As part of the Cuban-European Academy, many of the young Cuban musicians already performed at Young Euro Classic in Berlin in 2017; now they return as an independent orchestra in their own right. In 2009 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, in which they 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 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.
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 CDs Opera! and Four Corners! together with her colleagues from Berlin. She is highly active in the Berlin Philharmonic’s youth projects, especially its family concerts. As an enthusiastic champion of social media, Willis regularly interviews conductors and soloists for the Berlin Philharmonic’s internet presence and popularizes her instrument on Facebook. She runs a successful series of online interviews known at “Horn Hangouts” and fronts the classical music programme Sarah´s Music for Deutsche Welle TV. In 2017, Sarah Willis traveled to Cuba for the first time and got to know the Orquesta del Lyceum de la Habana with which she initiated the “Mozart y Mambo” project.
“Mozart y Mambo”
Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio” K. 384 (1782)
Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat-major K. 447 (1783)
“Rondo alla Mambo” (2020)
“Samba Son” (arr. Jenny Peña Campo, 2015)
“Sarahnade Mambo” (2020)
“Dos Gardenias para ti” (arr. Jorge Aragón, 2020)
“El Manisero” (arr. Jorge Aragón, 2020)
“Mozart y Mambo” – not only does that sound snappy, but it sums up the Havana Lyceum Orchestra’s programme perfectly. In 2017 the young Cubans already visited Young Euro Classic as part of a German-Cuban orchestra project; now they will demonstrate that they can go it alone as well! The programme opens with Mozart’s masterful overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio. The orchestra is supported by the Berlin Philharmonic’s own Sarah Willis, who performs one of Mozart’s most atmospheric horn concerti. But not to worry, there will be no shortage of Cuban temperament on this festival evening: the Rondo from Mozart’s Horn Concerto has been refashioned as a Rondo alla Mambo; Edgar Oliveiro contributes a Sarahnade Mambo celebrating the Berlin guest; the young violinist Jenny Peña Campo, whose charismatic performance Young Euro Classic audiences will recall from 2018, has arranged a Samba Son – and when popular pieces such as El Manisero and Dos Gardenias para tí are played, the atmosphere at the Konzerthaus is sure to bubble over with Latin American joie de vivre!