Acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang performs outdoor concert in Old Havana with Cuban great Cucho Valdes

Acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang performs outdoor concert in Old Havana with Cuban great Cucho Valdes

Acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang performs outdoor concert in Old Havana with Cuban great Cucho Valdes

Written by Staff Writer

12 Oct, 2015 | 4:12 pm

Hundreds of music lovers in Old Havana were treated to an historic open-air concert on Friday (October 9) as Chinese virtuoso Lang Lang and Cuban jazz great Chucho Valdes performed under the direction of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Marin Alsop in a concert dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Cuban capital.

Accompanied by the Cuban Symphony Orchestra, the musicians performed a wide repertoire, from Tchaikovsky to George Gershwin to Cuba’s Ernesto Lecuona, on the open stage at Cathedral Square, which UNESCO has named a World Heritage Site.

“It was absolutely exceptional, unprecedented, it would be difficult to repeat something of this magnitude here at the Cathedral, in Cathedral Plaza, in this very pleasant environment of Old Havana with its confluence of history, this audience that fills the plaza and that has had all the information possible to come and enjoy a performance of really extraordinary dimension,” said Cuban Culture Minister Julian Gonzalez.

It was Lang Lang’s first time in Cuba and first time collaborating with one of the island’s most important musicians, composer and pianist Valdes, who celebrated his 74th birthday Friday.

Versed in the country’s rich musical tradition, the Cuban audience marveled at the talented musicians.

“I came to this concert because I think it’s great that this event is taking place. To me, it’s an occasion that this great pianist Lang Lang is visiting our country and, well, I’m a student at the National Art School (ENA) and, to me, this is marvelous. I don’t know how to explain it,” said art student Vida (VEE-dah) Beatriz.

A piano from Steinway & Sons was transported from New York to Havana for the concert. It will stay in Cuba, at the Teatro Amadeo Roldan Auditorium, the home of concert music in the city.

Lang Lang’s global profile has risen rapidly in recent years as he played sold-out recitals around the world and his album sales made him as a best-selling classical musician.

He gave his first public recital at the age of five and entered Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory at age nine. Lang Lang left China at 15 to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, with his big break coming two years later when he played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Valdes, who has won five Grammy awards over his musical career and founded jazz group Irakere, is one of the most important figures in the history of Cuban jazz music.

Alsop, a graduate of Juilliard, is the first conductor to ever be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the “Genius Grant.”

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