The Orquesta del Lyceum de La Habana made its debut at Young Euro Classic in Berlin in 2021, after many of the young Cuban musicians had already appeared at the festival in 2017 as part of the Cuban-European Youth Academy. The orchestra itself goes back to 2009, when the Orquesta del Lyceum de La Habana was founded, uniting students of the conservatory in Cuba’s capital; it now counts among the leading ensembles of the country. Its goal is to maintain the country’s musical heritage and also to blaze trails for composers of the future. In 2016 the CD Mozart in Havana was recorded with pianist Simone Dinnerstein; this album was first presented during a tour of the USA, during which the Cuban youth orchestra performed in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Miami. In 2019 the staged production of Mozart’s opera La clemenza di Tito in Havana and Washington was another highlight in the orchestra’s short history. The CD production Mozart y Mambo with horn player Sarah Willis became a worldwide success in the summer of 2020.
The Cuban conductor José Antonio Méndez Padrón was educated at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana; he received further artistic training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Peter Gülke, at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music in Pittsburgh and in projects with Thomas Hengelbrock, András Schiff, Walter Reiter, Jorge Rotter and others. Since 2009 Méndez Padrón has himself been the director of Orquesta del Lyceum de La Habana. In 2012 he was appointed associate chief conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba; in 2018 he became the chief conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Matanzas. The conductor has also recorded works by Cuban composers from the 18th century to our present day for CD and has received the CUBADISCO award for several recordings. When he is not conducting, José Antonio Méndez Padrón is known for his bread-making skills and a popular salsa dance partner in Havana.
Since 2001 Sarah Willis has been a member of the horn group of the Berlin Philharmonic; before this, she was a member of the Staatskapelle Berlin for ten years. Born in Maryland, USA, the musician spent her childhood in Tokyo, Moscow and London, as her father was a foreign correspondent. In London, she began playing the horn at the age of 14, subsequently studying at the Guildhall School of Music. During the past years, Sarah Willis has performed widely as a soloist and has not only presented the solo album Horn Discoveries, but also recorded the Brahms Horn Trio, the Rosetti Double Horn Concerti, the CDs Opera! and Four Corners! together with her colleagues from Berlin, as well as Mozart y Mambo, recorded in Havana in 2020. She is highly active in the Berlin Philharmonic’s youth projects, especially its family concerts. Willis regularly interviews conductors and soloists for the Berlin Philharmonic’s internet presence. Sarah Willis is passionate about music education and makes full use of digital technology and social media to reach audiences worldwide. She runs a popular series of online interviews known as “Horn Hangouts”, is a regular broadcaster and interviewer on TV, radio and online and fronts the classical music programme Sarah´s Music for Deutsche Welle TV. She moderates the DG International Podcast series for Deutsche Grammophon and her latest award-winning documentary films, Mozart y Mambo and A World without Beethoven?, were broadcast worldwide on Deutsche Welle TV. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made Sarah Willis an MBE – Member of the Order of the British Empire – in the Queen’s 2021 Birthday Honours List.
“El Bodeguero” (1956, arr. Jorge Aragón)
Serenade No. 6 in D-major “Serenata notturna” K. 239 (1776)
Concerto Movement for Horn and Orchestra in E-flat-major K. 370b (1781)
“Danza de los fugitivos”
PEPE GAVILONDO/YASEL MUÑOZ ∙ “Tamarindo Son” (2020/21)
YUNIET LOMBIDA ∙ “Danzón de la Medianoche” (2020/21)
WILMA ALBA CAL ∙ “Guaguancó Sencillo” (2020/21)
JORGE ARAGÓN ∙ “Un Bolero para Sarah” (2020/21)
ERNESTO OLIVA ∙ “Un Changüí pa´ Sari” (2020/21)
YUNIET LOMBIDA/ERNESTO OLIVA ∙ “Sarahchá” (2020/21)
“Mambo Influenciado” (1963)
“Guantanamera” (arr. Jorge Aragón)
About the concert
Hardly an orchestra could top this one when it comes to temperament and passionate playing! Anyone who witnessed the Young Euro Classic debut of the Orquesta del Lyceum de La Habana from the Cuban capital in 2021 knows that the young Cuban musicians also present wonderful, entertaining programmes. While the first half of the evening is rather classical, including Mozart’s charming Serenata Notturna among other works, the second is dedicated entirely to Central American music. Plenty of dance music, from bolero to mambo and changüi, will delight the audience, attractively arranged for horn, strings and percussion, before Guantanamera closes the programme with a rousing finale. The evening’s star and soloist is once again Sarah Willis, a horn-playing member of the Berlin Philharmonic, with whom the Orquesta del Lyceum de La Habana produced the smash-hit CD Mozart y Mambo in 2020.