audience at the Harris Concert Hall. Their approval gave my career a significant boost.