Cuban Piano Music: Contradanza
del Monte-Escalante, Glenda
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This work is based on research, analysis, studies and performance of Cuban concert piano music. The aim of the paper is to illustrate the historical development of this music from the 19th Century repertoire of contradanzas. This project will involve a paper in support of a recital. It is of great interest to me as a pianist, composer, educator and researcher to promote awareness of such an important part of Cuban music culture, its piano music repertoire and some of its most central composers. This repertoire represents a continuous tradition of Cuban Piano Music dating from the early nineteenth century. It has its origins in England, Spain and France, while its rhythm and syncopated style derive from Africa. In 1871 French colonists were fleeing from Haiti’s slave rebellion. When these Haitians arrived in Cuba they also brought their cultural traditions, in particular the Contredanse. Typical of this music is its consistent binary approach to form and its variously modified tango (“habanera”) rhythm. This rhythm is notated in at least three different ways, which suggests that there is more than one way to express the buoyancy or special lift so essential to this music. Generally, this repertoire has been considered to underlie both classical and popular music in Cuba and to have significantly influenced other music outside of Cuba as well. Given its roots in Spanish musical folklore and its general use of African rhythms, Cuban piano music is an important part of the music history of Cuba. However, it has been relatively neglected by historians, especially in the English language. These Cuban danzas are the source of the rhythm known as Habanera, and they are a result of the fusion of wide and various musical traditions which led to the development of a national expression and “Cuban” identity.
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