In Albany Records’ new release Tania León: Teclas de mi Piano, pianist Adam Kent takes the listener on a journey of compositions for the keyboard by the Pulitzer Prize winning, Kennedy Center Honoree, Cuban-born Tania León.
Ranging from the atonal Ritual to the rhythmically intoxicating Tumbao to the intricacy of the lengthier Homenatge, and throughout the eleven pieces included in the album, the gifted Adam Kent triumphantly takes on every one of the pianistic hurdles contained in Tania León’s panoply of works.
In some of Tania León compositions there is plenty of the kind of 19th century lyricism redolent of the piano miniatures of León’s compatriot Ignacio Cervantes Kawanag – not in imitative fashion but rather as a kind of homage to the spirit of a distant master from another time. Yet Tania León never lapses into facile sentimentality, instead and always maintaining an even balance of warmth in her heart and cool in her brain.
The protean Tania León has the gift of taking hold of a quintessentially Cuban rhythm and conflating, then expanding, and even later inverting and reversing it while still maintain the clave pattern that is the DNA of Cuban music, from the 19th century danzón throughout the bucolic 20th century’s punto criollo to the urban guaracha, guaguancó, and on the salsa of recent times. While all of this takes place Tania León pulls-off an uncanny musical feat by sustaining the objectivity, complexity, and sobriety of concert music while straddling the down-home earthiness of the popular and folk music of her native Cuba.
While talking about a living composer, one who in this case happens to be this writer’s countrywoman, one must cautiously weigh one’s words of praise. I find that very hard to do, as I am both enchanted and moved by the long overdue recognition of my immensely talented compatriot Tania León.
Rafael de Acha © 2022