Jose Lezcano: Cuban-American classical guitarist and pandemic survivor
Classical guitarist Jose Manuel Lezcano breaks new ground with his first solo CD, “Homage: Spain & Latin America”. He combines two Scarlatti sonatas and his adaptation of works by Maurice Ravel, Bill Evans and the great Paraguayan guitar virtuoso Augustin Barrios.
Mood and tempo jump from the contemplative to familiar classics to dance to jazz. I found the CD so captivating I played it in loop for hours.
Lezcano’s four homages were composed during the recent pandemic confinement, a mixed blessing many composers have experienced. “I was feeling socially isolated,” he recalls, “and I was also recovering emotionally from a divorce.” But he made use of composing as a “kind of therapy and sublimination of painful feelings”.
His etudes emerged from his technique of recording his improviations, then “shaping the material to make it more coherent”. The result is striking in this CD, which offers three of the four homages.
An outstanding adaptation on this CD is his brief tribute to the great jazz pianist Bill Evans. Lezcano captures Evans’s cerebral lines without arpeggios or virtuosity, just quiet quality. Evans was dedicated to hearing his resonances and harmonies, and Lezcano brings an uncanny guitar echo to the work.
Lezcano has already made a reputation for larger scale compositions dating back to his 2004 Guitar Concerto, which he premiered in New York. He has composed four other concertos. Concert engagements have taken him to China, Germany, Spain, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Crete and New York. And he is in demand within the United States with a list of gigs extending from New England to Oberlin, Houston, Sarasota, Miami, among others.
Twice a Grammy-awarded composer and guitarist, Lezcano lives in retirement in the U.S. northeast and teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire where he holds the title emeritus professor.
The new CD is remarkable for the range of reportory, notably the “homage to Ravel” derived from the classic “Jeux d’eau”.
His lineup matches the Scarletti sonatas with the Enrique Granados “ Oriental Danza” in duet with guitarist John Mantegna, and homage to Spanish guitarist and composer Francisco Tarrega, a figure often described as the father of the classical guitar.
He was recently commissioned by the Cuban-American soprano Zaray Rossi to write a song cycle on poetry by Cuban dissidents, historical and emigrant poets. It was first performed in her concert at the Palace Theater in Manchester. The cycle of four songs is entitled "Songs of Freedom: Canciones de Libertad."
“That project was very satisfying as I was asked to work with the poetry of Jose Marti, his versos sencillos, which I find to be quite profound and moving,” he says. Lezcano returned to Havana to perform with American cellist Rebecca Hartka. The concert included the Cuban premmiere of his Cello Sonata.
He plans to perform with Ms. Hartka Nov. 30 at Keene State Collage, featuring Cuban music including some of his own compositions.
At present he is finishing a full length double concerto for two bass soloists, harp, and strings, three movements.
The new CD will be listed at Tunecore / Amazon, and is available by direct mail at 47 Taylor St, Keene, NH 03431 as well as through his website http://www.joselezcano.com/store.php.
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